Bourbon Barrel Foods, Kentucky, KY, Louisville, Barrel-Aged Sauces, Spices, Sugars, Sorghums, Where to eat in Louisville, Bourbon, Favorite Bourbon, What to drink, Aged Soy Sauce,



Q. What was the first product that you made?

Bourbon Barrel Soy Sauce

Photograph courtesy of Bourbon Barrel Foods

A. My first idea was to make soy sauce. But it takes 12 months to age and since I needed to start generating income instantly, I started with Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt. I had seen Chardonnay Smoked Sea Salt, and since we’re the gateway to Bourbon Country, I thought we needed one that was bourbon.

The second product was a barrel-aged worcestershire sauce, and then we extended the spice line to have bourbon smoked peppercorn and a bourbon smoked paprika and just kept adding to it. Then, we had another idea for a teriyaki sauce called ‘Kentuckyaki.’ I didn’t really think I’d get into that catchy name, but that one was just too good to pass up!

Q. Have your products become Kentucky souvenirs?

A. Yes, Bourbon Barrel Foods has become exactly that, the take-home gourmet food item from Bourbon Country. I didn’t plan to do that, it just kind of happened.

Q. Chef Sean Brock recommended your products, since he uses them in his restaurants. Do a lot of chefs use your products?

Bourbon Smoked Pepper

Photograph courtesy of Bourbon Barrel Foods

A. I find that chefs really drive my retail market, like Sean Brock or Mike Lata. I’ve got many James Beard Award winners that are buying from me. I see chefs cooking with my products on TV, like Charlie Palmer using our peppercorns, and Joe Palma, from The Westend Bistro by Eric Ripert in DC, using our Sweet Sorghum.

I love turning a profit, but having the respect of chefs like that, where they’re buying my products, means the world to me.

Q. What do you think it is that chefs love about it?

A. The uniqueness of the product. I’m the only one in the United States that microbrews soy sauce. There are about five or six  large factories that manufacture it - Kikkoman has two plants here in the US and they’re doing 200,000 gallons a day. They’ll spill more in an afternoon than I’ll make in five years!

We’re using non-GMO soy beans that are sourced from within Kentucky and soft red winter wheat, that is the same that Maker’s Mark and several other distilleries use in their bourbons. And then we get the repurposed barrels from Woodford Reserve Distillery that we ferment and age in.

Q. Did you have a background in food before you started Bourbon Barrel?

A. I was a chef. I was in Gainesville studying for a master’s degree in exercise physiology and I didn’t like it. So I went back to the one thing I knew how to do... cook. I worked at Mildred’s Big City Foods. The chef, Bert Gill, taught me so much and I still do everything that he taught me. He does a great job, the food is really good there.



Q. Are there great resources about bourbon that you like?

A. There is a book by Julian Van Winkle’s sister, Sally Van Winkle Campbell, about her grandfather Pappy Van Winkle. [Buy this book.]

There is another book by Chester Zoeller about the history of bourbon in Kentucky. [Buy this book.]

[See details.]

Q. Are there other local artisans you recommend?

A. Actually in the same building that we’re in is a chocolate maker. Her name is Erica Chavez-Graziano [Cellar Door Chocolates] and she’s making innovative, handmade small batch chocolates. Try the Bluegrass Soy Sauce Truffles, the Bourbon Smoked Sea Salt Caramels, and the Chocolate Covered Potato Chips with Bourbon Smoked Pepper.

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Q. Where in Louisville do you like to eat?

A. 610 Magnolia: get the Foie Gras BLT. Chef Edward Lee is super talented. He does these special dinners, like the Inferno Dinner, which was different courses that kept getting hotter and hotter as the meal went on.

The Blind Pig: it’s a little gastropub with house-made sausage and great artisan breads. It’s not light by any stretch, but it’s a great restaurant. I always feel like I need a nap afterwards.

Sapporo: we go for the rolls, they are the prettiest and the freshest and the place has a nice pulse to it. It’s very kid friendly. We can order sushi and my kids can look at the Hibachi onion volcano.

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Q. Any local Louisville drink places?

A. Bluegrass Brewing Company: I just think that their stout is just special. They do such a good job with it.

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Q. Do you have a favorite bourbon?

A. I have a few of them. Pappy Van Winkle: Julian is a friend of mine and I love what he’s doing.  It was Pappy’s saying make a quality product and keep it in short demand. That’s what they’ve done. I like the fact that it’s hard to get and it’s special.

Willett is a favorite right now. They’re small batch and they’re reviving an old brand.

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At the following retailers.




- Chef Sean Brock (McCrady’s & Husk Restaurants)


Matt Jamie’s recommendations for where to eat in Louisville, Gainesville, and what bourbons to drink.

Details of Matt Jamie’s recommendations for where to eat in Louisville, Gainesville, and what bourbons to drink.



Making Bluegrass Soy Sauce, Part 3 - preparing the barrels and the brine. See more videos.

Photograph courtesy of Bourbon Barrel Foods

Q & A