Founded in 2012 by Jason Barrett, the company has a unique history that brings dimension to every spirit they produce.
Jason Barrett learned from a young age that hard work, dedication, and commitment to quality are the basis of any good business. He worked alongside his grandfather as a young kid in a button factory. He knew taking on the family button-business would never work because Barrett is colorblind. As a kid, they joked he would have to make black buttons.
Barrett realized he wanted to open a distillery and pursue a professional career in the art of making spirits. He took the work ethic he learned from his grandfather and knowledge after attending distilling schools across the country, returned home to Rochester, and in 2012 opened Black Button Distilling — the first craft distillery in the city since prohibition.
Black Button Distilling is the area’s first grain-to-glass craft distillery, which means they process everything in house. The distillery is dedicated to supporting New York State agriculture by sourcing 90 percent of the ingredients locally. Black Button sources their corn, wheat, barley, and rye from Edgewood Farms in Groveland, located in the Finger Lakes region.
The distillery has several signature products that they offer, including Four Grain Bourbon, Bourbon Cream, Citrus Forward Gin, and Apple Pie Moonshine.
The Four Grain Bourbon is a small-batch straight bourbon containing 60% corn, 20% wheat, 9% rye, and 11% malted barley. It opens with fresh oak, toffee, and leather aromas, leaving a sweetness of caramel and vanilla behind. The Bourbon Cream uses a similar concept to Irish Cream, but has more of a complex flavor profile of sweet vanilla and smooth caramel. The Citrus Forward Gin is a blend of unique botanicals that provide a bitter-sweet orange peel flavor, a hint of spice, and a clean Juniper aroma. The 40 proof Apple Pie Moonshine is a dangerous and delicious blend of apple cider, corn whiskey, cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar.
They recently installed a brand-new bottling line that will be able to fill a larger variety of sizes and shapes. This past summer, Black Button Distilling created a custom-blend gin called Compass Rose. They created this flavor profile based on a questionnaire of what their consumers want in a gin. It encompasses hints of floral, citrus, and spice. They plan to do the same with bourbon in months to come.
Just like any business, COVID-19 has taken its toll on the company. Typically, over 40% of their business was focused around the tasting rooms and retail sales. Black Button knew they wouldn’t survive the pandemic unless they came up with a new business model. Every Thursday, they host a variety of virtual tastings, cocktail creations, food pairings, and more via social media. The distillery has also partnered with local bakeries to make cakes and such with their products. Black Button also wanted to have a stronger e-commerce presence. They started to offer curbside pick-up and delivery options for their customers. It not only gave their consumers a new way to buy the products but also provided a way to grow the business.
Barrett says, “As catastrophic as COVID has been for us and our industry, it has forced us to take another look at our business in ways that we never would have before. It has made us stronger and more confident in our abilities to adapt quickly and follow our instincts in doing what is needed to provide quality products to our customers.”