Last evening the owners of Tommyrotter Distillery held a soft opening, in anticipation of their grand opening this coming Saturday. First of all, let me say that the building where the distillery is housed, 500 Seneca, is drop dead gorgeous I still can’t get used to seeing this striking beauty every time I head to Larkinville. The mixed-use project is being undertaken by 500 Seneca Street LLC, comprised of Frontier Group of Companies and Savarino Companies.
Stepping into Tommyrotter, one gets the immediate sense of an industrial chicness that permeates the place. Owners Bobby Finan and Sean Insalaco have keenly utilized a very unusual spatial layout to accommodate their needs. Up top (street level), visitors are greeted by a tasting room that also seconds as a retail product showroom. The room was designed by the Block Club team, and features custom made furniture in a sharp, streamlined, no BS kinda way.
From the tasting room, a staircase leads down to the distillery, where there is also plenty of room for events, such as the one that was held last evening. The medium-sized production floor also allows room for expansion, as does a connecting hallway that leads to more room for room for growth as the owners look to expand toadditional markets. The production space was designed by CJS Architects.
I caught up with partner/head distiller Bobby Finan earlier today to talk about Tommyrotter’s formations, starting with the name. He told me that the name pays tribute to a group of regional artisans that made major roads in the Arts and Crafts Movement. These artisans formed Tommyrotters Club, which was bold and adventurous for the era. Their dedication to their work and the impact that they made, are still felt in this community today. Bobby and Sean felt that the Tommyrotter Club embodied everything that they wanted to represent in their distilling process.
“It’s very unique and simultaneously juniper and botanical rich. We have great branding that tells a great story that I think people will enjoy. Our vodka is great on its own but is also a great canvas to build our gin upon. Our small stills have been a great starting point for developing our products. They allow us great control over the distillation process as they run slow and in small batched. Currently, we are producing vodka and gin, but we can’t wait to start messing around with whiskeys, particularly a bourbon. We’re also going to start our barrel aged gin soon. The goal is to keep expanding and we’ve placed a larger still on order to accommodate our growth.”
If you’re trying to picture which district in Buffalo this distillery is in, it’s in The Hydraulics aka Larkinville. Yes, Larkinville has expanded to encompass the small batch craft distillery. “We love what these guys are doing,” Harry Zemsky, owner of Hydraulic Hearth told me. “We will be including Tommyrotter in our marketing efforts. They will be added to the Larkinville map that we are creating.”
“It’s nice to be included in the Larkinville footprint,” Bobby responded. “We are banding together – Flying Bison, CBW, BFLO Distilling Company, and more to come. I also just received confirmation that a restaurant has signed on to open in this building, and we are anticipating great synergy there. They are hoping to be open by November. ”
At the moment, the only place to purchase and taste a Tommyrotter creation is to stop into the tasting room. At the end of the summer they plan on increasing volume for liquor stores and bars/restaurants in the region (starting in September). Bobby and Sean also plan on getting into the NYC market as soon as possible, and distribution points across the state. Sean is concentrating on the operational growth of Tommyrotter, while Bobby is honing his skills on the products. “In order to get to where I am today, I worked at a Central NY distillery, which is where I cut my teeth. I learned the old fashioned way, by working the trade and a lot of trail and error. There were no distillery schools around when I entered the field.”
This Saturday, if your gin and tonic is screaming for a local twist, then you know just where to go. Or if your Sunday Bloody Mary is missing its mark, there’s a remedy for that too. And all the while you will be supporting a local distillery that is now making its mark in a part of the city that is literally transforming right in front of our eyes.
Tommyrotter Distillery | 500 Seneca Street | Open to the public Saturday, July 18, 2015 (12PM-4PM). Hours after opening weekend will be Thursday (4-8PM) Friday (4-8PM) Saturday (12-4PM) | Learn more | Facebook |