Monday, November 28, 2011

New from FLD: McKenzie Pure Potstill Whiskey

Introducing... McKenzie Pure Potstill Whiskey!

On Black Friday, when many shoppers were waking up early for the best deals on holiday gifts, FLD was having a Thanksgiving celebration of our own. We celebrated with free tastings, live music by local band Miller's Wheel, and the premiere of a brand new McKenzie whiskey.

McKenzie Pure Potstill Whiskey, just $39 a bottle, is an Irish-style whiskey with a smooth, mellow taste. Bottled at 80 proof, it is incredibly sippable both neat and on the rocks. The whiskey is distilled from a mash of both locally-grown unmalted barley and malted barley, then aged in used Bourbon and Rye barrels for just over two years. Says Master Distiller Thomas Earl of the newest McKenzie whiskey, "Our Potstill is a richer version of the commercial Irish whiskies on the market. It's full of flavor, but smooth as silk stockings."
With the holiday season just around the corner, a bottle of McKenzie Pure Potstill is a great gift for the inexperienced whiskey drinker looking for an accessible entrance into the world of whiskey, or for the veteran whiskey drinker on the lookout for something new and different. Or, for the real whiskey buff, go the whole nine yards and treat them to the full McKenzie line.
Although the cold season is upon us, FLD will be open 7 days a week all winter long. So stop by our tasting room for just the thing to warm you up!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

FLD scores well in 2012 Whiskey Bible

Jim Murray, one of the most revered whiskey writers in the world, just released the 2012 edition of his Whisky Bible. Thomas and I had the pleasure of meeting Jim at a conference in Kentucky a few years ago where he conducted a tasting of unique whiskies from around the world. Jim is passionate, witty, and at times, brutally honest about whiskey.

So it was with a little trepidation that we submitted a range of FLD whiskies for review in this year's edition. Our Bourbon, Rye, Wheat and Corn whiskies were amongst the 1,210 new whiskies Mr. Murray tried for the 2012 Bible.

So how did we do?

We did pretty well. Scores are based on a 100 point scale.

On top of the list was our Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey which scored a 92.5 or a "Brilliant" on Mr. Murray's scoring guide. Some comments: "Beautifully distilled...absolutely classic corn white dog."

Mr. Murray also was very kind to our McKenzie Rye rating it a 85.5 or "Very good to Excellent." He writes: "for sheer content and charisma it is a great whiskey to find...Big oils, but then a wall of firm, fruity muscovado sugars and light liquorice. Some superb spices and chocolate, too."

We also sent a bottle of our first batch of McKenzie Wheat, which is now sold out. It scored an 82 or "Good Whiskey Worth Trying." He offered the following: "A few heads and tails certainly up the body and make the sugar-honey notes sing."

Surprisingly, our McKenzie Bourbon rated the lowest of the FLD products (surprising, because it is our best seller here at the distillery). Still, we received a respectable score of 78 ("Average") and comments included: "Gets off to an oily, rocky start...But once it gets going...the compensation is worth the wait as the toffee honey becomes a real chewathon. Good late spice too."

Overall, we are proud of the ratings. For the first time, Mr. Murray included a special section devoted to American craft distillers. In looking through the other reviews, the FLD line-up scored very well in comparison.

While comments from our fans and customers are most important to us here at FLD, it's also good to receive some praise from someone as well respected as Jim Murray. We hope to have the latest version of the Whisky Bible for sale in the tasting room in the next few weeks. Be sure to stop by to get a copy (and some of the great FLD whiskies that are included in it!).

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cocktail Ideas from the Tasting Room

Some more cocktail ideas from our tasting room! Two whiskey lovers and long-time FLD employees talk about their experience at FLD and their favorite ways to drink our spirits.

Tom is an encyclopedia of all things whiskey-related. Originally from Wisconsin, he's been working at FLD since October of last year. "My favorite part about working here," he says, "is that I get to educate and inform customers about the intricacies of whiskey." At home, he brews his own beer, and he and his wife will be returning to Wisconsin in May to work with his wife's family at their winery. His favorite FLD spirit? McKenzie Rye. "I like to drink it neat," he says, "or in a Sazerac."

