The Ghost of Whiskey Past!

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The elusive Bourbon and Brandy in their natural environment.

My phone rang as I was driving to my daughter’s 275th softball game of the summer (perhaps an overestimate, but not by much). I politely excused myself from the ‘conversation’ my mother-in-law and I were having, which was mostly just neighborhood gossip about people I don’t know. I answered the phone:

“Hello?”

“Yes. Erik, please.”

“This is Erik.”

“Erik, this is Frank Weber.”

My evening just got a whole lot better.

If you don’t know the name Frank Weber, you soon will. He and his partners, Andy Wegrzyn and Eric Kempisty are the owners of BFLO Distilling Company and are intent on filling your glasses with some of the tastiest bourbon I’ve had in a very long time.

I need this after SOFTBALL!!! - Photo via the buffalowhiskeyguild.com

I need this after SOFTBALL!!! – Photo via the buffalowhiskeyguild.com

The conversation was brief but immediately informative. I learned a few key terms: ‘mash’ and ‘spirit run.’ Frank told me they would be working on these steps on Saturday, and we agreed that I should stop down to check out their distillery. They would be mashing (the initial step) in the morning, and their spirit run (nearing the end of the process) would last nearly 24 hours, so someone would be available throughout the day to show me around. I couldn’t help but smile as I hung up the phone. A trip to a whiskey barn would be just what the doctor ordered to celebrate the end of the perpetual softball season.

I headed out to BFLO Distilling Company a little after 3 p.m. and ordered up some appropriate music from Pandora. My ‘Take it Down A Notch’ station was perfect for the occasion, and I sang along with The Avett Brothers, Murder By Death, and Uncle Tupelo as I navigated the back roads of rural Erie County. Two turns from my destination the road turned to gravel and then dirt, and the moment seemed almost too perfect. I arrived just before 4 p.m., spying the bright red barn from the road. There was what appeared to be a friendly dog in the yard, so I gave him a wave and walked through the open barn door. I was met with a warm breeze that carried sweet corn along with it. The giant mash tun was churning away, and just around its giant belly stood Andy and Eric. I introduced myself, and we started our tour of the distillery.

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Sweet Grains of Mine!

Andy offered me a chance to peer into the mash tun, which I took advantage of. He explained that the grains of corn, rye and malted barley had already been converted to the proper starches, and that they would be adding the yeast soon. Once that fermented for 72-96 hours, they’d move the mash to the still. At this point, they basically have 500 gallons of sweet corn beer. The mash is boiled down with the evaporated alcohol collecting in a separate tank until all that is left in the still is water. The collected alcohol is what we would call ‘moonshine,’ and Andy explained that it is, at this point, sweet and drinkable but VERY high in alcohol. We walked past these tanks of white lightning, past some acoustic instruments and a couch, and past the bags of grains for future mashing to the place where the magic happens. There before me stood a couple dozen barrels of One Foot Cock Apple Brandy and One Foot Cock Bourbon. We hung out here for a while, and I spoke with Eric and Andy about a lot of things, including the length of time it took them to get the proper licensing to open as well as the agencies they had to work with. Andy spoke excitedly about moving to their new location in Larkinville (hopefully, by the end of the year). I learned that all of their spirits are made using local products: all of the grains are from NY; the apples for the brandy are from a local orchard; their barrels are NY Charred White Oak; and even their water comes from a local private spring, which helps offer OFC its own unique flavors. Andy and Eric talked about their aging process and new products they were looking forward to (like locally made bitters!). They told me the history of the distillery that first opened in 1895. Prohibition killed the company, but these gentlemen were glad to bring it back. I also got to hear the story of the OFC name. It’s a short but great story, so make sure you ask when you check them out. Then came the best part: the tasting!

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I’ll go to some hollow and set up my still. I’ll make you a gallon for a ten dollar bill.

Andy picked up a bell jar that had been drying next to the sink. He first poured me a taste of the un-aged OFC Apple Brandy. Atop the glass was an air of green apples, and I sipped lightly. The bite was sharp, and the brandy was indeed very good. He next offered me a bit of their aged OFC Apple Brandy, and the smoky taste that the barrel had lent the brandy had smoothed the bite from the first. It was sweet and delicious. Finally, the reason they exist–the whiskey. He poured the OFC Bourbon into the glass, and as I raised the glass, it was immediately pleasant. I am not a bourbon guy (I play Irish music and drink Irish Whiskey), but this drink was sweet, spicy and delicious. Andy told me that they aged the batch three months, and so the relatively short aging period leaves the corn scent and flavor. I was glad that the rye was also strongly present.

We chatted for a few more minutes. Unfortunately, they hadn’t enough liquor for a spirit run, but–fortunately–they invited me back to check it out when they did. I had a great time hanging out with the guys, so I look forward to a return trip.

During my tour, we also discussed how great the businesses in Buffalo are–how supportive they are of each other and how well they represent the city. I was lucky enough to obtain some of Community Beer Works’ ‘The Tripod’–a Belgian Tripel that was aged in OFC Apple Brandy Barrels. The results of this collaboration are AMAZING. The beer was a light gold and just a touch cloudy. It tasted like apple pie and heaven. If you find some out there, get your hands on some. It’s a limited edition, but hopefully they’ll brew it again soon.

Make sure you check them out:

http://www.bflodistilling.com/

Facebook: facebook.com/pages/Buffalo-Distilling-Co

Twitter: @BuffaloDistill

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3 Comments on “The Ghost of Whiskey Past!”

  1. Andy July 30, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    Thanks for the great write up Erik! Your mother in-law sounds like a hoot!

    Info for your readers: our barrels are charred white oak

    Salute!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Whiskey Wednesday! | ewollschlager - July 30, 2014

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