Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey plus an interview with Bobby Finan of Tommyrotter Distilling

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. I’d like to thank Bobby Finan and Tommyrotter Distilling for providing this sample to me with no strings attached.

A few months ago, Bobby Finan of Tommyrotter Distillery in Buffalo, NY reached out to me to see if I would like to receive a sample of their products. Because I rarely say no to the opportunity to try something that I cannot get at home, I gladly accepted the offer. And because I’m a curious fellow who enjoys talking with people who are passionate about what they do, I decided to ask him some questions in return. He was gracious enough to answer them.

That’s right, I got free whiskey and then got him to write half of this post to boot.


Eric: So, Bobby, tell me a little about yourself and Tommyrotter distillery. We live in the age of superheroes on the big screen so what is the origin story of Tommyrotter?

Bobby Finan: I’m a born and raised Buffalonian and own Tommyrotter with my business partner. We’ve been at it for 4 years and are expanding our footprint throughout the Northeast and outward to other key markets in the US. I got turned onto distilling while living in NYC interning at an investment bank. I learned pretty quickly cubicle life was not for me and happened upon the distilleries that were popping up in Brooklyn. I was infatuated with them. After I completed college, I worked at a Central NY craft distillery that was moving towards opening and got to experience the start up phase of launching a distillery. I soon moved back to my hometown of Buffalo, where I met my business partner and we launched what would become Tommyrotter Distillery. In attempting to come up with a name we dove into old stories about our city - we wanted a name that alluded to “craft production,” “quality,” tied into Buffalo and was totally unique. We came across the story of the Tommyrotter’s Club, a group of rebellious artisans who worked on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, NY (the rural suburb that I grew up in just south of Buffalo) back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Roycroft was the birthplace of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, a kind of counterculture to the Industrial Revolution, where artists and craftspeople lived, worked and made their high end goods by hand. The Campus is still functioning today and is a pillar of the Western New York arts community. We dug the Tommyrotter name because these guys kind of bucked the rules - they we’re known for sneaking out of work to go adventure seeking, create for creation’s sake and maybe enjoy a couple drinks while doing it.

Eric: After looking at your website, I know that you produce a couple of whiskies and you sent over a sample of a gin, What else do you produce? And what would you consider your “specialty?”

Bobby: We distill a vodka, one type of gin (and barrel it for a second product) and we blend and finish whiskeys Our specialty is definitely gin, our American Gin is our top selling product and our Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin gets a lot of press, awards and cocktail menu placement due to how unique and delicious it is. The American Gin has developed a really loyal following due to the botanicals we use. We infuse 12 botanicals through vapor distillation and utilize a lot of baking spice (think nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon) and balance it out with citrus and juniper. In Buffalo, NY, our hometown, we’ve got Hendricks on the ropes in most local liquor stores and have a lot of people who say, “Tommyrotter is the only gin I’ll drink.” The Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin is the exact same gin as our American Gin, just thrown into a brand new white American oaks #3 char barrel for about a year and bottled at 122 Proof. It’s a one-of-a-kind spirit, a real category bender and is one of the most complex spirits on the market in my opinion (but the critics say so too!).

Eric: Tonight I’ll be reviewing the Tommyrotter American Whiskey. You labeled it “Triple Barrel.” Tell us the story behind that. What is a Triple Barrel American Whiskey at Tommyrotter?

Bobby: “Triple Barrel” really has two meanings or two points of significance as they pertain to the product and name. Our American Whiskey is a blend of two mash bills of bourbon and a Tennessee whiskey - three types of whiskey or three barrels. That blend is then finished in French oak that previously housed red wine (we’re typically utilizing ex-Cab Sauv and ex-Cab Franc barrels). As you might assume, the two bourbons are aged in brand new white American charred oak. The Tennessee is aged in recharred next use American oak barrels that previously housed bourbon. In total, the whiskey we blend, finish and bottle is product of three types of barrel treatment…and so we again arrive at “Triple Barrel.” On a geekier note: One of the bourbon is a high corn mash bill and when we started rolling out whiskey was a little north of 1 year old, that input is now regularly 2+ years old, the second bourbon is 5-6 year old high wheat mash bill, the Tennessee is 7 years old and also has a pretty high corn level in the MB. The weighted average of the mash bills by function of blend ratio balances out at 81% Corn / 9% Wheat / 5% Rye / 6% Barley.

