Finger Lakes Distilling Debuts A 10+ Year Old Malt Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Finger Lakes Distilling Debuts A 10+ Year Old Malt Whiskey

By Nino Marchetti / September 30, 2019

The American malt whiskey category, including the as yet not officially recognized American single malt variant of it, hosts a wide array of bottlings, most from craft distilleries. Many have released theirs after just a few months or years while others, such as New York-based Finger Lakes Distilling, have waited over a decade to bring their first malt whiskey to market.

The new McKenzie Single Malt Whiskey, according to those behind it, is a 10.5 year old expression made from 100% malted barley, 75% of which was grown in New York State. It is a whiskey the distillery worked on early on, given that they just had an onsite celebration tied to having their tasting room open in 2009 (Finger Lakes came online in 2008). An initial batch of this whiskey was released at that event.

“When we started our business,” said Brian McKenzie, Finger Lakes founder and  president, in a prepared statement, “no one was malting barley in New York, so we had to do it ourselves. Since that time at least 15 malt houses have opened in the State. To my knowledge, this is one of the oldest craft-distilled whiskeys released in the U.S., to-date.”

McKenzie Single Malt Whiskey

McKenzie Single Malt Whiskey (image via Finger Lakes Distilling)

We chatted with McKenzie a bit over email on this release and he told us some interesting tidbits around it:

  • 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.

It may be hard to get hold of one by the time you read this story, because of the fact the initial release of this whiskey was at the distillery only and limited to 350 bottles at $150 each. That being said, this 43% ABV spirit has been made every year since the distillery started, so they will “begin distributing the product at some point.”

With regards to official tasting notes, we were told that “it is well balanced with smoke, sweetness from the sherry and it still retains some pleasant flavors from the grain despite being in the barrel so long.”