GSN Presents: The 2017 Advent Gift Guide – Day 16

There are plenty of “blank-of-the-month” clubs out there, but this is the most unique one yet!  If you join Rochester, NY’s Black Button Distilling “WHOLE DAMN BARREL CLUB”, you will get:

  • Your name on your barrel and a commemorative picture of you with your barrel!
  • You say when it is done aging – taste it after 30 months and go from there!
  • Choose what proof you want it bottled at (our usual is 84 proof)
  • Every last drop from your barrel is yours when we bottle – Great for corporate gifting/client or employee appreciation gifts! (1 barrel ≈ 180 bottles at 84 proof!)
  • Add the finishing touch with a personalized label, making the bottles exclusively yours (i.e. your name, company name, event name or a company logo)
  • You keep the empty 30 Gallon Barrel too!

You’ll also get all of the following!

Welcome Gifts:

•  20 Person Tour & Tasting to be used one time during your membership year – makes a great birthday outing! (Rochester location)
•  FREE Black Button T-Shirt of your choice

Any Time You Visit:

•  $1 off every cocktail for you + 1 guest
•  Buy One, Get One FREE birthday cocktail
•  $5 off every 750ml bottle of our spirits purchased for you + 1 guest
•  FREE Tour for you + 4 friends any time during regular tour hours (Rochester)

Additional Exclusive Benefits:

•  Advance access to Black Button event tickets (St. Patrick’s Parade, Spirits Classes, etc.)
•  Advance access to new and specialty spirit releases (Lilac Gin anyone?)
•  Room fee waived on any Bar Takeover Event you book (Great for corporate events!)
•  Members only appreciation party (1 event planned annually)
•  ”Sip & Savor” member exclusive barrel release parties hosted by none other than owner Jason Barrett (2 events planned annually)
•  Members only coasters for you and a guest to use each time you visit

PLUS special monthly benefits just for being a member:
(redeemable in either Tasting Room during that month only)

  • January – 50% OFF all Black Button Glassware
  • February – 50% OFF a Box of Bourbon or Bourbon Cream filled gourmet chocolates
  • March – 50% OFF awesome Black Button apparel
  • April – FREE Hand-Made Spirit Infused Lip Balm
  • May – FREE Ticket to our very popular annual Moonshine Margarita Fun Run
  • June – 50% OFF Bourbon Barrel Smoker Wood Chips
  • July – 50% OFF Apple Pie Moonshine BBQ Sauce
  • August – 50% OFF Bourbon Bacon Ketchup
  • September – 50% OFF Bold Bloody Mary Mix
  • October – 25% OFF Fee Bros. Bitters
  • November – FREE Spirits Tasting for you & up to 4 friends
  • December – FREE Bourbon Cream ‘Better Than Candy’ Cane

To find out how you can join, go to: Black Button Distilling

GSN’s One For the Road: Black Button Distilling Co.

img_1820Jason Barrett seems to have an endless supply of energy.  As the owner of a full-time distillery in Rochester, NY, he not only supervises the production and aging of the products that make up their extensive portfolio, but he also teaches a quarterly three-day intensive seminar on what it takes to get a distillery off the ground. Jason recently invited me to come experience what the classes are all about.

Starting at 9am sharp on a warm and sunny Friday morning, a group of a dozen students ranging in age from their early 20’s to well past retirement met in the tasting room for a brief overview of the weekend from Jason. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, I was surprised that there were a few people who had traveled quite the distance to be here, and others had come back to take the class a second time.  This was a good indication of the quality of the information that would be imparted.

I asked student Chelsea Washburn from Philadelphia what initially drew her to becoming involved in the spirits industry.  “The cross-cultural tradition of sharing and socializing over a drink.  No matter where you travel or the background of the people you are with, chances are you all can bond over a drink.  Secondly, the craftsmanship, from vintners, brewers, to distillers and even moonshiners. The passion and knowledge these craftspeople carry is historic, cultural, agricultural, scientific, even anthropological! In five years, I hope to have my own well-established brand in the craft spirit market based out of Philadelphia.  So, watch out for the Philadelphia Whiskey Co.”

img_1864We then were walked through the distillation room and out the back door to see the massive grain silos where local NYS corn is fed into the fermentation tanks. The first story Jason told us took place in the early days of the company. He and his fellow workers would start each day full of energy, but by the evening they were completely lethargic, headachy and short of breath.  It turns out that the massive amounts of CO2 generated by the fermenting grains in the building were causing symptoms of hypercapnia, which led to realizing the immediate need for an efficient ventilation system which was promptly installed.

