Bourbon Reviews, Distillery News and Information
Hillrock Estate Distillery
408 Pooles Hill Road
Ancram, New York 12502
Tours Daily 11a-5p by Reservation
Tour costs: from $28
Tour / Review
Please enjoy our Hillrock Estate Distillery Tour review!
Hillrock Estate Distillery Is A New York Farm Distillery
A visit to Hillrock Estate Distillery, rewards you with many unique features. First, Hillrock is a New York state farm distillery. Therefore, it must adhere to specific criteria, and one of these criteria is the kind of sign they can display, making this distillery fairly difficult to find, at least when we visited back in 2019. Depending on the direction in which you are going on Poole Hill Rd, you may not see the tiny sign, which is only visible from one direction (coming from the South). It took us a little while to find it, so be on the lookout and you will get there.
Dave Pickerell Was Hillrock’s Master Distiller
Another unique feature is that Dave Pickerell, the renowned Master Distiller, played an integral role in designing the distillery, and was Hillrock’s master distiller and in charge of production and operations, until his unfortunate and untimely passing in 2018. He is still listed on the bottle labels as the master distiller, and since they are using the Solera method, a little bit of him will live on in this distillery for eternity.
The road to the distillery was a somewhat uneven and rutted dirt road at the time of our visit. It could have been improved by now. The road should be passable by almost any passenger vehicle (leave those low clearance Formula One cars at home), but for motorcycles this may be a little bit more of a challenge. The farm distillery’s grounds are quite bucolic, with large fields that will grow many of the grains that are used in the spirits. The distillery itself has no sign when you arrive at it, but it is fairly obvious that you are there because that’s where the road ends.
We were a little hesitant walking inside, still not exactly sure that we were in the correct place, but we were quickly reassured. Entering into the small bar and tasting area, we were greeted by our friendly, soon to be tour guide. On the day that we visited, a Sunday afternoon in early April, the distillery was not busy, although we did call ahead because the website says that tours are available by reservation. We were told that in the summer months, and in “leaf season”, the distillery will be much more crowded and advance reservations are a must.
Our Hillrock Distillery Tour Began In The Barrel Warehouse – The Solera Method
Our tour began with a visit to the warehouse, which at Hillrock is unique because their bourbon is aged using the Solera method. The Solera method is traditionally used to age Sherries, Ports, Madeiras and Cognac, and is relatively uncommon when it comes to bourbon (Blade and Bow Bourbon, comes to mind as one of the only others using this technique). In a nutshell, in the Solera method, younger bourbons are continually mingled with older bourbons in the same barrels, creating an ever changing progressively aging mixture. When the bourbon is to be bottled, some bourbon is removed from the oldest barrels, but they are only partially emptied, ready to receive the younger bourbon to continue the process. Historically, the barrels are stacked in a pyramid with the bourbon getting progressively older the lower in the stack it is positioned, but that may not always be the case now-a-days.
Hillrock bourbon is then finished in Oloroso sherry barrels. The rye is also uniquely crafted, being made from 100% unmalted rye, initially aged in a new #3 char barrel, and then further aged in a new #4 char barrel.
Hillrock Distillery Has A Malt House
The next stop was the malt house, which is another very unique feature of Hillrock Estate Distillery. Barley for their Single Malt Whiskey is malted on the malting floor, and then peat smoke dried. Occasionally, grain will be malted for specialty whiskeys as well.
A Quick Peek At The Stills
With only a quick peek allowed at the stills, we saw the soon to be unveiled new equipment. We were not allowed to take photos prior to the official unveiling, so you’ll need to visit Hillrock or check their website for details.
Time For The Tasting
Our tour finished with a tasting, back where we originally arrived. We tried the Estate Single Malt, the Double Cask Rye Whiskey, the Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey finished in Oloroso Sherry Barrels, and The Solera Aged Bourbon Whiskey finished in Napa Cabernet barrels. The first three spirits will likely always be available, since they are their mainstays, but additional options may vary.
Conclusion – An Enjoyable Visit
Overall, we had a very enjoyable visit to Hillrock Estate Distillery, while learning about its unique features and sampling some of their fine spirits. If you find yourself in the Hudson Valley area, they are definitely worth checking out!
We hope you have enjoyed our Hillrock Estate Distillery Tour review! Would you like to learn about another rural distillery? Then read our Wood Hat Spirits Distillery Tour!
Date of initial visit: April 2019
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