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Whiskymag 137 July _Aug 2016

Finger Lakes Distilling (NY)

McKenzie, Bourbon, Corn, Potstill,

and Rye Whiskey

The first stand-alone distillery located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State, The company is proud to produce only the finest spirits everything is distilled from scratch, in small batches, without any short-cuts.


As a New York State Farm Distillery, they only use New York State fruits and grains for their spirits.  Most of the ingredients used comes within a 50 mile radius of  the distillery.  


The Finger Lakes Distilling story began in 2007, when Brian McKenzie, of Elmira, N.Y., met Thomas Earl McKenzie, of Monroeville, Alabama, at a craft distiller's conference.  The two men aren't related, but they share a passion for high-quality distilled spirits.  Brian had a background in finance and was looking to start a business in the Finger Lakes, while Thomas Earl was a wine-maker, brewer, farmer, and a consultant for many distilleries.


They combined their complementary skills and their shared passion to bring you Finger Lakes Distilling.


The Process

Finger Lakes Distilling is unique to wine country.  In the simplest terms, they start with fermentation much like a winery or brewery.  Then take things a step further, however, by heating the fermented liquid, which vaporizes and concentrates the alcohol, before re-condensing it back to a higher proof spirit.  By altering the raw material used, the proof to which they distill, and the aging process, They are able to put together their wide range of products.


The Still

The centrepiece of Finger Lakes Distilling is the 300 gallon, 20 ft tall pot still and rectification column made by the Holstein Company. The 4,000-pound still travelled nearly 4,000 miles from Markdorf, Germany to its new home in the Finger Lakes.  It arrived in several crates and was assembled by family and friends.  You can see its copper gleam from down the road, or you can get a close-up look from the second-floor tasting room.


Distillery Design

The architecture of the distillery was inspired by the clean lines of classic Scottish whisky distilleries. In that tradition, the building has a pagoda roof (historically used for ventilation of malting operations) and a white stucco finish with black trim.  


Finger Lakes Distilling is committed to sustainability.  The oak floors are reclaimed lumber, once the siding from a Kentucky tobacco barn, the still’s shipping crates are now storage shelves, and the wood bordering the tasting bar was recycled from old barn wood.  


They also employ green practices in production, making use of excess process heat to help with utilities and also by providing “spent” grains to local farmers for cattle feed.


Suspended over the tasting room is a unique chandelier that rivals the still as an attention-getter. This ultra light canoe measures 15 feet long by 3 feet and weighs only 30 pounds.  


The tasting room and gift shop overlook the still and production area, as well as barrels of ageing brandy and whiskey.  The location also boast a spectacular view of Seneca Lake and 4 acres of 100 year-old Concord and Niagara vines.


The Whiskies


Glen Thunder American Corn Whiskey 90 proof  

Is a fine-tuned, true American corn whiskey, made to honour one of America’s greatest raceways, Watkins Glen.  


The mellow corn flavours give it the feel of a smooth ride, but don’t be fooled, because it’s still got plenty of horse power. The aroma of this whisky is reminiscent of pulling back the husk from an ear of sweet summer corn.  


Master Distiller Thomas Earl says: “Corn whiskey is a true southern favourite.  This is an honest, true corn whiskey, made like they do it in the hills and hollers of south Alabama. It smells like Duncan Hines cake mix comin’ off the still.  Yankees beware, put some south in yo mouth!”                                    

McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey 80 proof 

This is the distillery take on an Irish-style whiskey – soft, smooth and easy drinking. Using a combination of locally-grown un-malted barley and malted barley. The whiskey is aged in  used Bourbon and Rye barrels and bottled at 80 proof.


Master Distiller Thomas Earl says: “Our Potstill Whiskey is a richer version of the commercial Irish whiskies on the market. It’s full of flavour, but smooth as silk stockings.”


McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey 91 proof  

A very rich, double pot-distilled bourbon.  A local variety of corn makes up 70% of the mash bill.  Aged in 10 gallon new charred barrels and finish in local Chardonnay casks which gives the bourbon a round, buttery finish.  Also, look for butterscotch, vanilla and honeysuckle.  


Master Distiller Thomas Earl says: “Some folks think you can only make bourbon in Kentucky. Bull. We went way back for this bourbon, double pot-distilling it and ageing it at a lower proof for that good old fashioned bourbon flavour.”          


McKenzie Rye Whiskey 91 proof

Made from local rye grain (you can see the fields across the lake from the distillery) and is distilled using old-time techniques. They have aged this whiskey in new charred oak quarter casks and finish in sherry barrels from local wineries. The sherry balances the spiciness of the rye and also gives a nod to the wine region where this whiskey is produced. Notes of orange peel, cardamom, mint and butterscotch stand out on the palate. Exceptionally smooth for a young whiskey.  


Master Distiller Thomas Earl says: “A fine, old fashioned rye: spicy and full of character. See what ya’ll think, I ain’t feelin’ too poetic today"

Finger Lakes Distilling

Brian McKenzie - President

4676 NYS Route 414


NY 14818


(607) 546-5510


Finger Lakes Distilling is open 11am to 5pm daily


Please Confirm with the distillery before travelling

Finger Lakes Distilling (NY)


Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey

McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey

McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey

McKenzie Rye Whiskey

White Pike Whiskey (Moonshine/White Dog)


Also produces; Brandy, Gin, Grappa,

Fruit Liqueurs,vodka