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Lucky Guys Distilling Company

Hudson, Wisconsin

 

Crusin’ Rating: C+

Booze Rating: C-

 
Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Lucky Guys Distillery- Outside

We are on to our next series which is going to be hitting up some of the spots around Hudson, WI! We had the opportunity to attend an outdoor wedding at a winery outside of the lovely Stillwater, MN and while we opted to be present at the wedding rather than review, we can say that Stillwater/Hudson area is a beautiful spot along the St. Croix River and both towns are places you will not regret visiting over a weekend, with plenty of art, water activities, shopping, and of course, boozing to be had! Stillwater has a brewery, distillery, and winery all within a ten minute drive, in the case of the first two, quite literally next door to each other. It's a great opportunity to go head-to-head Wisconsin vs. Minnesota in a quest for cocktails, beer, spirits, and food! While we absolutely did a few taste tests in Stillwater: River Siren Brewing Company and Forge and Foundry Distilling, we opted not to review them to give our full attention to what Wisconsin had to offer.


Lucky Guys distilling is located on main street in Hudson, WI in the corner of a strip mall in what looks like retail space. With a large space that features a wall of glass that you can view the production space to your right and a lofted second floor that’s at the end of the elongated rectangular room. That upstairs space can function as a private event space and offers a fairly unopposed view of the river, and any time there is water in site - in this case from the outside deck as well - is a score in Hannah’s book. The bar seats 12 and we counted 46 seats downstairs, with around 26 additional seats upstairs. The space was decidedly upscale and while we didn’t explore too much of downtown their was a bit of a contrast between the vibe of Hudson and across the water in Stillwater. Stillwater, like Wisconsin Dells or Door County, is boutique Midwest tourism through and through. That is, a small-town that has made a name for itself as a travel destination for a lot of intrastate travelers. This seemed to be somewhat shared by Hudson as both Hudson and Stillwater appeared to be sister-cities in many respects although it seemed to us that Hudson was not as much as a “destination” as Stillwater was. The reason I point this out, is because the vibe of Lucky Guys seemed to be a little more upscale, catering to would-be tourist dollars. $13 cocktails is fairly steep, even for Madison or Milwaukee. You can get a pretty fantastic drink for around $12 in Madison and, by comparison, the drinks for us weren’t quite hitting that mark.



For me, and Hannah agrees, when you start getting into the $13-15 dollar range for a cocktail, it better be crafted with some crazy home-made ingredients and it should be something that you are wondering what all goes into the drink and how to recreate it. While Lucky Guys is taking that tract, I do not think that the drinks match the price. With a cocktail menu that includes 56 cocktails may sound impressive, many of them are iterations of a Mule, Old-Fashioned, or Martini. On the one hand, a menu that large guarantees that everyone can find something they like, but on the other hand it’s overwhelming and, to me, sort of artificially inflated. If you have more than one type of gin, isn’t it much cleaner to say you can request a martini with your choice of gin or vodka? To list out all of the options to me seems tedious and muddles a menu. Again though, I don’t know if most people are looking at it through that lens.


To be my own devil’s advocate, for all I know the drinks used to be $10 - a fair price for the drinks being served in my mind - but they do so much business that $13 was put on the menu and no one has batted an eye!



Still, when you are shelling out that much per drink, I think a higher level of scrutiny is warranted and I think most of our readers would agree. Tasting of spirits can be had for $4 per 1.5 oz, you pay per tasting instead of a set flight price. We opted for only 4 since it was still fairly early in the day.


Lucky Guys Bourbon - The nose of this bourbon was fairly aggressive with notes of ethanol, but hidden amongst that there was a little vanilla and maple. That aggressiveness carried over into the taste which took on the bulk of what you first get when sipping but there were trace amounts of light wood, burnt sugar, and some toasted firewood. Hannah scrunched her face at this one saying it was too harsh to be enjoyed as a sipper and I agreed with her. For what I assume is 40% ABV (bottles were for sale but behind the bar, and I could not find the ABV listed on the website), this was on the harsh side for what I would be looking for to make cocktails. A spirit that forward should have the ABV to match!



I feel Pretty Gin - This light blue, almost bordering on lavender-colored gin smells of sweet pollen, like walking through high heat July in a field with Cicadas buzzing. With very floral notes of what Hannah and I recognize to be lavender and a little citrus that moves to what could be seen as a very lightly toasted marshmallow sweetness that I think conflicts with that floralness a little too much. Other than the end note of marshmallow that, while I know it sounds delicious, isn’t a great pairing with lavender, this was a decent, if mildly niche, gin. I have a bottle of lavender forward gin at home that has been hanging out for quite some time and most of cocktails I make either want juniper or citrus notes. A floral gin definitely has its place, but it needs the right drink to not be overpowered. When I find one, I will let you all know!