Cody, meanwhile, comes to FLD from Texas. "I love learning about the process of distilling, and the fact that there are so many different varieties of whiskey." His favorite FLD spirit is our un-aged corn whiskey, Glen Thunder. "it's simple, and yet you can mix it with a variety of things- or just drink it straight!" When it comes to cocktails, Cody's got some interesting ideas- like this one, which mixes our Riesling Grappa, Stirrings Brand Sangria Mixer, and Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters.

Tom's McKenzie Rye Sazerac Recipe

Coat a lowball glass with absinthe
muddle a sugar cube and five dashes of Peychaud's bitters (Tom uses Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters as a substitute)
Fill glass with a few ice cubes
Add 1.5 ounces of McKenzie Rye Whiskey, stir
Garnish with an orange peel

Cody's Grappagria

Muddle strawberries in the bottom of a highball glass
Fill glass with ice
Add 1 ounce of FLD's Riesling Grappa and 3 ounces Stirrings Brand Sangria Mixer
Finish with a few drops of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters
Garnish with a strawberry or orange peel

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the Ground, Up: Bourbon Production Part II

[the previous installment discussed the grains, the preparation of the mash, and the fermentation process used in the making of McKenzie Bourbon]

The fermentation process for our bourbon takes about three days— that's when the yeast converts the sugar produced from the mashing process into alcohol, carbon dioxide, and heat. During this time, the creation of carbon dioxide causes the mash to bubble and froth. When the yeast has fully metabolized the sugar, the mash, which is now termed a distillers beer, is pumped through a hose into the pot still.

Our beautiful still is a pot and a column still and was designed by our Master Distiller and made by Holstein in Markdorf, Germany. It can hold 300 gallons of bourbon mash, which translates into roughly 30 gallons of bourbon per run. To distill bourbon mash, we use only the pot still; the column is used for some of our other spirits like vodka and gin.

The science behind distillation is simple: the boiling point of alcohol is lower than that of water. So when the pot is surrounded by a hot jacket of steam, the alcohol evaporates while the mash liquids and solids are left behind. When the vapors are then chilled, the alcohol re-condenses into a very concentrated, clear whiskey (also called white dog) of 120 proof, or 60% alcohol. The whole process of double-pot distillation takes about 7 hours.

After the mash is distilled twice it is ready to be transferred to barrels for aging. Left behind in the still is the spent corn/rye/barley and water mixture, which is no longer alcoholic. We give some of this to a cattle farmer up the road to feed to his livestock, while we save some to use as backset to use in the sour mash process (see the Bourbon Production Part I for an explanation of this process).

So, the barrels. In bourbon production, the specifics of the barrels used for aging are extremely important. In order for a whiskey to be legally classified as bourbon, it needs to be aged in new, charred, American oak barrels. What that means is that once we've used our barrels once for bourbon, we cannot re-use them for whiskey and still call it bourbon. Many large-scale American distilleries will sell their once-used bourbon barrels to Scotland, where distilleries can use them to age Scotch. We use ours a second time to age our Maplejack, as well as for other products that are in the works. Our barrels are hand-crafted by coopers in Missouri and Minnesota.

The newly distilled whiskey is mixed with some water to lower the proof, and is then transferred into barrels. Right now we are using mostly 10-gallon barrels to age our Bourbon, so that the aging process is expedited and we can produce a nicely aged whiskey in less than 2 years. After about 12-18 months in the barrels, we transfer the now caramel-colored whiskey into Chardonnay casks from local wineries, which gives the bourbon a chance to breathe. We are also putting up several standard 53 gallon barrels for extended aging. Some of this whiskey is now going on 3 years old and is showing lots of promise (yes, we check in on it routinely!)

