Imagine a world where every bite is a flavorful adventure, where craftsmanship meets culinary creativity. That’s the essence of Bourbon Barrel Foods. In this blog, we’ll dive into a variety of artisanal products that have become kitchen essentials for chefs and food enthusiasts. From their unique soy sauce with a smoky twist to hand-harvested paprika with a fiery kick, each ingredient is an invitation to savor quality and authenticity. Join us as we uncover the delicious journey of Bourbon Barrel Foods, led by its founder, Matt Jamie, where passion and dedication are the secret ingredients to every culinary masterpiece.
Can you start by sharing your origin story and what led you to found Bourbon Barrel Foods?
Matt Jamie: I dropped out of graduate school in Florida. Up until that point, cooking was just a hobby that I enjoyed, so once I dropped out, I got a job in a kitchen. It was then that I realized that this hobby was actually a passion and that I was good at it.
I wanted to stay in the food industry but knew I wouldn’t be a career chef. I knew I wanted to create something unique and craft-inspired. In the early 2000s there was a movement in the industry to bring things back to a more artisanal approach. People wanted to know where their food comes from, who’s making it, how it’s made and that it’s crafted with care. I wanted to be a part of that.
I thought of making soy sauce, but I wasn’t sure if anyone had done it before. After researching and finding no one was making small-batch soy sauce in the US, I decided to go for it. I taught myself how and started making soy sauce in my basement.
Where did the bourbon component come in?
I saw the parallels between brewing soy sauce and making bourbon, both in process and history, and knew it was a great idea, especially with the growing interest in bourbon in the state of Kentucky. Everything just aligned and I knew right away that we could become the gourmet foods component of the bourbon experience.
How has What Chefs Want been a part of your journey?
One of the very first conversations I had about creating soy sauce was in the old Creation Gardens down on Washington Street. I talked to some of the guys there and they loved the idea. And it just, you know, was just one of those moments that I remember in the development of the product where I could tell that chefs would really embrace it. Your team has been great about coming in and learning about my products. You’ve helped me tell my story and the story of these products in different parts of the country where you’re now distributing products and in doing so, you help us to grow.
How important is sourcing local ingredients to and how does that align with your commitment to quality?
There is a lot of effort that goes into the sourcing of our ingredients, because I think, now more than ever, it’s important to people to know where my raw materials are coming from, and how they’re grown. That goes into the story that we like to tell about each and every product.
For example, our Bourbon Barrel Smoked Paprika, the paprika is harvested by hand in New Mexico. One time we had a chef ask us specifically where our paprika came from, and our distributer at the time couldn’t even pinpoint the country it came from, and that wasn’t good enough for us. Now I can tell you exactly the family-owned farm that it comes from, and how it was hand-picked, dried and shipped to me. I can tell you that our sea salt is domestically harvested and solar-evaporated from the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve visited both.
I’ve been working with the same grower for 15 years on our Bourbon Barrel Aged Pure Cane Sorghum. It’s grown in Eastern Kentucky in Menifee County by a fifth-generation farmer. It is harvested by hand and processed on the farm.
I know exactly where the soybeans, the wheat, and the water that go into our Bluegrass Soy Sauce come from. I have a relationship with the farmer. We use only Kentucky-grown, non-GMO soybeans, soft red winter wheat, and the purest limestone filtered Kentucky spring water for our soy sauce.
And Matt does focus on the stories and sources behind each of his craft products! If you visit the website, each product description features the details that make each of these products so special.
Bourbon Barrel Foods Bluegrass Soy Sauce has been featured on Bizarre Foods America, America’s Heartland and How It’s Made. It has also been featured in The New York Times, Southern Living, Food & Dining and Garden & Gun.
What Chefs Want is delivering these Bourbon Barrel Foods favorites to your door. Order here.
Blue Grass Soy Sauce (item #96153)- Bourbon Barrel’s soy sauce is microbrewed in small batches using only whole Kentucky grown Non-GMO soybeans, soft red winter wheat, and the purest limestone filtered Kentucky spring water. They ferment and age the soy bean mash in re-purposed bourbon barrels. It’s smoky and brothy with hints of oak and a mild sweetness reminiscent of fine Kentucky bourbon.
Kentuckyaki (item #22650)- Kentuckyaki is teriyaki sauce made Kentucky-Style. That’s right, we’ve added a splash of Kentucky Bourbon for extra flavor! This all-natural sauce is sweetened with Kentucky-grown sorghum and flavored with fresh garlic and ginger. It’s rich, robust and packed with umami, adding complex flavors to anything it touches. Use Kentuckyaki as a marinade on salmon, beef, and chicken, add to stir-fry, or use it as a dipping sauce!
Small Batch Bourbon Ponzu (item #97118)- Small Batch Bourbon Ponzu is a combination of Bluegrass Soy Sauce, all natural fresh lemon juice, rice wine vinegar, and a hint of Kentucky bourbon. With the perfect balance of salty and sweet this vibrant sauce adds citrus elements perfect for dumplings and sushi. The clean and refreshing flavors are great for making salad dressings, seasoning fresh vegetables, or marinating fish, pork, poultry, and beef.
Worcestershire Sauce (item #96121)- Bourbon Barrel Aged Worcestershire Sauce is a unique take on the traditional all-purpose sauce. Bourbon Barrel Aged Worcestershire is sweetened with sorghum, blended with pure Kentucky limestone spring water, and mellowed in bourbon barrels that were used to age some of the Bluegrass State’s finest Bourbons. It is all-natural and vegetarian, as it does not contain anchovies. Try our Worcestershire Sauce on eggs, in a Bloody Mary and especially in a burger!
