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Finger Lakes Distilling NewsletterAugust 2013
In This Issue
Taste NY Initiative
New Website
Saturday Tours
In the News
Cocktail Corner
Quick Links


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Our blog

Tastings and Events


Thursday August 8

Premier Wines Tasting & Seminar with Brian

Premier Wines  

6:30 pm  


Sunday August 11

PGA Booth

Oak Hill Country Club, Rochester

Taste NY tents at the PGA 

7 am - 1 pm


Friday August 16
"I Love Liquors" FLD Tasting
Hosted by Pittsford Wines
6:30-8 pm

Saturday August 17
Wine & Roses Festival, Apalachin, NY
11 am - 5 pm
Thursday August 29
The Harmony of Wine & Cheese
Murray's Cheese Class, Manhattan
6:30-8 pm

Date TBA 
TasteNY Tasting Tent 
Next to the Marketplace Pavillion 
NYS Fair, Syracuse
11 am - 8 pm

Friday August 30
Inside the Glass: A Night of Sushi & Cocktails
5 pm

Sat/Sun September 7 & 8
Hudson Valley Wine & Food Fest
Sat 11 - 6 and Sun 11 - 5

Wednesday September 18
Fine Tastings Event
Locust Hill Country Club Rochester
5:30 - 8:30 pm

Thursday September 26
Mirbeau Inn & Spa

Please come out to see us!



Dear Friend of FLD:

Our August newsletter is loaded, so I hope you'll take the time to read on.

I'll start with some great news from the NYS Food & Wine Classic. Once again, an FLD product has been named BEST NEW YORK STATE SPIRIT at the competition, this time our McKenzie Rye Whiskey. This is the 3rd win in the last four years for our distillery (Seneca Drums in 2010 and 2012). The winners were announced at a special banquet this past Tuesday, which was attended by Governor Cuomo. Click here to read more about all the State is doing to promote farm-based beverages.

We're also excited to announce that we have a brand new web presence. If you haven't been to our site in a while, please take a look. In addition to a lot of great information on our company and products, we've made several enhancements including an online store for FLD merchandise, an interactive map with all our retail locations, and a database of over 100 cocktail recipes featuring our spirits.

Starting August 26th, we will begin offering a formal tour of our facility every Saturday at 11 am. You'll see first hand how our products are made. Call 607.546.5510 to reserve your spot.

Thanks for letting us share these exciting new developments with you and hope to see you soon.


Brian McKenzie
Finger Lakes Distilling   

NYS Supports Its Farm-based Beverages through Taste NY Initiative

The NY Wine, Beer & Spirits Seminar hosted by Governor Cuomo last October initiated so many positive things for our industry. We've had constructive dialogue between our industry members and the government bodies that regulate us. Laws and regulations surrounding our business have been streamlined and modernized. The state is also providing support through promotional activities and this past week we participated in two excellent events.

The first was held at the PGA Championship at Oak Hill in Rochester. The State created a Taste NY tent where attendees at the tournament could walk around and sample NY-produced foods and beverages. We poured for hundreds of people on a rainy Friday morning (people needed a little McKenzie Bourbon or Glen Thunder Bloody Mary for a warm-up).

Bill McKenzie (L) and Mike Matera (R) representing FLD

On Tuesday, we also participated in a wine tour on the West side of Seneca Lake with NYS retailers, local winery owners, reporters from national press outlets, and the Governor, himself. It was a great day to recognize Finger Lakes farm-based beverages. Results from the Food & Wine Classic wine competition were announced at a dinner following the tour where we were awarded Best New York State Spirit for the 3rd time, this time for our McKenzie Rye Whiskey. Congrats to all the medal winners and especially to Keuka Springs for taking the Governor's Cup for overall best wine in the competition.

Brian meets with Governor Cuomo and Jim Trezise, President of the NY Wine & Grape Foundation (photo from Elmira Star Gazette)

websiteNew Website for FLD

For the past few months we've been working with Flourish Design Studios in Ithaca on a new web presence for FLD. We're really pleased with the results and happy to announce the launch of our site.

In addition to a whole new look and revised content, we've added some cool new features. On the process pages, you can see a schematic that summarizes the key steps to making each of our products. We've added a picture gallery and will update with new events taking place at the distillery. Retail customers can use the interactive map to find the most convenient places to find our spirits. You can purchase select FLD merchandise including t-shirts, hats, flasks and gift cards in our online store. One of our favorite new features is an interactive cocktail database, where you can search for a cocktail recipe based on the season, style of drink, or favorite FLD spirit.

Look for us to get back to our regular blog posts and even dabble with some tweets in the very near future.

Please take some time to visit our new site and be sure to tell us what you think.