Eric: I notice that the sample you sent me says that it was distilled in Tennessee and Indiana. I have a good guess as to what those distilleries might be, but can you confirm?

Bobby: One of the distilleries doesn’t like us mentioning their name, the other doesn’t care. For the sake of enjoying a good wink and nod opportunity, I’d say if you made a quarter-way educated guess, you’d likely be right.

Eric: As a follow-up, since this is a barrel-finished whiskey, you obviously have access to barrels. Are you buying fully matured whiskey from your suppliers or do you buy new-make and age in in-house?

Bobby: The answer to that “or” question is: Yes. Building a whiskey program takes a lot of planning. You’re buying older/matured whiskey to finish and package now. You’re buying slightly less old whiskey to bottle next year and so on and so on. Simultaneously, you’re buying new-fill whiskey and aging in house or in contracted bonded-warehouses due to scale to be of age when you hit the bottom of your less aged product that is coming to age every year. I was trying to description the shape of the curve you follow on purchasing, but it’s really a three dimensional curve and the variable where getting overly wordy to explain. In summation, there is a decent amount of algebra based on projections and an understanding that you may be offloading excess or scrambling for supplementary barrels until you really dial in demand and growth.

Eric: Are there plans to transition your whiskey to ones made from your own distillate in the future? If so, how far along that process are you? Can you give us any hints about what to keep an eye out for?

Bobby: We’d like to build a new facility and actively moving in that direction - may be two years out or so - but at the new facility we’d have full whiskey production capability and eventually moving towards our own juice. It takes a long time to fully make that transition.

Eric: Finally, where can an interested reader learn more about Tommyrotter and your products?

Bobby: Give us a follow on Instagram or Facebook - we come out with a limited release whiskey product each fall and are making a concerted effort to expand our single barrel program for our Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin beyond upstate NY. The single barrels of our CSBBG are awesome. Just really, really awesome.

Eric: Thanks for answering a few questions for me. I, and the readers, appreciate it.

Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey

Purchase Info: This sample was graciously provided for review purposes by the distillery. This product can be found for $35 for a 750 mL bottle.

Details: 46% ABV. Age stated at 1 year old.

Nose: Sweet with buttered popcorn, spearmint and caramel.

Mouth: Cornpops cereal, cinnamon and black pepper

Finish: On the shorter side of medium. Lingering spearmint.

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Thoughts: This is a very grain forward whiskey but I wouldn’t necessarily say it tastes “young” as there are no rough edges at all. I tasted this neat and it reminds me of a good quality corn whiskey. I also made a small old fashioned with it and it performed well. I liked how the sweetness of the whiskey played with the spice of the aromatic bitters I chose. Overall, I’d recommend this to people who like sweet, grain forward whiskies.


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Three Whiskeys from Filibuster Distillery

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank the folks at Filibuster Distillery for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

I’ve gotten used to whiskey showing up at my house. It took a while, but now that it happens about once a month or so, it is getting to be old hat. Usually it starts like this:

Hi Eric,

I stumbled across your blog and was very excited about it!

I was wondering if you’d be willing to review our (fill in the blank). 

They almost always just stumbled across my site and are always excited by it or are enjoying it so far. In return, I almost always say yes when someone comes out and offers me free whiskey. I mean it’s free whiskey. Even if it isn’t any good, I’m sure I can find something to do with it after the post goes live.

Most often, I’ll get a notification from UPS or FedEx, within a few days of replying in the affirmative, that there is a package on its way to me. Sometimes I tell them yes, and nothing happens. But one thing that never happens is that a sample shows that I didn’t have an email about first. Mostly because that is really the only way to get my physical address, which is obviously needed in order to ship something to me.

So, when a box of whiskey bottles showed up in mid-December from Virginia and I didn’t have a record of an email correspondence? Yeah. I was confused. I am an email hoarder. I almost never delete an email. And even if I do, I never empty my trash. I said above that “Filibuster Distillery” sent these to me because I honestly have no other idea as to who did.

