Friday, June 21, 2019

River Hill Wine and Spirits - From Moonshine to Bourbon to Country Wine

I couple years ago I started purchasing the River Hill Distillery Corn Whiskey as it provides a clean, textured, sweet corn flavor with little burn. Hard to do that at 100 proof, but old family recipes have their secrets.  An opportunity occurred this month while driving past Lurey Caverns and suddenly realizing we were close to River Hill and theCompass Craft Beverage Finder provided quick navigation. That's when I discovered that the distillery had re-branded to River Hill Wine and Spirits since they also produce a range of country wines.

Proprietor Fred Foley greeted me when entering the tasting room and we discussed the origins of the operation and the distilling process during a short tour. He and his wife Ann board horses, raise beef cattle and grow corn to feed these cattle. After a few years of excess corn in 2013, they spent a year applying for a distillery license and in 2014 started distilling corn whiskey.

River Hill now produces three whiskeys, the clear 100 proof 100% corn whiskey mentioned above and two bourbon whiskeys. Each is double distilled, once through a new still and the second through their original still where the condensation coils are threaded within a copper pipe. Very ingenious.

The original River Hill Bourbon Whiskey ($25) is produced from a corn-dominated mash bill with the addition of roasted barley that Foley smokes himself in an outdoor smoker. This is a very smooth whiskey, cut to 90 proof,  with a slight smoky and spicy profile due to eight months aging in new American (Minnesota) oak barrels. And recently they released a new bourbon, the River Hill 100 Bourbon Whiskey ($39) -- 100 proof and 100% corn aged in new oak barrels. This was a first - there's some burn but it's toward the front with the sweet corn blending with vanilla notes from the oak  Very interesting.

Ann handles the wine tasting as they must separate both endeavors within the same facility. Each wine sells for $15, resides around 10% r.s., and except for the Pineapple is sourced from the farm or locally in the valley. The sugar doesn't seem to come into play as the individual fruit character dominates each wine. The grape wines are a traditional Concord and Niagara; the fruit an Apple (Golden Delicious), Peach, and the Pineapple. And as a special offering, they produce a Sweet Potato wine after a neighbor had an abundant surplus. The potatoes had to be shredded and boiled with the resulting juice fermented. But it works and is very intriguing. Cheers to River Hill.

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