Meet the Maker: Bourbon Barrel Foods
It all started with a realization: there weren’t any micro-brewed soy sauces being made in the United States. Add bourbon to the equation, and Bourbon Barrel Foods was born.
What began as spit-balling creative business ideas among friends (over oysters, no less), has since developed into a thriving local business. Bourbon Barrel Foods, which launched in 2006 with its signature Bluegrass Soy Sauce, is the brainchild of Matt Jamie. Matt, a returned Louisvillian, recognized the power of the bourbon trend early on and got to work creating the first and only Bourbon-barrel aged soy sauce.
First, though, Matt had to learn the art of making soy sauce. With his culinary background as a chef, and lots of research, Matt was well-equipped to begin the process of micro-brewing his own recipe.
“I researched the hell out of making soy sauce, saw some parallels between the making of soy sauce and the making of bourbon. More importantly, I saw a lot of similarities in the heritage and prestige of the two products,” Matt says.
To put this in perspective, soy sauce is the oldest and most widely used condiment in the world. Though it began as an ancient Chinese condiment, it soon spread to Japan, where the process of making it was streamlined and standardized. Like the process of distilling Bourbon, brewing soy sauce involves fermenting and aging.
Those similarities inspired him to include the uniquely Louisville aspect – bourbon barrel aging – to his final product, “Everyone in Louisville is fully aware of the history and process of bourbon making and what it has done for our city and the state. Now with Bourbon Tourism, visitors to Louisville almost expect to find shops like Bourbon Barrel Foods or lattes with an element of bourbon, for example.”
Matt has since expanded Bourbon Barrel Foods’ line of bourbon-inspired products, which now includes a wide range of artisan sauces, spices, snacks, and sweeteners, which include some of the Bourbon Barrel smoked sugars we use in our signature Vint Julep Latte and Bourbon Barrel Hot Cocoa.
Though you can shop over 100 unique products in their retail store on Frankfort Avenue (just a few doors down from our Crescent Hill location), you’ll also find Bourbon Barrel Foods in some unexpected, but delicious places.
From partnering with Woodford Reserve on a line of signature cocktail mixers and spices, to releasing a Sambal hot sauce with Chef Edward Lee, Matt’s choice of food projects reinforce the strong connection to Louisville traditions.
Bourbon Barrel Foods has even worked with the Pendennis Club to re-engineer the recipe for the renowned Henry Bain’s Famous Sauce. Now, after the sauce’s long 100-year history, it’s closer to what it would have tasted like when Henry Bain made and served it.
“I felt like it was a part of Louisville’s history that needed preserving,” says Matt.
Matt’s most recent project is the Bourbon Barrel Foods cookbook called “Eat Your Bourbon.” With the help of research chef Susan Ngyuen, photographer Chris Witzke, and graphic designer Karen Gahafer-Buryn, he put the book together completely in-house.
“It’s been in the works for a long time. I’ve seen a lot of my friends who are chefs write cookbooks, so I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I am very fortunate to have good people around me,” says Matt.
It’s full of recipes with a wide-range of flavors and styles, not just the traditional southern cooking you might expect from a Bourbon-based cookbook. Indian, Korean, Thai, Japanese, and Spanish are just some of types of cooking you’ll find in “Eat Your Bourbon”. But even with so many different options, Matt can’t get too far from his Louisville roots.
“There had to be a Fried Chicken recipe in there, so there is one, but everything else is pretty diverse,” jokes Matt.
Still need a holiday gift for a bourbon-lover? Matt will be signing copies of the “Eat Your Bourbon” cookbook in the coming weeks:
Saturday, December 16
Work the Metal
Wednesday, January 7