Review: Thistle Finch Straight Rye Whiskey

DSR – PA – 001: Thistle Finch Genuine Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey

Company/Distillery: Thistle Finch Distilling LLC

Location: Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Mash Bill: 60% Rye, 30% Wheat, and 10% Malted Barley

Age Statement: A Minimum of 2 Years

Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV

Color & Viscosity: The color of this offering from Thistle Finch is light chestnut, reminiscent of apple juice. Swirling the whiskey around the glass produces a medium thick viscous line. Thick oily legs quickly release and flow down the sides into the belly of the tasting vessel.

Purchase Price: $46.99 from the Fine Wine & Good Spirits – March 2021; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Front Label

“Thistle Finch”

“Genuine Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey”

“Distilled in Lancaster, PA”

“Double Distilled From Locally Sourced Grains”

“Batch No 13 | Bottle No 1 | Bottle Date: 12/3/20 | Bottled by WGW”

Back Label

“Thistle Finch Distillery is proud to present our Straight Rye Whiskey. This uncommon rye is produced from a unique mash bill of rye, wheat, and malted barley. Distilled in small batches in our hand made copper pot still and aged for a minimum of two years in charred oak barrels at our historic facility in Lancaster, PA.”

“Double distilled from locally sourced grains”


“Distilled and bottled by Thistle Finch Distilling LLC at 417 West Grant Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania”

Distillery Background

Thistle Finch Distillery

Thistle Finch Distillery was founded in 2013 by Andrew Martin in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Prior to opening the distillery, Mr. Martin had a career in the tech industry where he specialized in e-commerce and web design. Martin decided to step away from the tech world and launch Lancaster, Pennsylvania’s first legal distillery since Prohibition. The distillery officially opened to the public on Christmas Eve 2013. They have chosen to produce whiskey the way it was made pre-Prohibition – using Pennsylvania rye.

This pre-Prohibition style distillery is located in the historic Walter Schnader Tobacco Warehouse in downtown Lancaster. The facility offers a traditional tasting room along with all aspects of the production process, also housed on site. The distillery uses a handmade still produced by Mr. Martin, with the assistance of some of his friends. The still is a 150-gallon hybrid 4 plate pot still. In addition, the distillery makes use of a smaller 50-gallon still for the production of their gin and vodka.

Head Distiller Arvin Alston II first started out by brewing beer commercially and at home while working as a photo editor for a magazine. When Mr. Alston decided to commit his time fully to the production of alcohol, fate would lead him to Mr. Martin and Thistle Finch. Alston uses locally sourced grains, delivered with a flour consistency. Thistle Finch allows its mash to ferment for 3-4 days before distilling it in Andrew’s handmade still. After a second distillation, the spirits are barreled in new American white oak barrels sourced from Missouri and aged a minimum of two years. In 2017, the distillery was producing roughly 45-50 barrels per year of their Straight Rye Whiskey. (Source: Taste The Dram: Lancaster PA – Thistle Finch Distillery Interview from February 2017)

Thistle Finch Distillery Spirits

Thistle Finch Distillery currently offers a variety of spirits at its Lancaster, PA distillery. It all started with the Thistle Finch Small Batch White Rye. The distillery has since added Thistle Finch Market Alley Gin, Thistle Finch Penn Square Vodka, Thistle Finch Black Pepper Rye, Thistle Finch Black Coffee Rye, and the Thistle Finch Straight Rye Whiskey of this review.

For more information about tours, their operations, videos and more check out the distillery website.

Tasting Notes

Tasting Date/Vessel: May 2, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.


Christian: My first nose is straight from the bottle. This whiskey presents in the bottle with a very light flavor profile. A very light hint of fresh chewing tobacco is present. As I begin to nose the whiskey in my Glencairn, the first thing I pick up is a note of citrus, similar to that of lemon or grapefruit zest. This aroma is joined by a sharp scent that reminds me of herbs; it is similar to rosemary, yet, borders on fresh cedar plank. There is a punch of rye in this that leaves my nose tingling after every inhalation. There is also an underlying sweetness here that reminds me of a red wine or perhaps green apples. The addition of distilled water allows for sweet salted caramel to show up to the party. The citrus is still present, but it is not as “in your face” as previously. I really like the sweetness added by the water.

Mike: Initially, I detect a faint hint of freshly sliced green apples as I raise the glass to my nose. Nosing in deeper produces a gentle ethanol burn that transitions to a white pepper spice in the nose. A swirl of the glass releases notes of unsweetened applesauce. Some very light leather and cedar tones as I continue to swirl the whiskey in the tasting vessel and as I pull it back and forth in front of my nose.


Christian: On my palate, this whiskey presents with a smooth yet oily texture, coating the roof of my mouth and tongue. The first drops on the tongue are sweet but quickly turn towards earthy. Leather leads early, but is quickly joined by a kick of allspice and the return of the cedar plank from the nose. A very light notion of vanilla and honey try to jump through but are squashed down by a peppery rye bite. There is a level of citrus that remains present throughout this pour. The distilled water really makes the pour light and velvety. The flavor becomes richer with the flavor of caramel sauce and a touch of lemon zest. The cedar has receded considerably while allowing the allspice to stay in the forefront.

Mike: My first sip of this spirit presents with a very thin mouthfeel, but it is light and crisp. I find it to be very sweet on the tip of my tongue, like a flavor of honeysuckles. The second sip is more leather forward as it transitions to processed tobacco flavors that linger on the back end. As I let it sit on my tongue, the intensity of the leather aromas flourish on the palate.


Christian: There is a nice spice kick on the back end of this pour that is neither overbearing nor long lingering. It can best be described as a medium length finish with a subtle dryness that sneaks up late. I find the finish to be a bit bitter and is accompanied by red pepper flakes, cedar wood, and slight hint of pipe tobacco. It almost leaves a flavor similar to what I imagine chewing on a piece of green oak or fresh cedar, would leave in the mouth. This slowly transition to something a bit sweeter like fresh cut green apple, alongside a bowl of fresh steel cut oatmeal. The water does not entirely tame the rye spice kick in the finish. A nice red pepper flake spice stays strong in the finish, but is joined by a much stronger influence of pipe tobacco. A sweetness lingers on the palate and reminds me of freshly brewed sweet Lipton iced tea with a splash of peach or apricot.

Mike: The finish is medium to short with a spicy rye kick that lingers down the throat and into the chest. The leather and tobacco flavors balance themselves nicely on the finish, very faint but definitely noticeable. Lingering on the palate is an essence of packaged oatmeal with a faint suggestion of apples and sweet cinnamon.

Our Rating

Final Thoughts

Christian: This is Rickhouse Ramblings’ first introduction to true Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey. This whiskey comes off a little bit sharp to me. The cedar and citrus combination are a little overwhelming and can be misconstrued–a taste and aroma similar to that of plastic. Drinking this pour neat just doesn’t fit my palate. Perhaps it is the lack of time in the barrel that prevents this rye from shining bright without the addition of ice. I preferred the flavors once a few drops of water were added to this whiskey. All of our palates are different, so give it shot and try a pour. You might find a unique rye whiskey that fits your preferred flavor profile!

Rating: 2.38 Rickhouses

Mike: This is a decent offering from Thistle Finch out of Lancaster, PA. I’m not an aficionado of rye whiskies, but this seems well balanced overall. None of the flavors are exceedingly complex, but they mesh well on the palate. I enjoyed this neat, but it mixes amazingly well in an Old Fashioned. Generally speaking, this is an enjoyable pour for a 2 year whiskey–starting silky and ending with a soft burn.

Rating: 2.75 Rickhouses


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