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.