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Tommyrotter Distillery takes home USC Chairman's Award

The Buffalo spirits community has more accolades to celebrate after Tommyrotter Distillery announced its Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin received the coveted Chairman’s Trophy at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge.

The Seneca Street distillery submitted three spirits to the competition, and each scored well. The award-winning gin scored a 95, and its counterparts, Tommyrotter’s American Gin and Triple Barrel American Whiskey, scored 93 and 92 points, respectively.

According to the USC, "The Chairman’s Trophy is bestowed to the highest scoring entry per category, determined by a formula that includes the aggregate scoring of the judging panels, the scoring curve based upon the number of entries, and the overall categorical scoring average.”

Co-founder and distiller Bobby Finan said this is the best showing for Tommyrotter, who competed with more than 100 distilleries from around the world in the gin category. About 40 distilleries submitted a barrel-rested gin. It is a product that Finan said he is particularly fond of.

Tommyrotter Distillery's award-winning Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin is great for cocktails. (Photo courtesy Tommyrotter Distillery)

“What distilleries who make a barrel-aged gin generally do is make a bourbon and age it in a new charred white oak barrel - the new barrel is a requirement in order to qualify as a bourbon - and since they can’t use it a second time, they will use it to age some gin.”

Finan said that barrel is like a teabag. The first time it gets used, it imparts the strong flavors associated with bourbon. Tommyrotter uses virgin charred oak barrels so the gin takes all of the flavors a barrel has to offer.

“You’ll get a lot more of the vanilla and caramel in our product because of it. You can even see it in the color; our barreled gin is a lot closer to the color of a bourbon. On top of that, we age it longer than most of the similar products you’ll see on the shelves. We age ours for about 12 months, in 10-gallon barrels.”

The result is undiluted, so it goes to market at 122 proof - quite strong for a product of that nature, hence the "cask-strength" label. It is an intensely complex spirit. The aromas of coriander and rosemary melt into flavors of dried cherry cranberry and chai. It warms as it goes down, which is to be expected for the strength.

Tommyrotter’s Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin is not the only such spirit available in Buffalo, but it is certainly one of a kind. You can find it at the distillery or at area stores and bars and gastropubs, such as Hydraulic Hearth, The Burning Buffalo, Hotel Henry and ABV. Each establishment offers its own twist on a delicious cocktail.

Finan’s favorite way to drink it is in a negroni. Traditionally a cocktail made with gin, a negroni is one-part gin, one-part campari, and one-part sweet vermouth, occasionally served with a dash of bitters. The floral gin plays well with the bitter citrus and clove of the campari. When made with the Bourbon-Barrel Gin, the drink takes on a pleasant vanilla flavor that rises over the bitterness of the campari. It can be ordered at any area tavern, but it's also an easy drink to make at home.



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