March 1, 2012

MIXOLOGY: Sipping Winter Whiskey

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Winter is a time for whiskey. When the outside air numbs your nose and your hands, whiskey warms you from within. And, conveniently, you can grasp a tumbler while wearing mittens.

I like most persuasions, but recently I tried a whiskey off the beaten track of American microdistilled liquors that caught my attention. This was not a Bourbon or a Rye, but an Irish-style drink, McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey. Made locally on the east side of Seneca Lake at Fingerlakes Distilling Company, this smooth sippin’ spirit is the cure to our (admittedly) mild winter weather.

Drunken neat, its powerful dried fig nose gives way to the smooth yet subtly spicy whiskey that finishes with just a touch of heat. No need for ice or water to mellow out this pour. Because it’s distilled from a mix of malted and unmalted barley, this whiskey is light and easier to drink than many single malt varieties.

Whiskey can be distilled two ways: on a column still or a pot still. A pot still is the more old fashioned style, concentrating ethanol more slowly pure distillation than with the column still. Great whiskeys are made with this classic method, including Scotch. The fermented juices, called wash, are cooked in a big copper pot until the alcohol vapor evaporates into the still’s long neck and onto cooling coils. The distillate — what condenses onto the coils — goes through the process again, each time concentrating the golden fraction: ethanol.

McKenzie Pure Pot Still Whiskey is distilled twice and aged in old bourbon and rye oak barrels for about two to three years. The aging spices up the flavor and infuses the spirit with a rich oak-y flavor.

According to head distiller Brian McKenzie at Finger Lakes Distilling, “The pot still has more flavor than a typical Irish whiskey, but is well liked by those that prefer blended whiskies, Irish, etc. It is a very easy drinking whiskey.” Easy to drink, indeed.

Original Author: Daina Ringus