Friday, December 11, 2009

McKenzie Rye mention on

Lew Bryson, Managing Editor of Malt Advocate, posted a guest blog piece yesterday that included a mention of McKenzie Rye. Lew had this to say about our Rye: "it was sweet, brittle, and water-of-life fresh, with a grassiness and mint character that brought a smile to my lips."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Article in the NY Cork Report

Click here to read an article on FLD that appeared on Lenn Thompson's NY Cork Report.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Rye Available at the Distillery Today!

It's on the shelf. Here's a brief description, but you've got to get up to the distillery to try it for yourself:

McKenzie Rye Whiskey is made from NYS grain and is distilled using old-time techniques. We age in new charred 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. Exceptionally smooth for a young whiskey.

Whiskyfest NY

Trying to recover this morning from a crazy few days in NYC. We headed out of Elmira early Tuesday morning for a couple of sales calls and to set up our booth at the Marriott Marquis. The event started at 5:30 for the VIPs. We felt we were in pretty good company: Jimmy Russell, Master Distiller at Wild Turkey was at the booth right across from us and Willie Tait, MD from The Dalmore even came over to pay us a visit.

Our booth was well staffed with myself, Thomas (he even got a haircut for the event), my uncle Mike, and our new sales rep in NYC, Alexis Kahn.

So how did they like our stuff? We got some nice praise on our newly-released Rye. Some even called it the biggest surprise of the show. Everyone seemed to be impressed that it was just a year old. The sherry finish also got a lot of positive compliments.

Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey was unlike most of the aged spirits being poured, but also was appreciated by the attendees. I think it surprised a lot of folks that were expecting it to taste like a fiery moonshine. We also had our gin available, but didn't go through too much. This was WhiskyFest afterall.

Here's a good recap of the event, with mention of our products, written by our new friends at whisk(e)

Wednesday consisted of more sales calls and a tasting of our products at the Brandy Library. Thanks to Ethan at B.L. for setting this up and to all of you that attended.

As always, we keep our list of retail partners updated on our website. We hope to see several NYC locations added in the next few weeks. Get out and try some McKenzie Rye before we sell through this first batch.

Here are a few photos from the week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who wants some Rye?

We set an ambitious target, but it looks like things are coming together for the release of our Rye Whiskey this week. Last weekend, Thomas and I selected the barrels that are going into Batch #09-01. On Thursday, we got official word from the State Liquor Authority that our label was approved. On Friday, we blended and cut the whiskey to bottle strength (91 proof). Lots of labeling this weekend.

We're thrilled with the results. The whiskey is very mature for its age. It has the spicy characteristic that Rye is known for, but finishes exceptionally smooth. You'll taste notes of butterscotch, cardamom, and black licorice. Something about it reminds me of a big fruitcake.

We've got a great week lined up. We're pouring the Rye (as well as our Corn Whiskey and Gin) at WhiskyFest NY in Manhattan on Tuesday. On Wednesday, we're pouring at the Brandy Library in Tribeca.

For those of you in the Finger Lakes, the Rye will be available for sale on Friday afternoon. We're also moving some out to retailers for sale later this week.

I've posted some pictures from the past week below. The first one is a picture of us blending the selected barrels. We pump into the big tank, but I wanted to make sure we got every ounce. Meryl (pictured on the right) is taking copious notes. The second photo is of the first aged whiskey ever bottled at Finger Lakes Distilling and the third sums up how excited we are to make our Rye available to the public. Hope you enjoy it!

November Newsletter

In case you didn't get is the link.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Which one is Thomas Earl?

Hope everyone had a good Halloween. It was great to see some people come out to the distillery in costume. We had some fun our ownselves. I dressed up(?) like our Master Distiller, Thomas Earl. We're both pictured above - can you tell who is who?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cherry Liqueur Now Available!

We bottled our first batch of cherry liqueur last week and based on this weekend's sales, I think we have a winner. The liqueur is made by soaking fresh local cherries in our grape neutral spirit. We then dilute to 48 proof, sweeten it up a little, and then filter it. It remains very true to the flavor of the fruit, with a natural tartness that gives it some complexity.

Have any ideas for cocktails with this liqueur? If so, please submit them through our website. We'd love to hear from you. I've tried it along with our Seneca Drums Gin and lemon in an Aviation. I also think it might do well in some whiskey cocktails.

