mckenzie bourbonAuthor Mack McConnell is a Paris-based contributing writer for Cocktail Enthusiast. He also runs a Whiskey of the Month Club.

McKenzie Bourbon comes from Finger Lakes Distilling in upstate New York. Since its inception, the relatively young product has come a long way. It’s now a hot item on some of the best menus in NYC, including Eleven Madison Park and all of Jean-George’s restaurants (it comes standard in the Manhattan at ABC Kitchen.)

McKenzie Bourbon is quite young, at just about two years, but the distillery achieves great results by using mini casks to speed up the aging process. Their 10 gallon oak barrels ensure much more wood-to-whiskey contact than standard 53 gallon barrels. It’s a method employed by many distilleries, with varying degrees of success, but Finger Lakes seems to get it right.

Apart from those mini barrels, McKenzie Bourbon can also credit its flavor to its two-step aging process. The bourbon begins its life in new charred oak barrels before it’s moved to used chardonnay casks sourced from nearby New York wineries. Finishing whiskey in wine barrels is nothing new, but it’s a practice implemented primarily among Scotch distillers, with sherry, port and other red wine barrels the more typical choice. So Finger Lakes Distillery’s use of chardonnay barrels to age McKenzie Bourbon is certainly noteworthy.

Anyway, let’s see how it tastes.

McKenzie Bourbon Tasting Notes

Color: Dark chestnut

Nose: Young, raw wood and licorice. Corn and floral notes — mostly honeysuckle — plus caramel, apple and a bit of spice.

Taste: Apples and pears, strong vanilla and caramel. Nutmeg and allspice. A nice mouthfeel with very little heat.

Finish: Slightly minty and slightly bitter. Oak tannins give a nice dry start, but the sweeter sides of the whiskey come through and ride the flavor out for a reasonably long time, leading to a pear, caramel and vanilla close.

If you ever find yourself in the Finger Lakes region of New York, swing by the distillery. You’ll get an inside look at the production process, plus a few samples to keep you hydrated.

– 45.5% ABV
– $45

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