Amaro - I’ll try not to get too confusing although I’m going to go into further detail in the next review below. “Amaro” means “bitter” in Italian. Amari (the plural of Amaro) are a family of bitter Italian Liqueurs. Campari, Fernet Branca, Aperol (like in a Aperol Spritz) are all types of Amari. I decided to try the Amaro here because

A) I’m starting to get into the world of Amari at the Crusin' For Booze bar a little more intensely

B) it’s a nice change-up from the four standard spirits of Whiskey, Bourbon, Gin, and Rum that appear at many distilleries throughout Wiscosnin!

Hannah and I both picked up notes of herbal tea and floral soap when sipping this golden imbibement as well as a little orange blossom, Star Anise, and Coriander, maybe even Cherry Bark. This Amaro was very sweet up front then had notes of orange zest, honey, sweat tea and ends in black licorice with an earthy aftertaste. This was fairly sweet for an amari, almost too sweet and the bitter component was understated. If you aren’t sure on amari and don’t like things too bitter, then I suppose this one is for you!


Consiglio Rosso - Listen, I’m not going to go in too deep into my brief 3 semesters of italian but “Consiglio” means “advice” and “Rosso” means “red”. This imbibement is named Red Advice. However, the description on the bottle, in theme with the distillery says this is called “Red Rabbit” in Italian. “CONIGLIO” in italian is rabbit (male). So, a little typo there that gives this imbibement a different name. There, you learned some Italian on a booze blog!

Naming error aside, this is Lucky Guys Distillery’s answer to Campari. Again, I am nitpicking, but Campari is an Italian bitter liqueur (thus the Italian naming fiasco above) that is supposed to stimulate digestion and falls under the term “Aperitivo” (Aperitif in English) which is an imbibement meant to be enjoyed before dinner to stimulate the appetite. Campari is one of three components in a cocktail you probably know, the Negroni. Why I bring this up is that the Distillery says this is can be used as a “Digestivo” which is, in fact, the opposite of it’s widely accepted use.

Italian liqueur digression aside. I picked this up because I respected and recognized a local attempt at Campari, whose recipe is actually a closely guarded secret but is speculated to have bitter oranges, herbs, and even rhubarb. It’s very bitter and has those bitter herbs and orange peel components cranked up high enough to leave a lasting impression even over most IPAs and it is something that people either tend to love or hate. While describing Campari in minute detail is probably beyond our palates we attempted to describe what we tasted here.

Pouring a cherry Kool-Aid red, we picked up orange peel and deep herbal notes - including gentian and wyrmwood, as well as cherries. With a syrupy mouthfeel that I picked up as distinct from Campari, I initially said this was made with an oleo saccharum (syrup made from fruit by submerging it in sugar so the sugar pulls out essential oils) of oranges. I recognized this to be sweeter and while I said it would work in a cocktail, the discerning tongue could tell the difference.

Hannah very much dislikes Campari but I was able to coax her in to a blind taste test once we got home and the two of us were able to pick out Consiglio Rosso against Campari. Campari has that herbaceousness and bitterness up front immediately and the bitter herbs are very much alive and well throughout it moving across your palate with sweetness understated. The Rosso’s bitterness hits you at the back of your palate and while it does linger, know that you are going to need to adjust your cocktails accordingly if you’re using this at home. Errors aside, I applaud the attempt at a local answer to imported Liqueurs. I hope this recipe continues to get refined.


It is clear to me that the owner here has a sense of humor, naming his podcast about cocktails “Cocktology” and Hannah and I haven’t quite found the time to sit and listen to it, but I am fairly certain it’s going to be a treat. It’s also clear he/she is passionate about imbibements to have that many on the menu and while I have pointed out some things that we had some qualms about, I do applaud the creativity at Lucky Guys and the willingness to attempt to distill things that are out of the ordinary. Between the admittedly, slightly-odd rabbit artwork on the website, funnily-named podcast, large menu, but brilliant lit space and off-the-beaten-path spirit offerings Lucky Guys is going to have something for everyone and coupled with a view of the river and a patio, it’s going to be hard to argue against going if you’re visiting Hudson. While we won’t recommend a trip to Hudson just to visit Lucy Guys Distlling, if you’re going there and are looking for a patio spot to enjoy a drink and you don’t mind the prices, then stop by.



Until next time, keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin’!


To learn more about Lucky Guys Distilling please visit their website at: luckyguysdistillery.com or on Instagram: @LuckyGuysDistillery

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