• This month, for the first time in its history, the New York Wine & Food Classic, the “Oscars” competition for New York-made wines, included a “best spirit” category. Considering the rapid expansion in the craft distilling movement in the state, the organizers probably should give some thought to changing the name of the test to “New York Wine & Spirits Classic,” since no food is judged in the event despite its inclusion in the title. I first tasted, and was pleased with, the gold medal winner a few months ago at an industry symposium in Saratoga Springs.
SENECA DRUMS GIN
This gin was conjured up by a pair of craft distilling aficionados who share a passion and a last name, although they are not related to each other. They are Brian McKenzie of Elmira, NY, and Thomas Earl McKenzie of Monroeville, AL, who met at a craft distillers’ conference in 2007. They joined forces to create Finger Lakes Distilling, a standalone distillery (many others are part of winery operations).
They now make Seneca Drums Gin, Vintner’s Vodka, McKenzie Rye Whiskey, Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey, several styles of Finger Lakes Distilling Grappa and a line of liqueurs in their facility, located in Burdett, just north of Watkins Glen on the east side of Seneca Lake. Winning “best spirit” in the New York Wine & Food Classic competition held last week is just the latest feather in their collective cap.
Seneca Drums is an extremely distinctive gin, with botanicals that provide the imbiber with immediate citrus smells and tastes, which then give way to clover, menthol and spice. It is 86 proof, slightly higher than the usual standard gins, but it is not overly alcoholic in taste. It is so well made it easily stands up to a dry vermouth or a fruit juice when mixed into a cocktail.
Suggested retail price: $29 for the 750ml bottle.
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