Bourbon Smoked Paprika (item #97082)- Bourbon Smoked Paprika is domestically harvested and handpicked from a family owned farm in New Mexico. Slow smoked all by hand in small batches, using bourbon barrel staves, this mild paprika is vibrant in color and flavor. It’s unique, smoky flavor and aroma will bring your dishes to life! Sprinkle with poultry, fish, and vegetables, add to soups, sauces, and marinades! Its a staff favorite on popcorn and a summer staple for corn on the cob!
Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt (item #96002)- Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt is pure, solar-evaporated and domestically harvested from the Pacific Ocean. The large crystals are slow smoked in small batches by hand, using repurposed bourbon barrel staves. Our all-natural Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt is very versatile, adding rich, smoky flavor to a wide variety of foods. It’s an ideal choice for everything from burgers and red meat to poultry and vegetables.
Bourbon Smoked Pepper (item #97093)- Bourbon Smoked Pepper is a quarter cracked Malabar pepper that is slow-smoked using barrel staves that once held some of Kentucky’s finest bourbon. Packed with smoky flavor and aroma, our Bourbon Smoked Pepper is pungent and biting. Season on a burger, steak or any vegetable of your choice!
Bourbon Smoked Sesame Seeds (item #44553)- Bourbon Smoked Sesame Seeds are smoked low and slow using the oak from bourbon barrel staves. The slow smoking process boasts a rich earthy, nutty flavor, with delicate oak undertones that make Bourbon Smoked Sesame Seeds delicious on salads, bread, and seasonings on meat and seafood.
Bourbon Smoked Togarashi (item #90127) – A traditional Japanese seven-spice blend with an added “bourbon barrel” twist! We begin with a foundation of Bourbon Smoked Pepper and add Bourbon Smoked Sesame Seeds along with nori, mustard, and poppy seeds to create an exotic flavor experience with a hint of subtle smokiness! Bourbon Smoked Togarashi is delicious on all meats, seafood, and vegetables. Check out our “Recipes” tab to try some of our favorite and creative ways to use this peppery blend, including our beloved Togarashi Caramel Corn!
Bourbon Smoked Sugar (item #97222)- Bourbon Smoked Sugar is raw demerara sugar that is slow-smoked with repurposed bourbon barrel staves. It has sweet caramel flavors and the richness of smoked oak. Bourbon Smoked Sugar is perfect mixed in a spice rub or barbecue sauce and thrown on the grill, or use it with the sweet stuff – fruit crisps, pies, cookies and cocktails.
Bourbon Smoked Cacao & Barrel Aged Coffee Bean Dark Chocolate (item #93511)- This dark chocolate bar is blended with 100% Bourbon Barrel Aged Arabica coffee beans and Bourbon Smoked Cacao Nibs. Each bite is both bitter and sweet and full of the subtle notes of the bourbon barrel from the Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee Beans and Bourbon Smoked Cacao Nibs.
Pure Cane Sorghum (item #93535)- Sorghum Syrup was a staple in southern households in the days before refined sugar became available. Our Bourbon Barrel Aged Pure Cane (“Sweet”) Sorghum is estate grown by a fifth-generation farmer in Eastern Kentucky. It is harvested by hand and then aged in a bourbon barrel to draw out the intensity of flavors. This all-natural sweetener is a favorite of chefs and adds an earthiness and hint of spice that other sweeteners cannot provide. We love adding a drizzle of Bourbon Barrel Aged Sorghum with a sprinkle of pepper over local goat cheese or serving as a condiment to an artisan cheese tray.
With so much remarkable growth, how has your facility evolved?
It’s been a luxury that we’ve been able to grow at the same address for 15 years of the 17 years we’ve been in business. We are in the Butchertown area of Louisville, which is full of character and charm.
I started in this building at 900 square feet, and we’re 47,000 square feet now. We’ve just gone through renovations the last three years. We have separate areas now for brewing the soy sauce, smoking and packaging and fulfillment. And now we have an event space that I’m in the process of finishing. It should be done by the middle of this month and will be part of our tour experience. There’s a lot of unique visitors coming to the city who want the bourbon experience and this will be a unique part of that.
As an entrepreneur, what would you say to other entrepreneurs who are about to take a leap into something like this?
Ultimately, if you have a passion for what it is that you are doing, you’ve got to take that step. Sometimes you get caught up in the inability to make a decision for whatever reason, you know, you’re a little hesitant, a little afraid, but you need to take that step.
I had a blind passion, and I think that if you have that, then all those other things go away. But you’ve got to just start doing it. A true entrepreneur doesn’t see things as problems. They see things as obstacles, and you can surmount an obstacle. You can go through it, over it, around it, and I think that’s kind of the fun for me. There is no reason to stress about something happening. Its more about ‘how am I going to navigate this.’
In the world of Bourbon Barrel Foods, flavors come to life in every bite. As we wrap up our chat with Matt Jamie, the brains behind this culinary journey, it’s clear that sourcing is the heartbeat of their delicious creations. From New Mexico’s hand-harvested paprika to the Pacific Northwest’s sun-soaked sea salt, every ingredient tells a tale of quality and authenticity. Bourbon Barrel Foods isn’t just about making gourmet products; it’s about celebrating the roots and relationships that infuse every bite with flavor. Whether you’re a chef looking to up your game or a food lover on a taste adventure, Bourbon Barrel Foods invites you to explore their delectable offerings. Because when it comes to crafting exceptional flavors, it’s all about passion and dedication.