Looking through their website, I come away impressed by the company. It is a woman, and minority, owned business. One of the ad agencies I worked for was the same, it’s something to be proud of. Unlike many of the folks that enter the craft spirits business, they aren’t strangers to the spirits business, having “experience in specialty spirits retail.” Plus they seem to be doing a lot of things on the distillery side to run an environmentally friendly operation. They do source some of their whiskey, but based on their labeling they also distill some as well. Based on their website, they seem to cask-finish a lot of their products in wine barrels. Seems like a good operation.

So then I ran into some questions. The bottle lists the bourbon as “aged for less than four years in new charred oak casks,” but the website states that it “is a blend of older and younger barrels – 4-6 year being typical.” Their bourbon is described on the bottle as a straight bourbon. It also says that it was “Bottled by Filibuster” as well as being “Distilled in Virginia and Indiana” thus disqualifying it from the straight designation (as per §5.22(b)(1)(iii)). The Boondoggler whiskey doesn’t use the straight designation. It seems to be a blend of different styles of whiskey. Once again this one states it was aged “for less that years” [sic]. The rye says that it is “Bottled by Filibuster Distillery” and doesn’t mention a state of distillation.

So now I am throughly confused. I’m not sure who sent this to me or how it got here and I have no idea which of the information they are using is correct as the website contradicts the label and sections of the label contradict other sections. I reached out to the distillery in mid-December via the contact form on their website to try to get these questions answered, but didn’t receive a response prior to publication time.

However, one thing I am not confused by is whether I like them or not.

Filibuster Dual Cask Bourbon

Purchase info: This review sample was provided by the distillery for the purposes of this review. It sells at Total Wine locally for $42.99.

Details: Batch 27. 45% ABV. The label lists a mash of 70% corn, 20% rye and 10% barley.

Nose: Cinnamon, honey, light mint and some dried grain notes.

Mouth: Warm with cinnamon red hots, cherry and some oaky notes.

Finish: On the short end of medium and warm. Lingering notes of black pepper and coconut.

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Thoughts: This has notes of both mature whiskey and very young whiskey. Which would make sense if they are blending some of their juice with MGP as the label seems to describe. The problem is that unlike some people who have done this very successfully, this one is a bit all over the place in terms of flavor profile. Not a fan of this one. Pretty meh. It’s ok but doesn’t align with my palate. It might do ok in a cocktail though where other ingredients can smooth over some of the rough spots of this one.

Filibuster Dual Cask Rye

Purchase info: This review sample was provided by the distillery for the purposes of this review. It sells at Total Wine locally for $43.49.

Details: Batch 8. 45% ABV. The label lists a mash of 90% corn and 10% barley.

Nose: Mint, pipe tobacco, dried grasses.

Mouth: Spicy, mint, cherry.

Finish: Spicy and of medium length. Lingering sweetness, mint, spice and a hint of coconut.

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Thoughts: This tastes a lot like MGP rye and with the mashbill they list, that makes sense. 90/10 It isn’t far off from 95/5. In fact, based on the fact that their other styles list Indiana as a state of distillation, I had assumed it was until I read the back label.

I like this one. But then I am a fan of the MGP style of rye. This one does say “Bottled by” on the back and there is no listing for a state of distillation. The price is in line with other ryes on the market so I’d say that this one is worth a shot if you can get past the confusion on the label.

Filibuster “The Boondoggler” Whiskey

Purchase info: This review sample was provided by the distillery for the purposes of this review. It sells at Total Wine locally for $33.99.

Details: Batch 20. 45% ABV.

Nose: There is a good hit of rye spices right off the bat with mint and honey coming along with it.

Mouth: Honey, mint, black pepper.

Finish: Decent length. It follows the mouth with lingering notes of black pepper, mint and honey.

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Thoughts: This one is also pretty good. It tastes like a lot of my house-made rye/bourbon blends. I like it. And at less than $35 it is decently priced as well.

Overall, I’d say that two out of three are worth the asking price (locally) and I guess that ain’t bad when you are talking randomly appearing whiskey that you are not sure exactly who it came from.


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