Whiskey Review: Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Single Malt

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Finger Lakes Distilling. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review.

Finger Lakes Distilling (FLD), billed as “Producers and Purveyors of McKenzie Whiskey,” is based in a notably tiny (1 square mile, to be exact) village in the Finger Lakes-region of upstate New York. FLD – which promotes its focus on local grains and produce as a New York State Farm Distillery, and eschewing extracts or synthetics in its production process  – recently celebrated its 10th anniversary.

At a celebratory event tied to that anniversary this past September, it released a preliminary, limited batch of its first single malt. This expression was produced within a month of FLD’s still kicking into action, and has been resting ever since, until bottlings last year after maturing for just over a decade.

As previously reported by The Whiskey Wash, the initial release was limited to 350 bottles at the distillery, with further distribution expected at some point. In an email conversation with distillery founder Brian McKenzie at the time we learned a number of interesting things about this release:

  • This lot of whiskey was produced less than a month after getting our still up and running.
  • We do include some heavy peated Scottish malt, but it is not overpowering.
  • The whiskey was aged in a combination of ex-bourbon and sherry casks.
  • It was fermented and distilled on-grain, which makes it a little more flavorful than many Scotch whiskies and aligns it more with American methods of production.
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And now, we dive in.

Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Single Malt

Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Single Malt (image via Finger Lakes Distilling)

Tasting Notes: Finger Lakes Distilling McKenzie Single Malt

Vital Stats: Made from 100% malted barley (75% of which was New York-grown, and some of which is peated from Scotland); aged 10.5 years in formerly bourbon and sherry casks; fermented and distilled on-grain; bottled at 43% ABV. $150 per 750 ml.

Appearance: Amber-hued caramel.

Nose: Sweet ripe fruit, rich sherry, varnish and oak.

Palate: The aromas really come through on the palate as well. Heavy sherry notes and oak, with toasty char on the end.

The Takeaway


Being familiar with the Finger Lakes region, this is a bit reminiscent of the terroir that comes through in wineries from the same area. It's an interesting and unique expression that dips its does into different profiles -- a bit sherry, a bit bourbon, a bit American whiskey, a bit Scotch. Each sip reveals subtly different nuances, so it's worth continuing to explore.

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