Friday, February 26, 2010

The Micro Distillery – McKenzie Rye Whiskey

First, let me say thanks to Tom McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling for generously providing a bottle of his Rye Whiskey.

I'll provide some vital statistics that Tom was able to share with me. First, the grain is of course rye and it's purchased locally there in upstate NY and the barley is imported from Canada. Tom and his partner, Brian, use a traditional fermenting and distilling process and do not use a wash. The rye content is 80 percent with the remaining being malted barley with aging at about 9 months in a traditional barrel and then finished in local sherry casks for another 3 months. The Still was designed by Finger Lakes Distilling and was manufactured in Germany. Out of respect to Tom and the hard work he's put into creating his product, I've left out some facts since they are his trade secrets. Finally, McKenzie Rye Whiskey is bottled at 91 proof.

When I received Tom's bottle, the first thing I took note of, as I usually do, was the color. It's darker than I would have expected and has a ruddy quality to it; this of course got my curiosity going. The nose really got my attention as the sherry comes through and melds with the rye, maybe playing a more dominant role on the nose. The entry has a strong rye/spice presence, as it should, wet wood, pepper and leather with the sherry coming toward the front about mid palate. The entry to mid palate was lively showing off the youth of this rye. The finish began tart and then smoothed out to a moderate conclusion. The bottle is bell shaped with an attractive label and cork stopper. My first impressions are that this is a good start for Tom and his distillery, contributing a unique product to the American Whiskey assembly. For those that are fan's of Rye Whiskey, they should have no problem enjoying a dram of McKenzie's.

I mentioned to Tom that I was excited about the creative potential that micro distilleries bring to the American Whiskey market, specifically Finger Lakes, Tuthilltown, Stanahan's, Woodstone Creek and others. I believe the micro distilleries possess creativity, flexibility and are not constrained in many ways like the big boys.

Thank you Tom for sharing your Rye Whiskey but I'm equally interested in trying your bourbon when it's ready for sampling. Coming up next, I'll be reviewing Tom's NY Corn Whiskey.


  1. I am glad to see new Bourbon, Rye, and Corn whiskeys coming to market but the price tag on this rye is what would hold me back. You didn't list it in your blog but my understanding is that this bottle sells for around 40.00.
    I know that the good people of Finger Lakes Distilling are not trying to get rich off of selling this rye and that they have costs that need to be covered. I just hope that this and their future products are of enough quality to justify the price tag.
    The next time I am up north visiting family I will look this Rye up and get a bottle.

  2. Dan

    You're correct, this particular Rye does go for a heavier price tag for such a young whiskey. Micro's can't compete directly against the big boys on price. Large distilleries keep the price down based on volume selling. Distilleries like Finger Lakes, Stanahan's, etc, are really forced to charge more in order to generate the revenue needed to cover overhead and hopefully expansion. As long as the product is good, I'm willing to support the efforts of Micro distilleries as I view them as a creative engine in the American whiskey market.

  3. I've been looking for a review of this rye. Sounds like it's good stuff. Where can I pick up a bottle?

  4. This is a deviation from a normal rye. The fact that Finger Lakes finishes the whiskey is Sherry casks gives it a very unique flavor. For my palate, I prefer a more subtle sherry influence, as I do with a Scotch finished the same way. I vatted the McKenzie with a Baby Saz (4:1) and liked the results.

  5. I love Rye, but without doubt McKenzie Rye is the best I've had. Actually I have moved from NYS and can't get it where I am now... but I have it sent to me every couple of weeks.