McKenzie Rye Whiskey

  • Rating: 10
  • Value: 9
Type: , , ,
Proof: 91 (45.5%)
Age: 1 Year +
Price: $45.99 - 750 ML
Price Range:

A very interesting and uniquely finished rye whiskey

Notes: This is a new whiskey from Finger Lakes Distilling. This rye is unique in several interesting aspects: first, they use 80% rye and 20% malted barley as the mashbill ( read recipe)- most ryes use a lower percentage of rye (most expensive grain in any whiskey) with the legal minimum being a paltry 51%. The second point is they don’t use any corn. Corn in rye is in my view the same as rice in a beer- a cheap adjunct that dilutes flavor from what it could be. Third, they use fresh charred quarter barrels (about 15 gallons each) so a lot higher wood to whiskey exposure for a period of 12-18 months. Fourth, they finish the whiskey in 53 gallon local sherry barrels for 2-3 months (yes, we are aware of the sherry appellation controversy) somewhat like the single malt scotches that are finished in sherry casks (and can cost more than I have paid for cars). Fifth, this rye is a small batch from the mixing of a very small group of barrels – this is a small microdistillery not a multinational conglomerate.

Appearance: Red bronze in the bottle – yellow winter wheat straw in the glass, flawless purity. Nice edge line on the glass when you swirl it, smooth layer of whiskey on swirling with scattered rivulets rather than legs developing – seems like a rye characteristic to have larger legs along with droplets.

First Impression: A lovely if atypical rye bouquet, the sherry barrel influence lends some lovely nuance to the usual rye grain spice profile. Rye spiciness with oak and pepper notes, dried fruit and leather, dried orange peel, nutmeg, dried cherries. Nicely complex bouquet overall.

Taste: Nicely weighty body and mouth feel generating warmth wherever it touches. Dried dark fruits (think fruitcake but drier) dried orange peel, hints of cherry, vanilla, oak pepper, and cinnamon. The sherry barrels have also added some unique components, something reminiscent of amarone grappa or pisco quebranta grapes, that give a lovely grapey roundness in taste and aromatics to the overall taste that is singularly unique to this rye. Lingering spicy, slightly sweet finish with a notable dryness on the tongue and pleasant heat to it – nothing like the old style gargling broken glass feel we remember from some old style ryes.

Drinks: Rye is, of course, the proper whiskey for a Manhattan. Bourbon was later substituted as rye was on the brink of extinction for a number of years until recently, but rye was the original ingredient.That being said, most of the rye in the late 1800s to 1950’s was not aged much – and certainly not finished in sherry barrels. This is a very nuanced expression of a rye for mixing zest and spiciness to stand up well to mixers without being overly assertive. For traditionalists, there is also of course the Sazerac Cocktail, the recipe from the Sazerac website is:

The Original Sazerac Cocktail
Take two heavy-bottomed 3 1/2-oz. Bar glasses; fill one with cracked ice and allow it to chill while placing a lump of sugar with just enough water to moisten it. Crush the saturated lump of sugar with a bar spoon. Add a few drops of Peychaud’s Bitters, a jigger of rye whisky and several lumps of ice and stir briskly. Empty the first glass of ice, dash in several drops of Herbsaint, twirl the glass rapidly and shake out the absinthe. Enough of it will cling to the glass to impart the desired flavor. Strain into this glass the rye whisky mixture prepared in the other glass. Twist a lemon peel over the glass, but do not put it in the drink.

Cigars: Works well with Joya di Nicaragua or Dunhill – natural or Cameroon wrappers.

Bottle: The hand bell shaped clear glass with a bulbous neck. Sloped shoulder with a wrap around label with Rye Whiskey in antique style script at midpoint of neck. Paper antique style label with batch information on side. Composite cork with copper colored metal cap keeps the bottle well sealed and eliminates the possibility of real cork floaters getting into your whiskey.

Final Thoughts: In the last few years we have seen the rebirth of rye whiskey which before then was a rapidly disappearing whiskey. There have been a number of very interesting ryes coming out, many of high quality. But they all have been rather the same in style; gone are the Monongahela, Pennsylvania and other regional style ryes.

However, this rye signals a new chapter of rye whisky making with the double wood treatment (no one else has done this at least on a commercially available level) and a hopeful rebirth of not only the whiskey, but of a new population of rye drinkers and an entirely new style of rye. I highly recommend this rye as a exciting new style of rye that will be a excellent new product for mixologists both amateur and professional to work with to rewrite old rye based recipes and create many new ones.

Web site:

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