In 2015, six leading New York State distilleries banded together to create a consortium dedicated to establishing a whiskey style for the Empire State. This whiskey was to be as distinctive, precisely crafted and held to as high a standard as any of the illustrious whiskey styles in the world.
And so, Empire Rye was born–an homage to New York State’s pre-Prohibition rye whiskey-making heritage and a testament to the ingenuity and industriousness of its contemporary distillers. Each distiller’s bottling of Empire Rye is crafted in accordance with the same exacting specifications and yet each is given ample space to express their creativity. Finger Lakes Distilling recently released their McKenzie Single Barrel Rye Whiskey to celebrate. In time, the hope is that more New York distillers will choose to produce a rye whiskey in accordance with these standards and make the category of Empire Rye known throughout the world.
What are the requirements to make Empire Rye?
-It must conform to the New York Farm Distiller (Class D) requirement that 75% of the mash bill be New York grain; in this instance that 75% MUST be New York State-grown rye grain, which may be raw, malted or a combination.
-The remaining 25% of the mash bill may be composed of any raw or malted grain, New York-grown or otherwise, or any combination thereof.
-Distilled to no more than 160 proof.
-Aged for a minimum of two years in charred, new oak barrels at not more than 115 proof at time of entry.
-Must be mashed, fermented, distilled, barreled and aged at a single New York State distillery in a single distilling season (The period from January 1 through June 30, is the spring season and the period from July 1 through December 31 is the fall season).
-A blended whisky containing no less than 100% qualifying Empire Rye whiskies from multiple distilleries may be called Blended Empire Rye.
McKenzie Single Barrel Rye Whiskey (101.1 proof)
Visual: Dark gold.
Nose: Heady rye spice balanced with fresh-cut oak stave. Some slight hints of young caramel and vanilla. Late autumn in a glass.
Taste: Very tight mash bill which opens up slightly with a cube of ice. Intensely rich and flavorful spice, sweetness and warmth all at once. There is a sherry-like sweetness which keeps things from being a spice bomb.
Finish: Long with dried plum, golden raisin, soft rye bread and baking spice.
Overall: It gets better with every sip. Try this in a Sazerac, Vieux Carre or Boulevardier for an amazing expression. A phenomenal craft spirit from one of the first of New York State’s 21st century distilleries.
GSN Rating: A