Harvest 2013: 
A Q&A with 
Master Distiller Thomas McKenzie

As a New York State farm distillery required to source at least 75% of your raw materials from within the state, from where do you acquire your rye? 
We get our rye from one of the local farms near Campbell, NY.

Are there certain growing practices you believe are best for rye used in spirits production?
While not organic, we use conventional farming practices that focus on the right varieties of grain and getting those grains the right nutrition at the right time to maximize flavor and yield. First off, you need a good variety. We gambled a bit this year and chose to plant a spring variety of rye from Western Canada. Only plot trials have been done in NY state. So far it looks to have paid off for us. The trick to growing rye is plant spacing, giving it room to grow and fertilizing at the right time, but not giving it so much that the grain heads get heavy and fall over in the field (known as lodging). Everything about rye whiskey is hard. The stuff is hard to grow right, hard to combine, and hard to mash but the flavor is worth it.  
What types/varieties of rye do you prefer for the base material of McKenzie whiskies and why?
We use two varieties, Danko, and the spring variety I mentioned is Gazelle. Most rye grown in the NYS is an unstated variety which is grown for use as cover crop. The two varieties we use maximize starch which, in turn, maximizes sugar when converted in the cooker with malted barley. This makes a good yield of whiskey.  

Have you made rye whiskey before FLD? If so, do you see a difference in the quality of rye sourced in New York compared to rye grown elsewhere? 
When I was a consultant, I made rye a lot of places. Most places have a ready supply of rye grain suitable for making whiskey. We have always been able to find rye here that had flavor, but only in the last few years have we found rye that is flavorful and has a good yield of alcohol. It took a lot of research on my part to find the right seed and farmers. 
While more cold- and drought-tolerant than wheat, how did the rye crops fare during the heat wave in July?
The heat in July was good for us as our Spring rye needed the heat then. A lot of farmers lost their rye crops due to the rain we had around that time because the grain sprouted in the field. Our rye will not be combined for a few weeks yet, so we fared very well.

How is this year's harvest looking? What can we expect from future batches of McKenzie Rye?
Like I said earlier, the rye we have growing is looking like a good crop. It should make a flavorful white dog. As for the future batches of our whiskey, each batch should get a little more flavorful as we go along.  All the rye we are bottling now is well aged and from 53 gallon barrels. And that whiskey is getting better with each passing day. What is really going to make our rye even better in the coming years is the new beer still and thumper we put in. It makes a heavier bodied distillate and has the same spice we have always gotten from the pot still. I am very impressed with the white dog the new still is turning out. 

Saturday Tours!!!

Have you ever wanted to see the entire whiskey making process from start-to-finish? Are the viewing windows in our tasting room really not enough to satisfy your desire to understand the distillation process? You're in luck! Starting August 26 and running through the end of November, we will be offering a regular weekly tour of our facilities.

The tours will last about 1 hour. Starting promptly at 11 am, you'll be taken through all steps including mashing/processing of raw materials, fermentation, distillation, barrel aging, and bottling.

After the walking tour, you'll be treated to a sampling of our wares before you leave with your choice of FLD glassware (and hopefully lots of our spirits to go in it).

Tours must be reserved with a credit card by calling our tasting room between 11-5. Prices are $15/pp and $25/couple. Each tour will be limited to only 15 guests, so call today!


In case you missed it...


If you want to read more about the Governor's visit to the Finger Lakes and our big win for McKenzie Rye, click here.

Don Cazentre from the Syracuse Post Standard explores the unaged whiskeys coming out of our area and how they compare to moonshine in his piece, "Legal moonshine? Central New York's craft distillers enter growing corn whiskey market." Make sure you check out the video where Thomas gives his 2 cents starting at around the 1:30 mark.

The NY Cork Report ran a piece on some of our recent expansions.

Drink Me Magazine took a liking to our Maplejack Liqueur and we were featured with other FLX hotspots in a piece in A.M. New York.



Cocktail Corner

My Berry Amour

This is a great Summer drink that makes use of fresh strawberries, local honey (we used Catskill Provisions) and McKenzie Bourbon. It's refreshing, but complex.


Muddle strawberries in shaker. Add bourbon, ginger, honey and bitters. Shake over ice and strain into glass with ice cubes. Top with club soda and garnish with strawberry.  

Seneca Cup 




Combine all ingredients by pouring over ice. Garnish with lemon wedge and cucumber spear.  







Now it's your turn to experiment with FLD spirits!


 Please  send us your ideas for cocktails using our products. With your permission, we may feature your cocktail in a future newsletter. If selected, we'll send you an FLD hat or T-shirt.

Want to know more about our spirits? Just visit  Our Products for details and tasting notes on our gin, vodka, whiskey, brandy, fruit liqueurs and other products.