It might seem like an odd choice, putting a distillery in the middle of a wine region. But the Finger Lakes region is also home to quite a few small farms, which grow corn, rye, barley, and the other grains and fruits that Finger Lakes Distilling uses to make their spirits.
Finger Lakes Distilling is a NYS Farm Distillery, a small operation making a handcrafted product. Their flavored vodkas and liqueurs are made in the traditional manner, by soaking real fruits in the spirit. Their whiskies rest in oak barrels for as long as they need to, until they mature.
Their standard McKenzie Straight Bourbon has always been made with local rye as the “flavoring grain” (they use mostly corn and some malted barley as well). This new bottled-in-bond release uses wheat instead, creating a softer bourbon. It is made under the standards of the Bottled-in-Bond Act which requires it to be 100 proof and aged a minimum of 4 years.
McKenzie Bottled in Bond Bourbon (100 proof)
Visual: Dark copper.
Nose: Exceptionally well-balanced nose. Wood, caramel, sweet corn, and toasted wheat all perform in unison. Vast and enveloping.
Taste: Despite the relatively high-proof, this has relatively little burn, instead offering a smooth and self-assured entry on the palate. The wood plays center stage, but is held in check by a deep bourbon flavor that lingers long after the tannins have faded.
Finish: Long and lovely.
Overall: You really couldn’t ask for a better bourbon, let alone one that hews to the bottled-in-bond tradition. Really stellar craftwork.
GSN Rating: A+
For more information go to: Fingerlakes Distilling
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
For more information go to: Empire Rye and Finger Lakes Distilling
Here in New York State, we are blessed with a wide variety of entrepreneurial farmers and craft beverage makers. So, it is always a pleasure when the GSN staff are sent a product that is 100% locally made. This time, it is a blend of two.
Crafted through a partnership between a locally sourced food purveyor in the Catskill Mountains and an award-winning distillery in the Finger Lakes, New York Honey Whiskey is a perfect example of how using the best of two different worlds can create something that transcends them both.
Catskill Provisions has been specializing in products such as honey, maple syrup, and pancake mix since 2010. Fingerlakes Distilling has been making everything from fruit brandies, gin, whiskies and liqueurs on the shores of Seneca Lake for the past seven years. The combination is a whiskey marriage.
Fingerlakes Distilling uses a blend of 80% rye and 20% malted barley, and ages it for three years in first fill charred American Oak. It is then infused with raw wildflower honey harvested from bees who have been feeding on chestnut, maple, goldenrod, sunflowers, cornflowers, asters, and daisies.
Catskill Provisions New York Honey Whiskey (80 proof)
Visual: Summer gold.
Nose: Sharp and crisp rye notes beckon with a subtle honey tonality. There is no doubt that this is whiskey.
Taste: Immediate peppery rye shot through with a healthy dose of barrel wood. Within seconds, a golden sweetness envelops the experience like a blanket, toning down the heat and adding a lovely mellowness.
Finish: The rye comes through again towards the end, reminding me of a thick slice of hearth-baked bread baked with just a touch of honey.
Overall: One of the more interesting flavored whiskies I’ve had. What I particularly like about it is that the honey adds depth and support rather than just being a novelty. Quite unique and tasty.
GSN Rating: A-
For more information go to: Catskill Provisions