Jeff Baker wants to taste the terroir in his whiskey. “Why aren’t more people making estate whiskey like wine?” says the former farmer turned whiskey maker.
A native New Yorker, Baker grew up working on farms as a kid and in 1986 took his turn in agriculture, first jumping into the dairy business before moving on to beef. Nearly 30 years later, Baker, along with wife Cathy Franklin, found a renewed passion in farming and distil one of the cleanest, field-to-glass expressions of New York State whiskey at Hillrock Estate Distillery.
Moment to moment, Baker is like a walking encyclopedia of American distilling, quipping about a time when there were 1,000 farm distilleries flourishing in the region. In the 19th century, New York State was the top producer of barley before it all moved out west. For many years, there were no aged spirits in New York State post-Prohibition. He moves on to the history of the Hillrock house, which dates back to 1806, and was later moved to the property, which the couple originally purchased in 1999.