By Jamie Larson
These days, there’s a local farm distillery around here to suit just about everyone’s taste. Olde York Farm Distillery and Cooperage
, just outside Hudson, New York on a historic site overlooking a splendid old mill and dam, is a small new addition to the field. But damned if they don’t have something for everybody.
Olde York’s paterfamilias, Stuart Newsome, worked 40 years in construction and was looking to move on. Originally from Leeds in Yorkshire, England, Newsome’s interest in American history got him into distilling and the craft of wooden barrel making (coopering).
“Most farmers, before Prohibition, had a still. You could make a product to sell with shelf life and it was easier to transport to market,” said Newsome. “My daughter Sophie said, ‘you’re really interested in this, why don’t you do it?' I said I’d do it but only if she and her mother did it with me.”
Newsome and his wife Louise, who lived in Nyack, New York, often visited Sophie and her partner Rory Tice in Hudson, and the four decided that if they were going to do it anywhere, they wanted to do it here. So they bought the historic house and barns of Jacob Rutsen Van Rensselaer. The buildings were originally a part of the breathtaking mill property across the street, now owned by James Ivory of Merchant Ivory fame. Their side of the historic site was in disrepair, especially the old carriage house, which they restored into the distillery, handsome tasting room, and upstairs cooperage.
They are also running a popular Airbnb out of the house that’s received rave reviews. The space is gorgeously appointed, the property is properly bucolic and, oh yeah, there's a bar with unique high-end cocktails out back. In the summer, Olde York will host weekend events including food trucks, live music and activities for kids.
Although they only opened the tasting room in September, the family behind Olde York has already made more than a dozen micro-batch bourbons and vodkas infused with local and seasonal ingredients. This complex process is Sophie Newsome’s domain and she’s created some surprising and bold blends, from golden fennel and nasturtium liqueurs to the wildly popular black walnut bourbon.
“Some people have hidden talents. The way my daughter mixes and comes up with these flavors is this amazing hidden talent,” Newsome said proudly. “She’s just brilliant.”
While some people (like your author, who’s usually a bourbon-on-the-rocks guy) might normally pass on flavored spirits, the lineup here is well worth stepping out of your comfort zone. Every example we tried was balanced and crisp, and the use of real ingredients in infusions, rather than extracts, means nothing was overly sweet, tongue coating or overpowering.
Stuart Newsome happily announced that the walnut trees were tapped, the syrup will be here soon and the bourbon will be back in stock. Seasonality isn’t something we usually associate with alcohol, but there’s something magical about these one-of-a-kind bottlings that taste like a specific plant, grown in a specific place at a specific time. Another seasonal hit was the wild ramp-flavored vodka.
If you're not sure what to do with such unusual booze, Sophie Newsome has created elegant cocktail recipes for all of them that you can make at home or test out in the tasting room.
The reasonably priced bottles ($30-40 range) are perfect for cocktails and, as a mixer, will last on your shelf for a while. (Or maybe not).
Olde York is off to a strong start and we’re looking forward to what they surprise us with this summer. Newsome teased that he’s getting to work on a gin and has plans down the line for a single malt. As we finally melt into spring, Olde York makes for a one-of-a-kind weekend outing.
Old York Farm Distillery and Cooperage
284 State Rte. 23, Hudson, NY
(518) 721-8209 or (845) 480-1237
Tasting Room Hours:
Friday: 5-9 p.m.
Saturday: noon-9 p.m.
Sunday: noon-6 p.m.