After a month in Chardonnay, we smell and taste the nearly-complete McKenzie Bourbon to make sure it is ready to be bottled, labeled, and put on the shelves. At this point it will have the tasting components that you're already familiar with, our signature buttery, smooth bourbon. And voila, there you have it- McKenzie Bourbon, from the ground up!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Summer in the Finger Lakes

There are lots of ways to enjoy the summer months- but in the Finger Lakes region in particular, it seems like a crime not to take in the beauty of the season with some outdoor adventures. As you plan your summer visit to our tasting room (of course!), check out some of these other wonderful Finger Lakes attractions right outside our doors—

On your way to the Windmill Farm and Craft Market in Penn Yan, just 30 minutes from FLD, you are more likely to see horse and buggy traffic than hear the impatient honking of car horns. The market is open every Saturday from April through December, and is frequented by Amish and Mennonite vendors from around the state.The maze of tented shops feature everything from fresh food and produce to handmade crafts. And if you really want to get into the spirit of the market, you can even take a ride on a horse-pulled buggy! (Check 'em out online:

There's nothing quite as refreshing as cooling down from the summer heat with some fun on Seneca Lake. There are numerous agencies offering kayaks, jet skis, and boats for rent, in addition to various cruises around the lake. The True Love Schooner, which has been sailing the Caribbean since 1950 and was featured in the 1956 film "Love Boat" with Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly, has hung up its pioneering jib and is now available for daytime, sunset, and private sails around the Lake. (

As you may have heard, the Finger Lakes are gorges. Bad puns aside, the entire area is covered with deep and winding gorges, complete with walking and biking trails, waterfalls, and swimming holes. In Watkins Glen State Park, just a few miles away from FLD, you'll find the tremendous Glen gorge and all the walking trails and camp grounds that go with it- perfect for a break from the wine trail, for a day hike or picnic.

Similarly, Taughannock Falls sits 25 miles from FLD and boasts one of the highest falls east of the Rockies. There you can hike and swim, as well as bring in some food to grill and picnic. And Saturday nights during the summer, a $5 parking pass gets you into the park for weekly concerts! (see the schedule:

And speaking of live music, Wagner Vineyards, a winery and brewery just up the road from FLD, has a great Friday night concert series, called Friday Nights on the Brewdeck. From 8-11pm you can dance the night away to the fun bands that play on the brew deck overlooking the lake, and you can buy some Wagner wine or beer to sip while you sway. A fun Friday night for the whole family. (

The bottom line: there is tons to do in the Finger Lakes right outside the Distillery's doors, aside from the Seneca Lake Wine Trail. If you're headed this way, check out some of these awesome outdoor activities, and find more suggestion online at

And of course, between outings and wine tastings, stop by our tasting room to 'un-wine'!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

From the Ground, Up: Bourbon

When you visit our tasting room, or purchase a bottle of our spirits at a liquor store or in a cocktail at a restaurant, you might admire the playful bottle designs, or the smoothness of our products on your tongue. But this is only half of the picture- most of the work happens behind the scenes. In order to fully appreciate the flavor in your glass, we think it's important that you understand what happens downstairs on the production side of our operation. To that end, we will be walking through the production for several of our spirits in short installments. This inaugural installment in From the Ground, Up will feature the first step in producing McKenzie Bourbon.

We start the process with locally grown corn, rye, and bring in the finest malt obtainable. A little about the grains. The corn we use is grown about 3 miles from the distillery. It needs to be dry, and have a good bushel weight, meaning it will produce a good amount of alcohol. But it also must have a good flavor. The rye is grown across the lake from us in Dundee, New York, and also by a farmer in Big Flats, NY. The rye must be dry as well, but most importantly, it must have a good flavor. When mashed in a bourbon mash, the rye is called the flavoring grain. It lends a spicy component to the finished product. We also bring in fresh malted barley, which is barley that has been partially germinated to produce enzymes that convert the starch found in the corn and the rye into sugar, which is then converted into alcohol (more on this later). We use only the natural enzymes in the malted barley to convert our starch into sugar— it's possible to skip this step and use commercial enzymes, but we think that natural enzymes make a better bourbon. (Pictured above: corn, rye, and malted barley. Below: Thomas adds the ground corn to boiling water.)