As with most of our cordials, Cherry Liqueur is only available at the distillery. We have begun distributing our Cassis (black currant liqueur), however, so look for that at your favorite retailer.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I can't believe the number of people that have come into the tasting room asking for grappa. Grappa is very special to me, as it was one of the first spirits I ever enjoyed. My Aunt Jo and I were travelling in Italy and one of my fondest memories of the trip was sitting at a cafe on St. Mark's square in Venice sipping on some delicious grappa. Still, I can't believe how many people are asking about grappa.

Grappa, or pomace-brandy, is made by fermenting grape skins, seeds, etc. It is traditionally made with the leftovers from the winemaking process. The result is a very aromatic spirit that can also be a little rough around the edges. Until recently, it has been difficult to find high quality grappa in the U.S., so many people have been turned off by the "lighter fluid" options on the shelves. When grappa is done right, however, it can be complex and delectable. It makes an excellent digestivo after a big meal and also can be a great addition to morning coffee.

We began grappa production this past week with some local Muscat grapes. Not a lot of Muscat is grown in the Finger Lakes, but we made a point to find some as its floral and citrus aromas translate well into distillates. We also plan on making grappa from some other varietals.

Below are some pictures of us processing the grapes and of the skins fermenting. We hope to have our first grappa bottled for the holidays.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rye Whiskey

We've been working hard trying to get ready for our first aged-whiskey release. We are targeting the release of McKenzie's Rye Whiskey to coincide with WhiskyFest NY in Manhattan on Nov 10.

We were pleased to see a mention of our Rye on Lew Bryson's blog this a.m. Lew is a renowned whiskey and beer writer and the managing editor of Malt Advocate.

Here's a sneak peak at our Rye label. Be on the lookout for this handcrafted, old fashioned American whiskey in mid-November.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Picture in Malt Advocate

You whiskey lovers out there may have seen this...Thomas and I (and our Holstein still) showed up on the back page in this quarter's issue of Malt Advocate. Someday soon, we hope to see our whiskeys featured there too!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Some dates for your calendar...

Thurs, Sept 10: Tasting at Felicia's Atomic Lounge, Ithaca, NY 7-8:30 pm

Fri, Sept 11: Tasting at Northside Wine & Spirits, Ithaca, NY 4-7 pm

Wed, Sept 16: Watkins Glen Area Chamber of Commerce Mixer at the Distillery 5-7 pm (call (607) 535-3003 for reservations)

Fri, Oct 2: Tasting at Lisa's Liquor Barn, Rochester, NY 4-7 pm

Sat, Oct 10: Tasting at Hogan's Octoberfest, Mandells Restaurant, Elmira, NY 4:30-7:30

Sun, Oct 18: Live music at the Distillery 1:30-4:30

Please come out to see us!

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Things have been crazy busy at the distillery, but no excuse for neglecting our blog posts. We've expanded our product line to 8 items now: Vintner's Vodka, Vintner's Wildberry Vodka, Seneca Drums Gin, Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey and 4 different liqueurs, Cassis, Maplejack, Blueberry and Raspberry. We've got some aged whiskeys coming out this fall and a number of other liqueurs in the works.

We are distributing throughout the Finger Lakes from Elmira/Corning up through Rochester.

We have had a lot of local press in Rochester lately.

Here is a story that was featured in the Democrat & Chronicle.

Also, check out this piece that aired on Wham-13 News.

Finally, Michael Warren Thomas interviewed me on his weekly radio show, The Grapevine. You can download the program here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Race Week!

Heading up to the Glen for this weekend's big NASCAR race? Make sure you've got some of our recently-released corn whiskey on hand.

It's available in pint-sized bottles for $12 at the distillery and at several retailers in the Elmira-Watkins area.

Glen Thunder is a fine-tuned, true American corn whiskey, made to honor one of America’s greatest raceways, Watkins Glen. For more than 60 years, the world’s best drivers and most die-hard fans have come to "The Glen." Its legendary road course has seen everything from the early days of racing in the streets, to the wild spectacle of the Grand Prix, to today’s high-tech open-wheel and stock car races.

Racing at The Glen is all about balance and power, and the same goes for Glen Thunder. The mellow corn flavors give it the feel of a smooth ride, but don’t be fooled, because under the hood, it’s still got plenty of horsepower. Enjoy Glen Thunder over ice, mix it in your favorite cocktail, or take it how we recommend, straight out of the bottle.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Coverage by Finger Lakes Wine Country

Finger Lakes Wine Country listed our distillery as one of the top 100 places to visit in the region this summer. This organization has done a fantastic job promoting the Finger Lakes as a destination and we are fortunate to have their support.

