Distilled in upstate New York, these whiskies are made from fresh, local ingredients.
Surrounded by the grapevines of nearly 40 different wineries, Finger Lakes Distilling is situated high above Seneca Lake in upstate New York's wine country. The architecture of the 5,000 square foot distillery, which is complete with a 15-foot-tall canoe-shaped chandelier made using reclaimed lumber, was inspired by some of Scotland's most prestigious distilleries. Inside the distillery, Brian and Thomas McKenzie — Finger Lakes' founders (they swear they are unrelated) — are inspecting the holding tanks that store the grains used to make the distillery's line of three different whiskies: McKenzie Wheat Whiskey, McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey and McKenzie Rye Whiskey.
McKenzie Wheat Whiskey is made from a mash of 60% wheat, 20% corn and 20% malted barley. After the grains are sourced, McKenzie mills and mashes them before distilling them through his 350-gallon, two-ton Holstein copper pot still imported from Germany. The whiskey is then aged for approximately 2.5 years in used McKenzie Bourbon and McKenzie Rye casks before each batch is brought to 91 proof and bottled by hand. As a result, McKenzie Wheat Whiskey has exceptionally soft notes of toffee and toasted oak, which are complemented by notes of dark cherries, vanilla and chocolate.
McKenzie Bourbon is made from a mash of 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% malted barley (the corn and rye are sourced from local farmers in upstate New York, while the barley is sourced from a farmer in Canada). After milling and mashing the grains, McKenzie ferments the wort for nearly three days and then distills it through his custom-made copper-pot still. Following distillation, the bourbon is aged at 100 proof inside 10-gallon, newly charred American oak casks for approximately 18 months. The charred casks add notes of honey and vanilla to the whiskey, which is then double-barreled, or finished, in used Chardonnay casks sourced from one of the many wineries that surround the distillery. The finishing process adds slightly sweet notes of apricot and citrus to the whiskey, and rounds out the notes of cinnamon and spice.
McKenzie Rye Whiskey is made from a mash of 80% rye and 20% malted barley, which is milled and mashed without the use of any commercial enzymes. Following fermentation and distillation, the rye is aged in small, freshly charred oak barrels. The barrels interact with the rye and add notes of maple syrup and brown sugar to the whiskey. After aging in new, oak barrels, the rye is finished in used sherry casks, which the McKenzie's also source from local wineries. The used sherry casks contribute notes of cherries and stone fruits to the whiskey, and provide for a slightly sweet, richer finish.
"As far as distilling spirits there's nothing more fun than making whiskey," says Brian McKenzie. "There are so many steps to the production: from mashing to distillation to the blending stage, there so many variables that can affect the flavors. Being a craft distiller, that's what's exciting about it."
Try three exciting whiskies today!
91 (45.5% ABV) each
Finger Lakes Distilling
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Wheat: Exceptionally soft notes of toffee and toasted oak, which are complemented by notes of dark cherries, vanilla and chocolate.