Once we have our grains, the first step in bourbon production is grinding the corn into a coarse meal. We add this corn meal to boiling water, which makes the starch readily available to the malt. After a long hot cook, the corn is cooled down to around 180 degrees, and we add our rye, which has been milled into a fine flour. After a few minutes we begin cooling again to around 140 degrees, and at that point we add our finely ground barley malt. We maintain this temperature for a little while, giving the malt enzymes a chance to convert the starch in the corn and rye into sugar.

At this point, we add backset to the cooker. Backset is mash that has been stripped of its alcohol in the still. It is necessary in order to drop the pH of the mash, so that it can ferment properly. This is what is meant by the term "sour mash bourbon whiskey". (Pictured right: the mash boils. Close up video below.)

After the backset goes in, the mash is cooled to around 80 degrees so that we can pitch our yeast. We don't want the mash to be too hot or else the yeast will be killed, but if it's too cool the mash won't ferment properly. We then transfer the mash to an open top fermenter to ferment for around 3 days. Fermentation is the process that occurs when the yeast metabolizes the sugar that was created in the mashing process. It produces 3 things: alcohol, carbon dioxide and heat. After about 3 days, we transfer the fermented mash, now termed beer, to the still.

More on the distillation process next time...

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy July 4th!

Meet some of our tasting room staff and friends of FLD! They hail from all over the country, from New York to Alabama to Texas, and represent many different backgrounds and aspirations. We will periodically feature staff members on the blog, so even if you can't literally make it into our tasting room, you can at least meet us virtually. In honor of July 4th, a couple staff members share their favorite Independence Day memories and some awesome cocktail ideas to help you and your friends and family celebrate the holiday.

This year on the Fourth, Loretta will be holding down the fort in the tasting room, helping customers decide the best way to celebrate the holiday with her creative cocktail concoctions. For the Fourth, she recommends the RED, WHITE, AND BLUEBERRY (came up with the name m'self, thank you very much!). This fruity cocktail is a perfect party drink, and a great complement to Loretta's favorite part of the Fourth— watching fireworks.

Red, White, and Blueberry
1 part Vintner's Wildberry Vodka
2 parts Stirrings Wild Blueberry Martini Mixer

A few drops of Fee Brothers Rhubarb Bitters

Pour, stir, and enjoy!

Loretta has worked in the tasting room part time for about a year, and works as a paralegal as well. Her favorite part of FLD? The people. "My favorite part about working here is being able to find the right spirit for every customer," she says, "and making a connection with the people who come into the tasting room through the spirits." After work this Fourth of July, Loretta plans to watch fireworks on the beautiful Seneca Lake.

While Loretta helps keep things running smoothly at FLD, Jerry will be traveling downstate to visit friends and family for an annual Fourth of July celebration. You might find him around the pool with his cousins, a glass of McKenzie Bourbon on the rocks in hand. "I won't be drinking anything fancy," says Jerry— "no martini glass or anything." Jerry recommends drinking his favorite spirit on the rocks or in an Old Fashioned.

McKenzie Old Fashioned
2 oz McKenzie Bourbon
A few drops Fee Brothers Angostura bitters
1 splash water

1 tsp sugar
1 maraschino cherry

1 orange wedge

Muddle sugar, bitters, cherry, and orange in a glass. Fill glass with ice, and add bourbon and water. Stir, and enjoy!

Jerry is a rising senior at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, and hopes to someday work as a restaurant's beverage manager. Like Loretta, his favorite part of the Fourth is firework-related— although he prefers to set them off himself rather than just watch! He too has been at FLD for a year, and his favorite part is educating customers about the spirits, and also learning about them himself. "I love that I can learn new things every day, and talk about it with interested customers," he says.

For another festive cocktail idea, check out the FLD spotlight on the Edible Finger Lakes Blog!

Happy Independence Day, from all of us at FLD!