I also spoke to Morgen McLaughlin on her weekly web-based radio show yesterday morning. You can check it out here:

Listen to Morgen Mclaughlin on Blog Talk Radio

Tasting @ GCP in Elmira tomorrow night

Thomas and I will be doing a tasting at GCP in Elmira tomorrow night from 3-6 pm. Stop by to try some of our Vintner's Vodka, Vintner's Wildberry Vodka, Seneca Drums Gin, and Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

FLD comes to Rochacha

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ran a small blurb on our opening today.

We have just started distribution in that market and our products can now be found at Century-Pittsford Wines, Lisa's Liquor Barn, and Marketview Liquors. We hope to make our products more widely available in the coming months.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

FLD on Eating Ithaca

We spent a morning last week with Dave Cameron, host of Eating Ithaca, a blog and podcast about local eating in the greater Ithaca area. Dave has been a great supporter of our business from the beginning. Tune in to this episode as Dave interviews me about the origins of Finger Lakes Distilling and Thomas Earl conducts a tasting of our current product line.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blueberry Liqueur is now available!

Everyone's been waiting for our latest product release. Well, we hustled yesterday (bottling, labelling etc) to make it available for the weekend. It's our Blueberry Liqueur, made from our own grape spirit and fresh local blueberries. It has a natural sweetness and works well as an after dinner drink or over some ice cream. Come try it out - our tasting room is open 11-5 daily.


We've had a bunch of four-legged visitors here at the distillery this weekend. It's the annual Grapehound Wine Tour weekend, where greyhound owners from all across the country gather here in the Finger Lakes to celebrate this unique breed. All the dogs have been very well behaved and have enjoyed our complimentary martini-glass dog treats.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Big Weekend

Construction is finally complete and product is ready, so we're opening the doors at 11 a.m. tomorrow. We'll be sampling and selling our initial product line (Vintner's Vodka, Vintner's Wildberry, Seneca Drums Gin, Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey, Maplejack liqueur and Cassis liqueur). We'll be open daily from 11-5 through the rest of the tourist season.

We're also going to have a presence at the Finger Lakes Wine Festival this weekend. Unfortunately, we can't pour our spirits, but we'll be selling FLD merchandise and will also have some great daily raffles.

Hope to see you this weekend, either at the distillery or over at the track.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Gin cocktail idea from A Thirsty Spirit

Gotta try this out...

Enjoyed a couple over 4th of July weekend. Nice summer drink.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Tasting at Red Feet this Thursday

Thomas and I will be doing a tasting this Thursday (7/9) from 5-7 pm at Red Feet Wine Market & Spirits Provisions. Red Feet is located at 435 Franklin St in Ithaca. If you are in the area, please stop by to say hello and to taste some of our award winning vodka and gin.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Join our team.

We're looking for some high energy, well spoken individuals to join our tasting room staff. A passion for well crafted spirits is a big plus. A desire to give our visitors a meaningful experience is essential. Most positions will be part-time: a few days a week, 7-8 hour shifts.

If you're interested in being a part of this exciting new addition to Finger Lakes Wine Country, please email us at

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vintner's Vodka and Seneca Drums Gin - Award Winners at NYSA!

We entered our first spirits competition a few weeks ago, the newly-founded New York Spirits Awards. The competition was open to international brands, large and small. The judging panel consisted of some very well respected people in the industry - mixologists, top retailers, and spirits sommeliers. They evaluated each entry on a 100 point scale with points awarded for appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel and finish.

So how did we do? Pretty damn well. Our two entries, Vintner's Vodka and Seneca Drums Gin were both awarded Best in Class Awards. These awards went to the top 20% of all entries in each category. We were thrilled to get the news over the weekend.

If you want to see all the results, click here. Be sure to head out to your local retailer this weekend to pick up some of these award winning spirits.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wine Guy Column

Jeff Richards ran a follow-up article on our business in 3 local papers yesterday: the Elmira Star Gazette, Ithaca Journal, and Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin. Check it out here.

He also included a number of recent pictures of our production space and tasting room.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Visit from former Master Distiller at Michter's

Yesterday, we had a great visit with Dick and Elaine Stoll. Dick worked for the old Michter's Distillery in Schaefferstown, PA and was Master Distiller when the plant closed in 1990. He had a lot of insight into the business, as did Elaine who spent some time with Michter's, as well.

