Owner Brian McKenzie and distiller Thomas Earl McKenzie of Finger Lakes Distilling in Burdett, New York share a love of whiskey and — coincidentally — the same last name. The non-related business partners met at an American Distilling Institute conference in 2007, and by 2009 had established Finger Lakes in the Seneca Falls area of upper state New York. “We’re basically a small Kentucky distillery when it comes to whiskey,” says distiller Thomas Earl McKenzie. “We’re just located in New York state.” What he means is that Finger Lakes makes whiskey the old-fashioned way — true to traditional styles that used malt as a base for the spirit. “You’ve got to have malt to make whiskey properly. It has always worked,” says Brian. “We don’t try to reinvent the wheel.” The distilling practices at Finger Lakes go far back past traditional American whiskey making, though, and all the way back to the UK, from where Finger Lakes draws much of its inspiration. One of their whiskeys, The McKenzie Pure Pot Stilled Whiskey, is their take...
Featured Whiskey Distilleries
That’s whiskey with an “e.” But there’s more to distinguish the distillers of American whiskey from those of Scotch or Canadian whisky, than a simple vowel.
There’s the pride and tradition of Kentucky whiskey. The historical romance of Tennessee whiskey. The spicy edge of rye whiskey, America’s original aged whiskey. The violent and underground legacy of moonshine, white dog, white lightning, and corn squeezins.
These are American products. American stories. So it’s fitting that our language allows for this distinction of spelling, even if it’s as unremarkable as a vowel. Something you’ll perhaps see more clearly as you meet the people below—the people behind whiskey. With an “e.”
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“Do you have a flagship spirit?” I ask Rory Donovan, the owner and distiller at Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, Colorado. “We have a fleet without a flag,” he replies. Peach Street really does have a wide array of products — the triple distilled Goat Artisan Vodka, the Peach Goat Vodka flavored with local peaches, 2 grappas, Jackelope Gin named after the creatures who live among Colorado’s juniper berries, Colorado Straight Bourbon, and peach, pear, and plum brandy. Peach Street Distillery’s location was carefully chosen for the huge fruit yields that Colorado’s Western slope offers. “We are located in an area that is surrounded by orchards,” says Donovan. “The lion’s share of our peaches never see the inside of the cooler. That is the key to making good brandy — I wish I could attribute our mastermind distilling techniques, but I think the bottom line is that we’re able to get some really high-quality stuff.” Their distilling know-how is certainly not in question. Given Peach Street Distillers just won the American Distilling Institute (ADI) award for...
Some whiskey distillers buy bourbon and then age it in their own barrels to save money. Many traditional whiskey makers and drinkers don’t think these spirits are authentic enough, and criticize the distillers who put out these products for their priority to making money, fast. Tad Seestedt, the owner and distiller at Ransom Spirits in Sheridan, Oregon, is the first to admit that his priority with his un-aged Whippersnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey is money. He’s more concerned, though, about his customers’ wallets than his own. “We’re buying white dog corn bourbon out of Kentucky before we redistill and age it. I didn’t want to release a young whiskey that I thought would be prohibitively expensive for the consumer,” he says. Seestedt started his career in fermentation as a winemaker, and seems to have always been a businessman at heart. He even named his distillery after the funds it took to get it opened. “I had always wanted to start my own business and I thought that Ransom was an appropriate name in that it’s definition is...
Many distilled products are labels of larger brands. Despite the large number of products under the Tuthilltown Spirits umbrella, the company stays local and committed to the true craft of distilling. In 2001 Owners Ralph Erenzo and Vicki Morgan and their partner Brian Lee acquired an old mill granary in upper state New York, an area that was once home to more than 1,000 pre-Prohibition farm distilleries, and converted it into a distillery. They created the Hudson Whiskey line, including the first whiskey distilled in New York State since Prohibition, the Hudson Baby Bourbon Whiskey. The Hudson whiskey line has since been acquired by William Grant & Sons and Tuthilltown is producing 50,000 barrels of whiskey per year. Not bad for a distillery whose first batch of whiskey was 50 barrels. The new ownership of the brand has allowed Tuthilltown to hire new distillers like Sam Zurophsky. Zurofsky moved from New Mexico to Gardner, New York to work on a small farm a few miles from Tuthilltown. The distillery was just getting started, and Zurofsky...
Balcones Distillery: From Bread to Beer to Whiskey
Berkshire Mountain Distillers: Flavors of the Northeast
Breuckelen: Brooklyn’s One-Man Distillery
Bully Boy Distillers: Redefining the American Spirit
Copper Fox Distillery: All About Aging
Corsair Artisan Distillery: Whiskey Obsessed
Death’s Door Spirits: Reviving Local Agriculture
Dry Fly Distillery: Getting Out of The Grain’s Way
Great Lakes Distillery: Small-Batch Spirits with Big Flavor
High West: Making Rye in Park City, Utah
House Spirits Distillery: Kingpin of Creativity
John McCulloch Distillery: Living the American Whiskey …
Kilchoman Distillery: Scotch Whisky’s New Kid on the Block
Laphroaig Distillery: The Granddaddy of Scotch
Leopold Bros. Distillery: A Family Affair
Louisville Distilling: New Approach to Traditional Bourbon
Ole Smoky: 100 Years of Moonshine
Oola Distillery: A Local Seattle Favorite
Philadelphia Distilling: Revolutionary Spirits
Prichard’s Distillery: A Rum Project Rooted in Whiskey …
RoughStock Distillery: Made In Montana
Smooth Ambler Spirits: What Small Business is All About
St. George Spirits: Eau De Vie Philosophy
Stillhouse Distillery: Whiskey Is A Business You Live
Troy & Sons Distillers: Modern Moonshine
WhistlePig: Seeking the Perfect Rye Whiskey
Whistling Andy Distillery: Montana’s Own Caribbean Rum
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