Here at Homebar, we’ve known about Hudson for a while. Our introduction was via the ‘Hudson Baby Bourbon’ expression. It could be seen sitting a bit higher on the shelves with some of the other craft bottles. While we had always been intrigued, we admit that we left it on the shelf. It’s not because we’d heard bad things about it – fact is, we had no idea what to think of it. It just didn’t strike us as something to look deeply into. It didn’t catch the eye. We filed it under ‘take a look at Hudson Whiskey later’ in our brains and carried on. To boot, there wasn’t a whole lot of Hudson content lighting up social media. At least, no one was blowing up our Twitter or Instagram feeds.
But that was all about to change.
In Fall of last year, Hudson Whiskey went through an entire rebrand – a general aesthetic that evoked the spirit of NYC – adopting Helvetica as their brand font. An iconic, easily-readable typeface that achieved legend status after it was chosen for signage in the NYC subway system. Why did the Metro Transit Authority in New York choose it for crucial way-finding? The answer is obvious: It’s effortlessly legible and turns heads. Maybe even enough to peel commuter’s eyes from their phones from time to time.
Similarly, when you want your product to stand out with hundreds of other bottles on the shelf, you want a label that is easy to read and grabs attention. So they set out to do a rebrand, with this bold font set in black ink atop a stark white background. Surely a much more effective strategy for a product to be noticed. In addition, this aligned their brand with a much more New York centric vibe, paying homage to their home state. All in all, a really great branding strategy coupled with the concept of showcasing ingredients from New York farms in their bottles.
Ok, more about the bottle in question. Today, we’re talking about their Straight Bourbon Whiskey called ‘Bright Lights, Big Bourbon.’ Hey, where’d ‘Baby Bourbon’ go? It seems that it was absorbed into this very bottle we’re reviewing today. Admittedly, we never tried the Baby Bourbon, so we have no direct comparison to say whether or not the liquid inside has changed at all. We can only go off of what we tried in their rebranded expression. So let’s get into it.
Lots of corn, very sweet. You get plenty of that grain character right away. It’s certainly not offensive by any means; light, caramel-forward, buttery and even a bit perfumey. There’s a bit of alcohol/ethanol note on the nose as well. It’s tough to detect much oak or aging on the nose as the grain-forward scents really control the experience here.
Our noses did not deceive us – it’s certainly sweet on the palate. It’s mostly “smooth”- and by that we mean that you’re not getting a whole lot of peppery bite on this. About mid-palate, you get a bit of ethanol burn but this fades rather quickly and leaves you with that grain-forward profile we observed on the nose. Sweetness abound, with mostly caramel and a little bit of butter.
Surprisingly, it has a fair amount of heat going down (let’s say ‘medium’ finish). At this point, the sweetness just kinda sticks around and you get some earthy notes near the tail end – slightly grassy. Overall the finish isn’t terribly powerful and the flavors don’t stick around too long.
It’s easy to say that it tastes ‘young’ and ‘grain-forward’ but it’s pleasantly sweet and easy to drink. Stacking this bottle against other younger tasting bottles we’ve had, this is by far the best. It just drinks so much nicer than those (not to be mentioned) bottles.
We’re pretty sure it cost us $39.99 for the bottle (damn our inability to hold onto receipts) – and honestly we don’t think that’s out of the realm of reasonable here. It’s a craft offering for less than $50. If we’re talking value (price vs. experience) we’d say the scales are pretty well balanced on this one. We plan on using this bottle both to make cocktails and to share with our friends who are new to the Bourbon world. We think it’s a perfect showcase of what a ‘grain forward’ but totally approachable expression looks like.
That all said, if you’re more of a rye lover and prefer a spicier dram, then I might leave this one on the shelf. If a sweeter Bourbon is your jam then I would definitely consider picking this one up. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of age, so again, you’re going to experience mostly the grain characteristics. While we don’t see ourselves sipping this in a fine leather armchair with a fat cigar, we get a bit giddy thinking about the possibilities in a cocktail – it could complement a lot of bitter or pepper spice flavors in a mixed drink.
As always – cheers, friends! And please sip responsibly.