Dick sampled a bit of our Bourbon and Rye, and much to our delight, thought it was right on track to be some pretty good whiskey.

They were also very gracious visitors and brought some of the good old-time Michter's Rye that
was produced in the mid-1960s and bottled in the 1980s. If you can't tell by the giddy look on Thomas's face in the picture below, we were pretty excited to sample some Pennsylvania Rye that was made over 40 years ago. Also pictured from L to R are my uncle, Mike Matera, Dick Stoll, and my dad, Bill McKenzie.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Upcoming Tastings

Today (6/13): Lighthouse Liquors, Elmira, 3-6 pm

Friday (6/19): Wright's Beverages, Watkins Glen, 4-6:30 pm

Landmark Liquor, Penn Yan, 5-7:30 pm

Saturday (6/20): Bottles & Corks, Corning 2-5 pm

Please come out to sample and buy some newly-released vodka and gin.

Friday, June 12, 2009

First Product Releases

We are happy to announce that we now have 3 products available for distribution. As with everything we do at Finger Lakes Distilling, these products are handcrafted and are made predominately from ingredients found in our region. We have been working to get the products out to retailers in the following markets: Watkins Glen, Ithaca, Elmira, Corning, and Penn Yan. You can find them in many liquor stores in those areas and a select number of bars/restaurants. They are also available at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, both for sale by the bottle and on their innovative new cocktail menu. Please contact us at if you need information about where to find us.

We will continue to expand our retail outlets (hopefully in Rochester next week) and are working to get our tasting room open in early July. In the meantime, we have several tastings planned at liquor stores and will provide information about times and locations through our blog and Facebook page.

Here is some info about the products. All sell at a suggested retail price of $29.

Vintner's Vodka is made using a unique process that combines the ancient practices of the winemaker (the Vintner) with the age-old methods of the Master Distiller. In our custom-built copper still, we distill our signature blend of local grapes, including those that are hand-harvested from our own vineyard. The finished product is a vodka that's deeply rooted in the land and people from which it came. Each sip of Vintner's Vodka should be smooth, yet unabashedly full of character.

Vintner's Wild Berry is made using a unique process that combines the ancient practices of the winemaker (the Vintner) with the age-old methods of the Master Distiller. In our custom-built copper still, we distill our signature blend of local grapes, including those that are hand-harvested from our own vineyard. The spirit is then infused with native strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries before a final distillation to further refine the taste and balance.

On warm summer evenings, the legendary Seneca Drums rumble over the deep, still waters of Seneca Lake. Some believe the distant booms are a message from the Iroquois who inhabited the area hundreds of years ago, while others believe they are simply the result of geothermal reactions.

Seneca Drums Gin, like the phenomenon for which it is named, is an expressive, yet harmonious, London-style dry gin, distilled from our own local grape spirit and a signature blend of 11 botanicals. The end result is a gin that is legendary in its own right, sure to resonate with both new gin drinkers and traditionalists.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Product available soon (like within the week)!

We're starting to move some product out to retailers in the following markets: Watkins Glen, Elmira-Corning, Ithaca, Penn Yan, Geneva, Canandaigua, and Rochester. Stay tuned for an announcement of what will be available. In the meantime, be sure to ask your liquor-shop-of- choice whether or not they will be on board. Thanks for your support.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Article in Syracuse Post Standard

This morning's paper included a piece on how craft distilling is taking off in our region. As the only stand-alone distillery of the group, we were featured prominently in the story.

You can read it here.

Friday, May 29, 2009

FLD on Facebook!

We've had a presence for a few months now. We intend to keep our fans posted on all new developments relating to the distillery. Please check our page out by clicking here.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Tune in Saturday morning...

For those of you in the Elmira area, be sure to tune in to WETM (Channel 18) on Saturday morning, May 16, at 9 a.m. We were interviewed by Henry Dormann, host of the Friends & Neighbors program. The feature will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the whiskey making process and some light-hearted banter with Mr. Dormann.

Friday, May 8, 2009

One more from

In addition to the blog post and pictures, the folks from the Syracuse Post-Standard also took some video footage. It gives a pretty good summary of the whiskey-making process.

