Looking out across the sprawling hills of Black Button Farm & Forestry, nestled in the very heart of the Finger Lakes region, strong white oak trees stand tall. At Black Button Distilling, we know where there are white oaks, there is an opportunity to create the perfect bourbon barrel. In 2020, we are taking our grain-to-glass mentality one step further by crafting our very own custom barrel. With our commitment to cultivating and refining the best flavors of craft spirits, you will soon taste the decadent notes only a fully New-York-made bourbon has to offer.
Many distillers buy whiskey and bourbon barrels or source their wood from across the Eastern United States and Canada. In doing so, they can cut the higher costs associated with producing their own barrels. However, when sourcing bourbon barrels, there are many things that can go awry which affecting the quality of the bourbon that is produced. These factors include moisture content, tannin levels, and charring methods. For example, if moisture content in the wood is too high, the barrel becomes too porous which negatively alters the bourbon’s aging process.
We believe that flavor starts at the very beginning of the spirit making process. By taking more steps of this process in house, we can fine tune the tasting notes along the way. This will ensure the highest quality product for you, our craft spirit connoisseurs.
In the Spring of 2018, Black Button Farm & Forestry opened its doors. In crafting our own custom bourbon barrels, we are fulfilling a lifelong dream of producing every ingredient needed for the finest craft spirits right here in New York.
Twenty-seven New York white oak trees were selected from the Black Button Farm in Bristol, New York. White oaks are chosen for their high content of lignin in the tree’s cell walls. This lignin makes it so the wood can hold liquid. Unlike many bourbon producers who source their white oaks from across the Eastern United States, we select the strongest from our very own acres. For the barrel staves, we harvest the white oak’s rich heartwood. This innermost layer is where the aromatic tannins are located.
Once the trees are harvested, we work with a local New York sawmill to ensure the white oaks are quartered just right. These pieces of white oak are now called staves. Each stave is quartered into three to four-inch-wide boards.
After the staves are cut, they are aged outside for two years. This aging process is true for most whiskey and bourbon barrel production. Aging of the staves draws out any sap, moisture, and tannins. Tannins make for bitter flavor, so with sweeter bourbon some of the tannins must be drawn out. The right amount of remaining tannins will then contribute to the spirit’s flavor. The staves age inside a tin shack painted flat black to increase heat conductivity. Our Rochester weather takes care of the rest.
Once the staves are aged and refined, the bourbon barrel is raised, steamed, and then charred. We char our barrels for 13-17 seconds, creating a filter that will remove sharp flavors. During charring, hemicellulose from the white oak gets broken down creating sweet, velvety notes that will then be imparted on the bourbon. With our small batches, we focus in on the perfect temperature for the scorching of the inside of the barrel.
After creating the perfect hand-crafted bourbon barrel, we will set our sights on what is produced inside the barrel. Once our staves are fully aged and the barrels are constructed and charred, we will begin the aging process of our new All New York Bourbon. With New York white oak barrels, grain, yeast, and water – shaped together by those born and raised in Western New York – our All New York Bourbon will have a unique flavor inspired by all that the state of New York has to offer.
As with most whiskey and bourbon, we will age our All New York Bourbon for three to six years. Expertly crafted at each step, the bold flavor of our All New York Bourbon will be worth the wait. While we eagerly anticipate the bourbon barrel tapping in 2026, you can learn more about our other varieties of Black Button Distilling whiskey.