McKenzie Straight Rye Whiskey Review Header

McKenzie Straight Rye Whiskey Review

In Rye Whiskey Reviews by Jeffrey Schwartz3 Comments

McKenzie Rye Whiskey is made from local rye grain and is distilled using old-time techniques. We age this whiskey in new charred oak casks and finish in sherry barrels from local wineries. Finger Lakes Diistilling
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McKenzie Straight Rye Whiskey

  • DISTILLER: Finger Lakes Distilling
  • MASH BILL: 80% Rye | 20% Malted Barley
  • Cooperage: Quarter Casks then Finished in Sherry Barrels from local wineries
  • AGE: 3 years
  • YEAR: 2019
  • PROOF: 91 Proof (45.5% ABV)
  • MSRP: $45.99

NOSE:  Stewed Peaches  | Rye Spice | Smoked Vanilla  | Floral

TASTE:  Stewed Fruits  | Caramel | Mint  | Rye Spice

FINISH:  Medium in length with sherry notes.

SHARE WITH:  Folks who are interested in finished ryes that are a bit different.

WORTH THE PRICE:  This is at the slightly lower end of the spectrum for craft whiskey, so yes.

BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST:   Try this one at a bar before you commit to a bottle. It isn’t overly expensive but may not be for everyone.

OVERALL:  McKenzie Straight Rye is a unique pour. Distilled from a mash of 80% Rye and 20% Malted Barley, it is aged three years and non-chill-filtered. Finger Lakes Distilling chose to age the rye in quarter casks. Smaller barrels provide more surface area per volume of whiskey to the wood, which gives it a faster maturation cycle than a standard 53-gallon barrel. The whiskey doesn’t age faster, but it acquires qualities of longer-aged whiskeys.

Usually, I can pick up the difference between a whiskey that is traditionally aged and one that is “rapid-aged.” However, those qualities were muted by the sherry cask finish. On a side note, Finger Lakes Distilling sources the sherry casks from local, New York wineries.

At first, it came across as a very one-note whiskey which was all sherry. While I do enjoy sherry bombs in Scotches, I’m less of a fan when it comes to American whiskeys. However, when I continued to sip, this one got much better and the palate more complex. As I always tell folks, never judge a whiskey on its first sip:  You have to get past initial palate shock.

 I’ve had sherry-finished ryes before, and McKenzie is definitely in a field of its own. In my experience, the sherry notes overwhelm, making it difficult to identify the remainders. While fruits are the first thing that is picked up both on the nose and palate, it fades quickly enough so you can enjoy the spectrum of what’s offered.

Overall, I liked McKenzie Straight Rye but didn’t love it. It still retained some of the rapid-aging tells, and I’m going to recommend trying this one at a Bar before you commit to a bottle. Cheers!

Learn more about Jeff’s whiskey preferences and check out more of his reviews…

Disclaimer: Finger Lakes Distilling Co. provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.

About the Author
Jeffrey Schwartz

Jeffrey Schwartz

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Known throughout Wisconsin (and now the world) as Whiskeyfellow, Jeff was a late-bloomer to the Wonderful World of Whiskey. At the suggestion of his wife, he started with Scotch and was hooked. He was under the impression that he was happy. A friend asked him several times to try Bourbon, and he eventually gave in, only to fall completely in love with it. Those first steps started him on his #DrinkCurious adventure that led him to #RespectTheBottomShelf. Jeff now relishes many types of whiskeys, ranging from the super-affordable to the super-premium and everything in between. Aside from simply sipping and writing about it, Jeff now enjoys spreading the whiskey gospel by hosting educational tasting events. Read Jeff's full profile.


  1. Steve Coomes

    <>It colors the whiskey faster, but that’s it. Even the color of such whiskeys is just dark and sometimes truly opaque. A publicist recently told me that another new distillery using small casks had reformulated its distillate to age better in small casks. I know too little about whiskey chemistry to discuss how one might reformulate distillate to benefit from small casks, but one thing I do know is great whiskey takes lots of time, evaporation and head-space to create those chemical reactions that develop incredible flavor and complexity. If small casks were truly great, large distilleries would be doing them. Good, thoughtful and fair review, Jeff.

  2. Avatar

    What size are the sherry casks they use to finish the whiskey? I believe a typical sherry butt is up to 2.5x the size of a normal bourbon barrel – and if these guys are using quarter casks for the primarily maturation, seems unlikely they’re dumping into an original-sized butt. Are they cutting down to the same quarter-cask size somehow? If so, it would be interesting to start to learn how quarter-cask *finishing* affects the spirit – not just the small barrel aging.

    1. Jeffrey Schwartz Author

      Ethan, thanks for your question, it is a great one that I don’t have the answer to (yet). I’ve not been to the distillery, but I can reach out to them and see if I can get the answer. Cheers!

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