McKenzie Straight Rye Whiskey Review

This was originally published on February 10, 2020, at Bourbon & Banter.


  • 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 interested in finished ryes that are a bit different.


WORTH THE PRICE:  This is at the 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 the qualities of longer-aged whiskeys.


Usually, I can pick up the difference between a traditionally aged whiskey and a “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, 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 tell folks, never judge a whiskey on its first sip:  You must get past initial palate shock.


I’ve had sherry-finished ryes before, and McKenzie is definitely in its own field. In my experience, the Sherry notes are overwhelming, making it challenging to identify the remainders. While fruits are the first thing picked up 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 recommend trying this one at a Bar before you commit to a bottle. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It


Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.