You can see it here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Photos on

There were some photos posted on today that are associated with Don Cazentre's blog post from yesterday. Click here to see them.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Coverage on

On Monday, we spent some time with Don Cazentre who writes for the Syracuse Post-Standard. Don is preparing an article on our distillery for May. He also writes a blog where he mentioned our distillery and the upcoming article. Click here to read his post.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Malt Kiln Destroyed by Fire

Through this blog, we've shared a lot of the exciting milestones in our quest to start Finger Lakes Distilling over the past year or so. As with any business, we've also had our rough spots and this weekend marked one of those moments.

Many of you may have noticed the small black and white structure on our property when driving down Rte 414. This 4 x 8 building was our malt kiln that we designed and built ourselves last summer. The kiln was used to dry and smoke grains that we were malting by hand in the distillery. We were very proud of our efforts, as it was one-of-a-kind, and up until this weekend was doing a fine job.

We're not sure exactly what happened, but on Sunday we learned that the kiln had gone up in flames. Thanks to the Burdett Fire Dept for dealing with this unfortunate circumstance and not allowing it to create any further damage.

We are committed to continuing our malting operation. We have done a fair amount of malting for our whiskies and have had luck with grinding the malt green, or without drying. We are also planning to rebuild the kiln sometime in the near future.

The pictures below show the remains of the malt kiln and what it looked like upon completion last fall.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A peach picking party

400 lbs of peaches to pit. Seemed pretty intimidating, but we finished them off in a couple hours this past Saturday. Also had time to get started on our first flavored vodka using local berries. More info on that soon.

The peaches were from a local supplier that froze them for us at the end of the season last summer. What will be the finished product from our efforts? You'll have to visit this summer to find out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A visit from Felicia

On Saturday, Thomas and I spent some time with Amelia and Leah from Felicia's Atomic Lounge in Ithaca. We had a great time discussing distillation, the local food movement and well crafted cocktails.

You can read about their experience here.

We're looking forward to working with our new friends to create some great concoctions for - what we hope to be - mutual cocktail-loving customers.

Next time you're in Ithaca, stop by Felicia's at 508 West State Street.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Distillery mentioned in NY Magazine

We were mentioned in the recent 5-Point Weekend Escape plan on NY Magazine's website. The feature which focused on Seneca Lake, was written by travel writer, Jean Tang, who visited us a couple of months ago. You can see it here.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Interview - Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Wine Blog

We were recently interviewed by Sheila Livadas who writes a wine blog for the Rochester newspaper. You can see it here.

A visit from a Spiritual Advisor

Chris Carlsson from dropped by a couple of weeks ago to see our set-up. Chris has visited numerous distilleries, is an expert mixologist, and also is very knowledgeable about the history of distilling.

He also is a pretty good photographer - here are the photos from his visit:

Monday, February 23, 2009


The local paper in Watkins Glen featured a story about an award we received at the recent SCOPED dinner, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award. I was honored to receive the award and also very surprised since there is so much left to do before we even open the doors. SCOPED is the local economic development agency in Schuyler County - they have been incredibly helpful in getting our business started.

The article can be found here.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ron White

We just caught Ron White of Blue Collar Comedy Tour Fame at the Clemens Center in Elmira tonight. Ron didn't disappoint and had the sold out crowd laughing hysterically for almost an hour and a half. That's my wife Jenny and me pictured with Ron, below. We put together a little care package from Finger Lakes Distilling that included a sample of our upcoming corn whiskey release and a few FLD-branded cigars. For those of you that haven't seen Mr. White, he likes to indulge in scotch and cigars during his comedy routines. Pretty awesome night.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thomas Earl's Distilling 101 - Part 3

All spirits - whether they be vodka, gin, whiskey, tequila, rum, etc - come off the still as a clear liquid. This may come as a surprise to a lot of people because they are accustomed to drinking "brown" spirits such as whiskey and brandy. The spirit starts as a clear liquid because regardless of what the raw material is that is distilled, it is vaporized and re-condensed in the still. The color does not carry over in this vaporization.

So where does the spirit pick up its color? In the case of whiskey, brandy, or dark rums, the color comes from time spent in a charred oak barrel. The clear spirit, or white dog, is barrel aged for a period of time that can range from months to decades. While in the barrel, the spirit interacts with the wood picking up new flavor profiles from the tannins and vanillin in the wood.

The spirit also oxidizes and some will be lost to evaporation. This is commonly known as the angel's share.

A home for our whiskey

This past weekend we raised our first barrel rack. It will accommodate 30 barrels and stands at just over 12 feet tall. We are working quickly to get it filled up with a variety of whiskies and brandies.