There’s a chance you’ve never even heard of Rochester, New York. It’s the state’s third-largest city but not overly notable (I can say this without reprimand — I live here). Birthplace of Susan B. Anthony, Genesee Beer, and Eastman Kodak. Home of the locally-beloved “Garbage Plate.” But while you might not venture all the way to Western New York for a plate of macaroni salad, home fries, cheeseburger patties, meat sauce, raw onions, and mustard all loaded onto one mouthwatering pile, you’ll probably be tempted to pick one up if you casually end up in Rochester.
While you’re in town, you should also check out Black Button Distilling. This grain-to-glass distillery proudly crafts its spirits with New York State grains, but it’s not located in the middle of a cornfield somewhere. It’s based near the public market smack dab in the middle of the Flour City. Jason Barrett (who also serves as master distiller) founded the distillery in 2012 and called it Black Button as an homage to the button factory his family has operated since 1922.
While that factory has made buttons that have adorned suits of presidents, kings, and celebrities, Barrett makes whiskey, gin, vodka, and other spirits along the Genesee River and his distillery is starting to garner not only national, but global attention. Recently, we were lucky enough to sample some of the various whiskeys made by Black Button. Below you’ll find tasting notes for its Cask Strength Bourbon, Four Grain Straight Bourbon, Single Barrel Bourbon, and Empire Rye.
Black Button Cask Strength Bourbon
This cask strength bourbon was created to be uncut, unfiltered, and high proof. Made up of 60 percent corn, 20 percent wheat, 11 percent malted barley, and only 9 percent rye, even with high proof, it remains mellow and easy to drink.
In the simplest terms, this is Black Button’s popular Four Grain Straight Bourbon at its straight-from-the-barrel strength.
This well-crafted cask strength bourbon deserves to be nosed before taking your first sip. The first aromas that swirl around your nostrils are subtle cinnamon, sweet cream, and hints of charred wood. The first sip brings sweet brown sugar, vanilla, and butterscotch. The finish is long, warming, and filled with hints of toasted oak and caramel.
While we love to sip this high proof bourbon, the subtle heat might not be for whiskey novices. For those folks, it’s well suited as a base for a classic Manhattan.
Black Button Four Grain Straight Bourbon
If you were going to pick a flagship whiskey from Black Button, it would probably be its Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey. As we mentioned in the cask strength blurb, this is a high corn/low rye bourbon. It’s called four grain because it’s literally made up of four different grains, corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley. Each is proudly grown in New York State.
When taking in this whiskey’s aromas, the first scent you’ll notice is dried cherries, sweet caramel, and mild cinnamon spice. The first sip is light, pleasing, and delivers notes of sticky toffee pudding, rich vanilla, charred oak, and just a hint of sweet cream. The finish is long, dry, very warming, and full of vanilla pudding and toasted oak.
This highly complex whiskey is equally suited for mixing as it is for sipping. We prefer to sip on it slowly in a rocks glass with a single ice cube.
Black Button Single Barrel Bourbon
One of the hottest trends in the spirits world right now is single barrel whiskey. Black Button got in on this trend with its supremely high proof Single Barrel Straight Bourbon. This 121.2 proof bourbon is no joke. Made from New York State grown grains, master distiller Jason Barrett hand selects the barrels that go into this truly small-batch bourbon.
You might assume that whiskey with this amount of alcohol would be abrasive to your nose. We’re here to dismiss that theory as the first nosing brings forth immediate sweet caramel, dried fruits, charred oak, and (once again) cinnamon. The first sip yields sweet corn, butterscotch, baking spices, and dried orange peel flavors. The finish is medium in length and surprisingly mellow with hints of candied toffee.
Another whiskey we don’t want to hide in a cocktail. Single Barrel deserves to be sipped neat or on the rocks on a cool, fall evening.
Black Button Empire Straight Rye Whiskey
Taking a break from the onslaught of bourbons, we’re turning our attention to Black Button’s award-winning Empire Rye. This is a rye for fans of the spicy grain, as it’s made up of 95 percent rye in its mash bills. The result is a very spicy, peppery whiskey — which is ramped up to a new level by the fact that it’s unfiltered.
Rye fans will appreciate the pleasing punch of peppery spice in the first nosing. This is followed by a subtle nutty flavor that moves into toasted oak. The first sip drops more black pepper along with dried fruits, candied orange peel, and soft caramel flavors. The finish is long, warming, and full of pecans, toasted oak, and subtle leather notes.
If you have a go-to rye cocktail, use this whiskey as its base. You definitely won’t be disappointed when the spicy rye pairs perfectly with the ingredients in your favorite mixed drinks.