Today I bring another American craft whiskey brand that… and I hate that I have to specify this… actually makes its own whiskey! Finger Lakes Distilling (Burdett, NY, DSP-NY-15020) is a small farm distillery located in the Finger Lakes Wine Country region of New York state, and has been making vodkas, gins, and other spirits since July 2009. Most of their production now goes into whiskies: They have a couple of bourbons, and a rye that is suddenly on my “to taste” list. There’s also a white whiskey and an upcoming single malt.
The distillery uses local New York grains milled using their on-site hammer mill. The mash for the Wheated Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon – 70% local corn, 20% red winter wheat, 10% malted barley – is double-distilled using a Vendome continuous still and copper thumper (basically a secondary spirit still), although the company also has a Holstein copper pot still which they use for one line of “pot still” whiskey made from a mash of grains somewhat in the Irish style. The McKenzie line of whiskies are distilled to a relatively lower proof, and are barreled at a very low 100 proof.
The Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is aged in new charred oak casks for a minimum of 4 years, and is then bottled at 50% ABV without chill filtration. Expect to find it for around $45.
Nose: Unctuous wheated bourbon, with heavy notes of baked goods (coffee cake), roasted coffee beans, chunk charcoal, pecan pie, and molasses. Minimal nose tickle for 100 proof.
Palate: Soft, medium bodied. Heavy tongue burn. Chocolate-covered cherries, cacao nibs, blackberry jam. Prominent oak. Complex.
Finish: Long. Slightly bitter black coffee, cherry liqueur (or is it cough syrup?). This lingers. Nice.
With Water: A few drops of water amplify the cherries – making them fresh – and adds tartness. The palate retains its body but is brighter. The finish is a little sweeter and more in balance. I very much recommend water with this bourbon.
Overall: This doesn’t share a lot of notes with other notable wheated bourbons, but it does have a distinct and unique flavor profile that I really appreciate. The notes are heavier and darker than similar whiskies, with a lot of coffee and chocolate and oak. It reminds me a little of Westland, although those are malts not bourbons. McKenzie is kind of a category of its own, and I think it’s worth tasting if you’re at all interested in the modern American whiskey scene. For what it’s worth, $45 is not a bad price for a well-made “craft” bourbon these days, especially at 100 proof. Well done.