Nestled in an unassuming commercial side street in shady Rochester, New York, and just a stone’s throw away along tree-lined avenues from the historic Erie Canal, lies a diamond in the rough: Black Button Distillery. Established in 2012, the small batch facility, owned and operated by a small and sustainability conscious team, produces a wide variety of whiskies and other grain-to-glass spirits with ingredients sourced from local producers whenever possible. For their sustainability efforts, the barely decade old team sacrifices nothing in quality, even earning prestigious accolades along the way.
The industrious distillery crew endeared itself to the Upstate community during the COVID-19 pandemic by converting its modest facilities into a hand sanitizer production line. Such creative and community supporting flexibility seems to come natural to the Black Button team who include in their crowd-pleasing offerings a citrus forward “gin for the non-gin-drinker” and an absolutely dangerous bourbon cream. Seriously, even if you do not care for bourbon cream, try this one (and then hit the gym).
The Abov Team visited the distillery and met with their friendly and knowledgeable staff in early June, when Upstate is mostly mild, yet comfort may require a light jacket or sweater. Immediately upon our arrival, hosts greeted us and led us to the small tasting room just off the distillery, which could be seen through large glass windows, where bar staff were ready to take our order from a list of their house-recipe cocktails. Drink in hand, and deep in conversation, we were led to the production line for a short tour of the new facilities. As with many such smaller distilleries, the line has grown with demand, and now bursts at the seams: they now pay rent to their neighbor for piping that extends into their space.
Following the brief tour, we were treated to a tasting selection of four of their products: A corn vodka, a straight bourbon whiskey, and the aforementioned citrus forward gin and bourbon cream. Each of these is worth a try in their own right; however, we were there for the whiskey. The bourbon whiskey was light on the nose and palate, in part due to a unique production process (you’ll have to visit yourself to find out what it is). We were then treated to a private tasting of their premium offerings, where each was the successful result of an experiment, based on the selected batch.
Should readers care to try one of their products for themselves, the Abov Team recommends the Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey, or for those who prefer a lower ABV, the Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey is an excellent choice as well. The distillery does have a limited range where their products are available, so readers may have difficulty finding the product in their area. The distillery does offer shipping domestically on their spirits but does not ship internationally. International readers may need to procure this product from third party vendors.
In all, the Abov Team could not have asked for a better experience at Black Button or in Rochester itself. The college town and small arts community feel of the city provide a welcoming destination for weary travelers. Indeed, if we found ourselves back in Rochester, we would not be disappointed.