Larkinville has just added another notch to its list of destinations. This time it’s Buffalo Distilling Company (makers of One Foot Cock spirits) that has made its mark. Last Saturday, the distillery opened its doors to test out its new operation, and by the end of the day had sold out of its stock of bottled vodka. Owners/distillers Andrew Wegrzyn, Frank Weber, and Eric Kempisty have built out a fantastic distilling operation in Buffalo, while also creating an impeccable tasting room to boot.
I stopped in last night to find Frank futzing around the place, fine tuning as he went. Since no one else was around, I asked him if it was a good time to check the place out. He told me that as long as someone was there, they would open up to anyone who wanted a quick tour and tasting. But for the most part, One Foot Cock is primarily open on Saturdays, until they establish permanent hours. So I took him up on his offer and stepped inside.
I couldn’t believe what they had done with the place. It was like walking into a cozy barn in the middle of Ellicottville… or Colorado. Between the lighting and vaulting space, it was a real pleasure to stand inside and take a look around. It’s the type of place that you never want to leave. As we walked up to the bar, Frank pointed out all of the aesthetic enhancements that been made, from the antique horse drawn plow, and the horse drawn cultivator that hung in the front window (lit with little spotlights) to the glowing red fireplace grates circa 1800s positioned underneath the bar top, it was clear that someone cared about materials and lighting. “It’s all on dimmers to,” said Frank. “And you can change the colors of the lights at the bar.”
The more I poked around, the more I fell in love with the place. Every design accent had a story behind it. “The bar top was made from a black maple tree that was felled in the Elmwood Village,” Frank stated proudly. “The windows that separate the distillery and tasting room are bullet proof and blast proof – I got them when someone was discarding them from a building site downtown. The piano in the corner came from Sportsmens Tavern. Andy plays in the band ‘A Band Named Sue’, so he took the broken piano and put keyboard inside. He’s going to put a drink rail around it, and people will be able to request songs that he will play. The building was originally a carriage factory, so it has a lot of character to begin with. Then, we wanted to integrate pieces of the city – the bar front is made with old cobbles from a street on the East Side. A friend saw that they were being ripped up and asked if he could have them. They add a lot of character to the bar.”
The bar is dripping with character. It looks as if it’s been sitting there for 100 years already. If it was not for the gleaming distillery tanks in the back, I bet that some people would never know that everyone was just built. The owners lease the building from the Zemsky Family, but their intention is to eventually buy it. At that point they will develop the two floors up top. In the meantime, they can use those floors to store barrels and other sundries. Their original location, where the business first got off the ground, was located on a farm outside of Buffalo. Much of what we now find inside it a tribute to that location. “We wanted to bring the country into the city,” Frank mentioned. “We’re all Allentown residents, so we knew that we wanted to create something that would appeal to everyone. The floors are acid stained concrete with epoxy, which gives it an updated look.”
One thing that I can say about the tasting room is that everyone was done with perfection in mind. The wood framed windows are gorgeous – they appear to be custom built. The steel framing, wood beams and the brick all play off one another in the most handsome way. “We’re still going to soften it up with curtains,” said Frank. “And the tables and chairs are on the way. We want to be fully operational by the first Food Truck Tuesday in 2017.”
Walking into the actual distillery area of the business, I couldn’t help but feel proud for Buffalo (again) at what I saw. Any city would go nuts for an operation like this. As Johnny Cash played on a radio somewhere off in the distance, Frank led me around showing me where they make the apple brandy, bourbon whiskey and vodka (newest product).
I’m not going to lead you through the distilling process for each spirit, but I can assure you that I was given the full rundown. And you will probably get that same tour when you stop in, because Frank is not just a distiller, he’s a storyteller who wants everyone to know the process of distilling, so that they know how much heart goes into it. The guy knows his stuff and is happy to share with anyone who is willing to learn a thing or two about the various processes. Me? I loved the look of the vats and stills… they looked like glorious musical instruments. As I was appreciating the scene, Frank suddenly flipped the lights and added mood lighting. “When we have events at the distillery we will use these lights so that it adds to the atmosphere.”
Before we walked back out into the tasting room/bar (there will be draught beer on tap too), Frank opened the back door and [pointing] said, “See that? That’s Flying Bison Brewery right there. Our yards join together. We’re going to have some big events when it’s nice out, with a big tent out there. We are so excited to have a neighbor that is a brewer. We gave them some of our spent barrels and they used them to brew a limited edition One Foot Bock. It’s surreal – my former job was working with heavy hydraulics. Now I get to do this… I love the interaction with people, and the process. I also love what we’re doing for Buffalo. It’s pretty f*#%ing awesome.”
It won’t be long before these guys are fully operational. Right now they are cranking out the vodka, and hope to start barreling aged spirits that they will store for 5 to 6 years before bottling. It’s all part of the plan that appears to be rolling out just as they had hoped. Frank made sure to mention that along the way, they will not cut any corners, especially when it comes to the craft nature of their spirits. They feel good supporting the local farmers, and are happy to be a part of the Larkinville phenomenon. Sounds like another great Buffalo story is being written.