The Distilling Process with Jason Barrett of Black Button Distilling

Tuesday, July 27, 2021 | Blackbird TV

Join us on a tour of the distillery at Black Button Distilling, and see how whiskey, vodka and gin are made. #BlackbirdTV #Distillery #Distilling #Whiskey #Vodka #Gin

About this segment of Blackbird TV

Guest: Jason Barrett, Owner / Head Distiller, Black Button Distilling. To learn more about our guest, visit, or call 585-730-4512.

Recorded: May 27, 2021

Published: July 27, 2021

Segment transcript

Getting up in the world! We’re at Black Button Distilling in Rochester, New York with Jason Barrett, Jason is going to walk us through the distilling process. We’re outside. What do we got? What is this? So everything starts at these silos. We got one full of 15 tons of corn, one full of 15 tons of wheat. And these are going to auger up to our weigh scale up front. So let’s head there now. We’re going inside. Those silos out back, go to our weigh scale in the corner. That’s going to allow us to weigh out our grain every morning. How’s it get there? Through the the white pipe augers that that run through the ceiling. It’s not pneumatic? There’s augers in there? Yep. Screw augers. Got it. Yep. So that then augers to this small white pipe to our mash tun here. This is where the cooking happens. You take two thousand pounds of grain, a thousand gallons of water, cook this up for eight hours every morning. What starts out looking like bread dough ends up very sweet to the taste. You got whiskey mash at the end of the day. That’s the mash tun? Yep. OK, now where do we go? So then we’re going to pump that through the back into the center of the building. We’ve got our eight fermenters. These are temperature controlled fermenters. So at any time of year, we can have it be the same temperature. So we got eight of these guys lined up. We got 720 gallons apiece that run by that control panel on the back wall there. Whiskey mash is going to sit in there for a week. The yeast is going to chew through it. Seven days later, we got 12 percent alcohol by volume, corn, whiskey, mash. That’s then going to move into this main still, this is just the 700 gallon pot still. You notice there’s no columns on that. So it’s just a very rough distillation. And just as long as we’re back here right behind you, is our research and development still, not used in the main production of things. But if we want to make something small, we can make one hundred bottles on that where we’re making a thousand bottles on the bigger runs. So once we come off of that, that main distillation unit. It’s going to come out of this pipe right here. And it’s gonna fill this tank right here with raw whiskey. So as you can tell, little sulphery, not what you really want to drink. Kind of analogous to what you might get out of the wood. This is a rough distillation, methanol, ethanol, propanal just all mixed together in there. Well, two of our fermenters, which takes one day on our main still fills us with three hundred gallons of raw alcohol. Tomorrow, 300 gallons of raw alohol go into this finishing still. And then depending on how we throw these valves, we’re going to be able to make whiskey, vodka or gin. So we got a gin box here. We got a four plate whiskey column here. We got a 16 plate box column here. This basically the Swiss Army knife of cells. You make anything you want, thousand bottles a day. So what’s the difference in…how do the columns change what this still can do? So four columns for whiskey, means, you only come off at under about seventy five percent pure ethanol, which is what you do for whiskey, whereas 16 or more columns for vodka. Ninety six percent pure ethanol when it comes off the line. So the more columns, the higher the purity / alcohol content. And for whiskey, you don’t want that purity. You want to retain the flavor, whereas for vodka, you need that flavor. And then gin baskets are really just something you can put a giant teabag in. Blow the ethanol back by it, steam clean all those flavors out and ultimately end up with flavored… gin is just flavored vodka. And the last column down there, what does that do? That’s the condenser. So you need one of those on every still to turn the ethanol vapor back into a liquid. Everything goes through here as gas? Yep. Till the end? Yep. Awesome. And this is an Artisan still. Yeah, this is an Artisan 350, although we’ve heavily modified it since we got it here. But yeah, put it in in fall of 2013. Been running pretty much every day ever since. Wow. Any questions, we call Jason, Jason Barrett at Black Button Distilling. We’re in Rochester, New York. All about stills. Thanks, Jason. Thank you.