Over the last year, news that plans for a local distillery were in the works—the first to open in Buffalo in nearly one hundred years—created quite a stir. We wrote about it on several occasions (here and here), and area residents have eagerly anticipated the opportunity to enjoy local liquor.
Developed by three partners and a business manager, Niko Georgiadis, Chad Vosseller, Jon Mirro, and Thomas Jablonski, respectively, the project began the process of seeking proper permits and licensing in January of 2012. After diligent efforts, the production of Buffalo’s first-ever locally made vodka is underway, with gin and whiskey soon to follow. Only final approval of the label stands between you and your first sip of Lockhouse vodka.
Though the distillery was originally to be called Eight Buffalo Spirits (after associate professor William Rapaport’s well-known “buffalo” sentence), the team soon discovered some unexpected intellectual property issues and officially changed the name to Lockhouse Distillery, in honor of the Erie Canal’s legacy.
Today Lockhouse announces that their permitting is in place and distilling is underway at their location in the Great Arrow Building on Elmwood Avenue. Granted a Farm Distillery license, the organization agrees to source seventy-five percent of its ingredients from New York State, and will also take advantage of the permit’s option to operate a tasting room on site.
A recent visit to the distillery revealed vodka being made from concord grapes. Concord grapes are a major asset to Western New York, with the Lake Erie Concord Grape Growing Belt (lying just north of the PA border) being the second largest grape producing area in the country.
Plans for producing small batches of white whiskey are being toyed with, but the team’s real focus is on raising the funds necessary to purchase the white oak barrels required to make whiskey.
According to local booze historian Peter Jablonski, Buffalo’s distilling past was largely focused on whiskey, and with its current level of popularity it seems like an important—perhaps even crucial—part of Lockhouse's mission.
The difficulty is that whiskey must be barrel aged for a minimum of one year, and barrels are tremendously cost prohibitive for small distillers, as they must be purchased in large number with no return on investment for at least twelve months. Many small distilleries across the country raise money for their initial barrel fund, and Lockhouse is as well, asking supporters of the project to donate funds through Kickstarter, with some well-thought rewards in place, noted in the video below.
Lockhouse Distillery brings with it respect for our past, excitement for our future, and an investment in local agriculture, New York’s number one economic driver. Local support, through donation and consumption, is vital to its success.