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From Buttons to Bourbon

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Black Button Distilling Bespoke Bourbon Cream

Writen by Amelia Sauter

Rochester’s first distillery since Prohibition, Black Button Distilling is located next to the Rochester Public Market, where they make craft spirits including bourbon, vodka and gin. This spring they also opened a farm of their own: Black Button Farm & Forestry. Bespoke Bourbon Cream is perfect for the holidays so Edible Finger Lakes writer Amelia Sauter spoke with owner and president Jason Barrett to learn more about this unusual product. 

Amelia Sauter: I thought I knew a lot about alcohol, but I’d never heard of bourbon cream. 

Jason Barrett: It’s pretty rare. There are only three of them in the country that I know of. People are much more familiar with its cousin, Irish cream. Irish cream is a mixture of Irish whiskey and cream, and bourbon cream is a mixture of bourbon whiskey and cream. 

AS: How are the flavors of the two different?

JB: Bourbon gets its signature sweetness and caramel and vanilla flavors from being aged in new charred American white oak barrels, whereas Irish whiskey is aged in used barrels and therefore the wood notes are considerably softer. I typically describe it to folks like this: Imagine you were using one tea bag to make more than one cup of tea. The second one would be softer and more subdued.

AS: I’ve never heard the phrase “farm-fresh” applied to liquor before.

JB: One of the reasons we are so excited to work with a local dairy [O-At-Ka Milk in Batavia] is they milk the cows in the morning and have it turned into our ultra-pasteurized cream that evening. And then we make it into bourbon cream two or three days later, and bottle it the day after that. The bourbon is obviously much older; it has to be made two years ahead of time to age to the taste profile we want.

AS: Your bourbon—it’s all made from local grains?

JB: All of the grains are grown down in Livingston County, on Edgewood Farms in Groveland. And we’re in a transition phase where all of our barrels will eventually be made here in New York as well, so even the trees for the barrels will be grown here. We recently became the first distillery to be inducted into the NY Grown and Certified Program, which means over 90% of our ingredients are sourced from New York State and from environmentally sustainable farms.

AS: Tell me about the name Bespoke.

JB: “Bespoke” is actually a clothing term. You typically order your suits either off the rack or bespoke, which means custom-made. We wanted to delve a little bit deeper into some of the fashion tailoring history my family has. For four generations my family has owned a button factory; my mom still runs it. I attribute my wanting to make a physical, tangible product with my hands to my time growing up in that industry. 

AS: I read that you began distilling at age 24.

JB: Yes, when I started I was the youngest master distiller in the country. And as far as I know I’m still the youngest distillery owner in the country—certainly the youngest in New York State.

AS: Is it true you lived in your parents’ basement?

JB: Yes! For the first year and half I either stayed at the distillery or at my parents’ house. They were nice enough to (a) allow me to live there and (b) tell me, “You really need to move out now” when the company started to show some success.

AS: Why Rochester? 

JB: It’s an incredibly “food smart” town. A large part of us wanting to be next to the Public Market, with giant windows and tours on Saturdays, was to invite the public in to see our process and show them: We’ve got everything we need right here in Rochester. This is Rochester in a bottle. 

85 Railroad St., Rochester, 585.730.4512, blackbuttondistilling.com 

This was originally published in our March/April 2019 issue.

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