Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup-The Inside Story
This week, the focus is our bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. Earlier in the week we uncorked the first of our 2020 barrels. These are 15 gallon barrels and we let them age for 3 months. After opening the barrels, the syrup is heated, filtered, and bottled. We wish you could smell the aroma of hot bourbon barrel aged syrup, there is nothing like it!
Bourbon barrels actually have an interesting history. In the late 1700's Scotch-Irish settlers began moving into Kentucky. These settlers were skilled at distilling but they didn't have their usual ingredients readily available, so they began experimenting with maize (sometimes known as "Indian Corn"). This produced a fairly sweet spirit. It was shipped downriver in used fish barrels. A preacher named Elijah Craig (who, in addition to his church duties, also liked to make whiskey) discovered that the cheapest and easiest way to clean these fish barrels before storing whisky was to char the inside of it. The whiskey was then stored in these charred barrels and shipped downriver, which took around 90 days. When the barrels were at the other end of the trip, it was discovered that it was a very different product compared to what started the journey. The consumers in New Orleans started asking for more of this smooth, vanilla tasting whiskey that came from Bourbon County.
Bourbon barely survived Prohibition, but the last element that gives it its intrinsic taste came in the 1930's. Most of the white oak (which is the only wood that undergoes the proper chemical changes during charring to produce the desired flavors) came from Arkansas. A congressman from Arkansas helped to pass the Federal Alcohol Administration Act and worked in a provision that bourbon could only be made using new barrels. His theory was that this would increase the demand for his state's lumber.
And so, today, bourbon must be aged in new, charred white oak barrels. After the barrels have been used once federal law says they cannot be used again to make bourbon. However, we can take the used barrels and get the same flavor benefits in our maple syrup that the bourbon distillers enjoy in their product.
Once the barrels have been used to make maple syrup, their life-cycle doesn't end. We resell these to brewers who get additional flavors from the maple-bourbon barrels in their beer.
Want to taste the delicious flavors of our bourbon barrel aged maple syrup? Head over to our store: https://www.sterlingvalleymaple.com/collections/featured/products/bourbon-barrel-aged-syrup-16oz