“What’s better than maple syrup?! Bourbon. Barrel. Aged. Maple. Syrup.” That is the catch phrase that I use when people ask about our maple syrup. When people try it, they buy it. Think I’m exaggerating? Recently, my brother-in-law and I flew to San Diego for the San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival. Eight different couples from Canada and Vermont declared their superior palette when it comes to tasting maple syrup. “I’m warning you. I’m from Vermont,” they would say. Or, “I’m Canadian! I’ll be the judge of your maple syrup!”
All eight couples bought a bottle.
Although maple syrup is not cheap, it is readily available. If you like pure maple syrup, you can buy it from hundreds of maple farms in the northeast and Canada. Just google: maple syrup, you’ll have plenty of options. But now, things have changed. What was a readily available commodity has been enhanced to a whole new level. How can you improve maple syrup? Age it in a single use bourbon barrel.
The Kentucky bourbon industry is in the midst of the largest expansion since the end of prohibition. America’s native spirit has seen a growing demand from China, India, and Europe. Whiskey is a white hot spirit. And anything barrel aged is enjoying what I call the trickle down of “bourbonomics”. Artisans are aging any kind of food in bourbon barrels they can think of from vinegars, beers, and even pickles! Once an abundant by-product of the whiskey industry – used barrels are now a hot commodity. The popularity of whiskey has generated a demand for craft micro-distilleries – not only in Ohio – but around the country. In fact, Ohio micro-distilleries were willing to work with us first – helping us develop our process and flavor profile. Ohioans were cutting edge to stretch both the maple and whiskey industries – recognizing the opportunity.
If you really think about the product and what we are doing, it makes sense. Maple syrup is made from the sugary sap of maple trees. The sap is boiled down and the sugars are caramelized from the heat of the fire in the evaporation process giving unique flavor and color. Bourbon is made from aging a clear distilled spirit – in charred white oak barrel. The barrel charring process caramelizes sap and sugars of the oak giving bourbon its unique color and flavor. We are blending the flavors from maple and oak trees. And the result is an improved maple syrup that does not contain alcohol – but the wonderful natural flavor of two unique American traditions.
Vermont’s maple industry has held a distinct geographical advantage with the proximity to Quebec and their strategic reserve of maple syrup. Quebec produces 70% of the world’s maple syrup and a lot of it funnels through New England ambiguously carrying the Vermont brand because of a Vermont mailing address. Ohio on the other hand has a distinct advantage, too, bordering Kentucky. About 95% of bourbon whiskey is produced in Kentucky making one sweet neighbor for this Ohio maple farm.
Demand has created expansion – and has led to several partnerships with distilleries in Ohio and Kentucky, alike. There is one common thread: maple and oak is delicious.