img_1851Once back inside the distillery, we were shown all of the equipment Jason purchased, from the pot and column stills, fermenters, and a large selection of locally made barrels which were aging a variety of products.  On one wall, of particular note a large American flag was prominently displayed.  I later learned from Jason’s father, who also works at the distillery that this was Jason’s grandfather’s flag who had passed away a few years ago.  It is obvious that family means a lot to Jason.  As he later related, his family made their fortunes in the garment button business.  Rochester had 19 button factories at the turn of the 20th century making high quality buttons for suits.  Jason’s family business is the last left in the area.  Interestingly, Jason is colorblind and was told as a child that he would only be able to make black buttons if he took over the family business (Jason’s mother Anne is the president of the company now).  This is where the distillery’s name came from.  Everywhere you look, the Black Button logo is apparent, constantly reminding Jason of his heritage.

img_1865I was surprised at how open Jason was with the information he shared during the class.  Everything from the exact recipes he uses, to the manufacturers of his equipment, along with stories of the failures of some of his first efforts and the mistakes he’s made in terms of underestimating the space needed as the company grew.  A long question and answer period followed.  What amazed me is that Jason knows everything off the top of his head.  He had no reference book or flash cards, and there were no questions that he didn’t know the answer to, or gladly share with us.  In fact, he said several times that he is willing to follow-up with everyone long after the classes are over via email to help with any questions they may have. Chelsea Washburn appreciated this greatly.  “Having Jason so openly show and share some of his methods gives one a better grasp in how to run a well-oiled small-batch distillery.”

After a quick break for lunch, there were presentations from companies that Black Button works with including filtration specialists and an insurance agent who works with distillers.  It became clear that there is an endless list of concerns from all angles to consider.  One story that struck me was of a brewer who bought a building in the southern tier of NY, filled it with all the necessary equipment and obtained his brewing license.  It was only when he was about to begin making beer that he was told that he couldn’t do it because it was a “dry” town.  Believe it or not, there are still six locales in the state where making, buying or selling alcohol is illegal.  Another interesting story was about someone who wanted to open a distillery just up the road from Jason and approached him to get the ok to go ahead.  As they talked, Jason found out that this guy had suddenly had the idea to open a distillery just a few months prior and felt he knew everything he needed to know in order to start churning out product.  He didn’t even feel the need to write a business plan.  But, after talking with Jason, he apparently reconsidered his rash idea and decided to follow another path.

img_1873The day at the distillery ended with a launch party at Good Luck, a local restaurant who had collaborated on a new whiskey with Black Button.  As attendee Chelsea Washburn remarked, “Not only is it a beautiful dram to sip on but Good Luck astutely highlighted the label in handcrafted cocktails.  The best part is that it’s such a great way to build small business relationships in the community.” After planning, distilling and aging the product, the final yield was only 42 bottles of Black Luck whiskey.  If you want to try it, you’ll have to visit Good Luck before it’s gone.  This is truly boutique distilling.  Other limited products Black Button has crafted recently have been a Lilac Gin and a Garden Gin made in conjunction with the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua.  They also have worked with O’Begley Distilling to co-create a whiskey.  Jason is always looking for new expressions to create, which keeps him constantly involved in the process.  All of this in only the past four years, and Jason himself is not yet 30 years old.  Pretty impressive for a young guy to hit the ground running.

As the evening wound down, I asked Chelsea what her three takeaways from the day were.  “First, you cannot make it in this industry yourself, you will need other’s advice and expertise.  Reaching out is easy to do with fellow distillers.  Everyone wants to help as it is such a new or rather refurbished industry.  Secondly, know your story to sell your brand.  As much as people will enjoy your product, they will remember and share your products’ story even more.  Knowing the story behind as to why you make your spirit the way you do or how it comes to taste the way it does or simply why it bears a name so dear to you.  People want to know the passion behind your spirit. Lastly, file your liquor federal taxes…ALWAYS!”

Black Button products are everywhere in the area, as I’ve discovered on several cocktail menus in the western New York region.  Of course having a wide range of spirits and liqueurs helps greatly.  They make everything from apple pie moonshine to bourbon cream, along with vodka, gin, whiskey and limited experimental editions.

