Buffalo's first distillery since Prohibition has moved downtown.
Situated near Helium Comedy Club, Buffalo Iron Works, Ballyhoo, the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino and Swannie House, Lockhouse now resides in the flourishing Cobblestone District -- also within walking distance of HarborCenter and Canalside.
According to Thomas Jablonski, partner and business manager for Lockhouse, the distillery had leased the new space since last year, but acquired the necessary permits and began construction over the last few months.
Moreover, the Columbia Street location will allow Lockhouse to purchase taller copper columns for its stills to increase production. Jablonski used a rough example, noting that if Lockhouse produced between 200 and 300 bottles of vodka at Great Arrow, it could -- through the new facility and equipment -- put out 1,500 to 2,000 at Columbia. Obviously, though, Lockhouse will produce a greater variety of spirits.
Lockhouse's launch spirit was a grape-based vodka, then partners Niko Georgiadis, Chad Vosseller, Jon Mirro and Jablonski released a gin last December. More space means the chance to barrel, so whiskey is expected to be available late 2016. In the meantime, a coffee liqueur, an amaro bitter (a digestif) and a curacao -- as well as a limited release of barrel-aged house gin -- will be the first spirits introduced from the new location. (Did you know that not all curacaos are blue?)
Also, the past year has brought good fortune for Lockhouse: tastings are less tightly regulated now than when the business debuted, due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's passing of the Craft New York Act last November.
This legislation allows craft distilleries to distribute more than just quarter-ounce samples from tasting rooms -- now, mixers can be added, mini bars constructed and cocktails sold on distillery premises. The original Great Arrow facility, stationed upstairs at the end of a labyrinth of hallways, was difficult for customers to find, much more conducive for the first phases of production than expanded retail or sampling.
Like any business that was the first of its kind in nearly a century, Lockhouse is moving cautiously -- each movement and decision is an experiment.
"We're in a young industry," Jablonski says. "There are no production examples [before us], and we're still kind of making it up as we go along."
With a production boost, a downtown location and easier accessibility, Lockhouse can continue to set the standard for distilleries not only in Buffalo, but across the state.
Email Ben Tsujimoto, who is prone to tripping on cobblestones, at email@example.com