Morbid curiosity is a funny thing. People will often trash talk the same thing over time, with comments to the effect of “it’s so bad,” “wow that’s awful,” and “what an abomination.” And for some of us, instead of thinking “now I know what to avoid,” we end up thinking, “now I need to find out what the deal is.” Perhaps it’s a combination of understanding where our peers are coming from and doubt that such infamy could possibly be warranted. Regardless, this struck me while watching a pair of videos from Whiskey Row. In the videos, David goes over his ten most regretful whiskey purchases to date. I somewhat jokingly commented “I’ll take those bottles off your hands, bound to like at least one of them!” Turns out David wasn’t so opposed, as he sent me samples of four of the listed whiskeys. Today we’re looking at one that recently went through a relaunch: Hudson Baby Bourbon.
Unlike its successor (Bright Lights, Big Bourbon), which utilizes a 95% corn/5% malted barley mash bill, Baby Bourbon was made from 100% corn and touted itself as Tuthilltown’s first whiskey and first legally pot-distilled New York whiskey since prohibition. The other interesting aspect about Baby Bourbon was its use of roughly 3-gallon barrels for aging, compared to the 53-gallon standard across most distilleries. Some may hate the comparison, but this seemed to give Hudson’s Baby Bourbon a couple similarities to several Texas whiskeys.
The reputation Baby Bourbon garnered over its run was almost the complete opposite of flattering. The whiskey communities I’ve engaged in almost collectively decry it as one of the worst whiskeys on the market. So for me, David from Whiskey Row was simply the latest in a long line of dissatisfied drinkers. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself with preconceived notions. Let’s see what type of experience I get with Hudson’s since-replaced expression.
Nose: Sweet youth leaps out. Corn mash and melting plastic upfront. An air of mint gum coating, white pepper, and the lightest brushing of wood with peanut skin/shell.
Palate: Haphazard; feels like it shifts multiple gears. Raw, vegetal corn with caramel and a bit of hay-like essence throughout. Hints of nuts. Thin, borderline evaporative mouthfeel. On the alcohol-forward side.
Finish: Youthful tingle. Barely toasted cereal with hints of nut and wood. An impression of creamed corn or cornmeal over time. Mostly short-lived.
If you’re used to well-aged, moderately developed American whiskey, then Baby Bourbon may feel like walking into a concrete wall. Young corn is the name of the game with a few fleeting secondary notes. To that end, those who are more acquainted with barely aged spirits may be more receptive to the experience offered here. I wouldn’t necessarily say the experience is great, but it’s hardly the worst or even least interesting spirit I’ve tried.
Would I recommend Baby Bourbon to anyone? If I did, I certainly wouldn’t suggest they blindly buy a bottle. Retail seems to be around $50, wherever bottles may still be procured. That’s a big ask for what ultimately amounts to a young, polarizing whiskey. This is something you order a pour of at a bar or have a friend (?) share with you. Part of me wants to play the role of defender for Baby Bourbon, but I also can’t say that foresee myself ever wanting to revisit it. If you’re that curious and are willing to keep an open mind, then a pour of Baby Bourbon could be justified for no other reason than seeing what the deal was (now we’ve come full circle). For everyone else? Stick with what you already know you enjoy.