By Richard Thomas
Of the two single barrel reserves made by Rochester’s Black Button Distilling, my impression is that their Port Barrel-finish is better known than the Apple Brandy finished bourbon I took up a few weeks ago. The pedigree is quite similar: Black Button made it with their four grain mash bill, and aged it for somewhat more than two years before putting it in the finishing barrel for secondary maturation. The difference is that it reportedly spent three years in a Port cask. It’s also a cask strength whiskey, coming out at 118 proof.
This Black Button bourbon takes a deep, dark and very reddened amber tone in the glass. Since I was trying this out in the summer (and it was 98F outside that day, no less), I put a splash of water in by default.
The nose tells you what you need to know about this whiskey: it is a nuke among Port bombs. The sweetness is black grapes and raisins; the woody side is leathery. There is a vanilla note there, with a current of pumpernickel style rye spiciness, but it’s the Port cask that really sings here. It’s akin to what Kavalan does to cover for their (tropically driven, necessarily short) aging period: don’t just lean into, but lead with the cask flavors.
The vanilla comes more forward on the palate, and the spices and wood turn into each other and merge into a potent current of sandalwood. The finish runs dry and continues in the sandalwood vein.
This item is $150 a bottle.