Black Button Distilling • 85 Railroad Street, Rochester NY 14609 • cheers@blackbuttondistilling.com • 585-730-4512

GSN’s One For the Road: Rochester Cocktail Revival

56f357cad24a11e392650002c9532e24_6Whenever I’m on the road and mention that I’m from New York, most people assume I’m either in NYC or what New Yorkers call “upstate”.  Actually, I’m located in Syracuse, the exact center of the state in the area regionally known as the Fingerlakes or Central New York.  To the west lie Rochester and Buffalo.  To the east lie Utica and Albany.  None of these areas are known as destinations for cocktail lovers.  If you do like to drink, you will find an abundance of beer festivals and wine festivals, but little else.  However, a few weeks ago, this all changed with the debut of the Rochester Cocktail Revival (May 2-4, 2014).  A well planned event supported by several local restaurants, a distillery, the Fee Bros. company and major spirit brands attracted several hundred people over three days.

The GSN staff was able to attend the first two days and get a feel for what the cocktail scene is like in Rochester.  We were highly impressed, having been to bars like PDT, the Clover Club, the Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar and many, many others across the U.S. Rochester’s drinks are amazingly creative and well executed, the bartenders and servers top notch, the food incredibly luscious and the seminars diverse and interesting.

Special guests included Dale “King Cocktail” DeGroff, Tobin Ellis of BarMagic Las Vegas, Joe Fee of bitters fame, James Beard Award nominated chef Paul Myers, and Jackie Summers (creator of Sorel liqueur).

With the success of this event, we’re looking forward to attending again in 2015!

Here are some pictures of the event to give you an idea of what we experienced.

The tasting room at Black Button Distilling in Rochester

The tasting room at Black Button Distilling in Rochester

The stills at Black Button

The stills at Black Button

Kimberly Frodelius enjoying a taste of Black Button's Citrus Gin.

Kimberly Frodelius enjoying a taste of Black Button’s Citrus Gin.

Our first two cocktails at the opening reception at The Revelry

Our first two cocktails at the opening reception at The Revelry

The scene inside The Revelry on Friday night

The scene inside The Revelry on Friday night

Good Luck restaurant hosted the Campari America Spirit Dinner

Good Luck restaurant hosted the Campari America Spirit Dinner

The evening's menu

The evening’s menu

"Cocktails and the Creative Process" seminar held at the RoCo Museum

“Cocktails and the Creative Process” seminar held at the RoCo Museum

The lineup for Dale DeGroff's "I'll Take Manhattans" seminar

The lineup for Dale DeGroff’s “I’ll Take Manhattans” seminar

Passing out Manhattans

Passing out Manhattans

Dale DeGroff deconstructing bitters

Dale DeGroff deconstructing bitters

Joe Fee at Cheshire discussing the finer points of bitters

Joe Fee at Cheshire discussing the finer points of bitters

Spirited Dinner tokens for Cheshire

Spirited Dinner tokens for Cheshire

Time for one last drink before we hit the road

Time for one last drink before we hit the road

GSN Review: Black Button Distillery

black_button_distilleryWith new craft distilleries opening almost every day somewhere around the globe, I was pleased to hear of one that is located less than 100 miles from GSN headquarters.  Rochester, New York is located in the heart of New York State in the Fingerlakes region.  Black Button was started by 24-year-old, Jason Barrett whose family have been in the button making business since 1922.

The distillery utilizes locally grown corn, wheat, rye and barley for their products and ages their bourbon style whiskey in American white oak barrels.  At the time of this review, it was still aging and unavailable for tasting.

Unaged Corn Whiskey (100 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Sweet corn.
Taste: Very sweet and funky.  In spite of the high-proof, there isn’t an overabundance of heat here.  The overall impression is of roasted sweet corn with a hint of smokiness.
Finish: Medium long with lingering notes of sugar corn.
Overall: This is clearly a corn spirit and one that revels in it.  If you’re looking for a sweeter, and thus less aggressive moonshine/white dog, this fits the bill.
GSN Rating: B+

Wheat Vodka (84 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: Spun sugar.
Taste: Initially sweet and cane sugar-like with a cotton candy finish, there is also a less pronounced minerality which does well to give this vodka some character and oomph.
Finish: The sweetness prevails and goes on for quite a while.
Overall: There is a lot of body to this vodka, making it more overt than many vodkas which are distilled to the point of nondescript blandness.  Still much sweeter than I’d prefer.
GSN Rating: B

Citrus Gin (84 proof)
Visual: Clear.
Nose: A heavier and maltier character than a London Dry style, more akin to a Genever.  There is a slight hint of citrus on the nose and not a lot of juniper.
Taste: The juniper comes out to play here, adding a rich herbal depth along with a lot of bright and fresh citrus notes.  Orange, lime and lemon all want to be recognized as the lead role, but take equal billing.
Finish: Clean, refreshing and definite citrus make for a crisp ending.
Overall: A well done gin that has a lot of potential in mixing.  I like it.
GSN Rating: A-

For more information go to: Black Button Distilling