Black Button Teaches Craft Distilling, A Booming Industry

By Cristina Domingues  |  September 16, 2016

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Blac Button Distillery President and CEO Jason Barrett starts his three-day distilling class with a tour.

The students who are starting or thinking about starting their own distilleries have come to Black Button from as far away as Colorado, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.  

"There's a lot of technology to it," Barrett said. "There's a lot of different equipment out there and unlike brewing or winemaking, you're not allowed to do it at home."

Former bar manager Chelsea Washburn started the Philadelphia Whiskey Company back home in Philly. Jason's been working with her for a while now to help her launch.

"He didn't have anyone paving the path for him," Washburn said. "He does for me because I hope to be in his position in about a year or year and a half." 

Barrett says craft distillery is not for everyone. Some who come through the class, after learning all that's involved, realize the industry is not for them. He says there's value in learning that up front too.

"I say for them this is the best money ever spent," Barrett said. "Because they spend three days and a few hundred dollars and really understand what the life of the craft distiller is, and if it's right for you.  

Barrett says four years ago, Black Button was the 21st distillery to open in New York. Today there are more than 180. The industry is exploding and in Jason's opinion maybe a little too much.

He says helping advise and train those coming after him in turn helps him too. 

"The beautiful thing is that every craft distiller makes things that are so unique and so different," Barrett said. "If we can just help people make better product, that's better for the industry as whole and that's better for us as a whole."

Black Button Distilling