By S.D. Peters
I recently stopped in my local liquor store a few hours before a significant snowfall. The woman entering the store ahead of me turned and said, “Some people go to the store for milk and bread, some of us go to provision whiskey.”
“There may be fewer of us,” I replied, “but the lines are much shorter just before a storm, and no one’s fighting over the provisions.”
Whiskey as a provision: it’s an idea that Claire Marin has incorporated into her line of Catskill Provisions. “I started the company… three years ago,” says Claire, “with the intention of distilling. The idea was to infuse whiskey… with honey and maple syrup and enter the marketplace via the restaurants we were doing business with.” She happened to meet Brian and Tom McKenzie, who own and operate Finger Lakes Distilling, “and was an instant fan of their fine products.” Particularly of their McKenzie Rye Whiskey.
Infused or flavored whiskeys do not appeal to my taste, but knowing that Catskill Provisions New York Honey Rye is sourced from McKenzie Rye Whiskey piqued my curiosity. McKenzie Rye — 80 Proof, made from 80% locally-source rye, 20% local barley, and aged in new charred American oak — is a fine example of the range of flavors a young whiskey can produce. “[B]lackberry and apricot warms into crushed thyme and cardamom,” is how I described it when I reviewed it for the Whiskey Reviewer. “The finish, smooth and long, trips through a meadow of vanilla, butterscotch and apricot, into a garden at the far end, where Apricot and cardamom linger.”
New York Honey Rye buffs those flavors to a sheen, with an infusion of Catskill Provisions’ all-natural, late Summer wildflower honey culled from the hives that Claire manages. In its refined, long-necked bottle, with a beveled collar (“made in the USA,” Claire notes, “we wouldn’t have it any other way!”), the Rye is a dark, syrupy amber, courtesy of the honey’s natural deep tones. In the glass, it lightens a little, but remains a touch darker than its source. The honey infusion circles around McKenzie Rye’s summer scents of fresh-cut grass, ripe mango, vanilla, apricot and berries, enveloping it with hint of toffee, evening meadow, and bringing out a sweetness in the grass.
The Rye retains its source’s flavors, as the honey gels around the spice to enhance the apricot in a long, relaxing finish.
The most notable characteristic of New York Honey Rye is the maturity it brings to the occasional “mischievousness” in its source’s notes, flavors, and finish. There’s an air of maturity about this infused Rye; the type that comes experience rather than age. It’s settled down to write about what it’s learned, and the natural sweetness of the reminiscence never stumbles into the cloyingly saccharine.
Like other new, independent whiskey provisioners, Catskill Provisions New York Honey Rye has limited availability. If you’re in New York City, try Park Avenue Liquors. In Narrowsburg, NY? Try Narrowsburg Fine Wine & Spirits. Or you find it online at Saveatseneca.com. A bottle costs between $46-$51. To try it by the glass, visit Il Buco or The Flat Iron Room in New York City, or The Heron in Narrowsburg, NY.