Finger Lakes Distilling is unique in a region known more for its production of Rieslings and Icewines. FLD only focuses on creating distilled spirits using old time methods, including whiskey, grappa, vodka, gin, fruit brandies and fruit-based liqueurs. They were kind enough to send me a sampling of some of their products and I picked up another at a local store. Here are some reviews to whet your appetite (or should that be slake your thirst?).
Pear Brandy (90 proof): The initial nosing has that fruit brandy “funk” for lack of a better word. Slightly musky and dry with an medium alcohol base. The taste is also quite dry, but fruity. The alcohol heat is noticable, not surprising considering that it is 90 proof. The distillate is quite nice and smooth. I’m impressed that the taste of fresh pear comes through loud and clear. This spirit is quite well done and ranks in my top five pear brandies. I’m excited to try this in a sidecar as an alternative to cognac. I might even try aging this in a charred oak barrel to get some additional vanilla notes. GSN Rating: A
Peach Brandy (90 proof): The peach scent is fresh and mixes well with the brandy “funk”. Again this is very dry and subtle. The heat is warming and has a tickling sensation in the mouth. The fruit flavor is less obvious here than in the pear brandy, but you do get a ghost-like peach taste that lingers in the mouth. This is a nice sipper and would serve well alongside a plate of peach cobbler, or on it’s own as an after dinner digestif. The recipe is based on George Washington’s Mount Vernon version and is one of the few authentic peach brandies available on the market today. Do yourself a favor and pick up a bottle not only for the historical significance, but also the pleasure of experiencing a real fruit brandy that has nothing in common with what passes for fruit brandies on the bottom shelf at your local liquor store. GSN Rating: A-
McKenzie Rye Whiskey (91 proof): A honey brown color in the bottle. The nose is quite woody, less vanilla and more oak. There’s a woodland floor scent that is in the forefront. The taste again is quite woody and almost has a Morel mushroom-like quality, that slowly opens up into the sweetness of maple sugar and cinnamon toast. The fact that it is un-chill filtered works well here to push the spicy character of the rye forward. Overall, a good whiskey, but one that seems to be too young to stand out from the pack. I think it could benefit from longer aging or perhaps blending it with some different barrelings. My particular bottle is labeled Batch #3 (2010). Try this in a Sazerac or Old Fashioned and see what you think. GSN Rating: C+
Seneca Drums Gin (86 proof): This is an interesting gin made with 75% grape spirit and 25% grain spirit. The nose is floral and herb-like with more of an Evergreen scent than juniper. The flavor is smooth and definitely in the London Dry camp. The flavor notes include peppercorns, juniper, clove, lavender and sandalwood. The finish is long and lingering with a warming lanolin waxiness. There is a lot going on in the glass, but no one flavor overwhelms the whole. It is extremely well balanced and yet very much an upfront gin. Out of several of the new American artisinal gins I’ve had, Seneca Drums ranks right at the top. I would recommend this unhesitatingly in a martini, G&T or any gin based cocktail. A pleasant surprise all around, and still very different from any other gin on the market. GSN Rating: A+
I hope to get to the distillery soon and will publish a review of more of their products as well as info on their methods. In the meantime, for more info go to their website at: fingerlakesdistilling.com