Unroasted, green coffee beans are “volatile” in coffee parlance, meaning they pick up aromas and flavors easily. Just a few weeks inside a used bourbon barrel will infuse the beans with notes of whiskey and oak that remain even after roasting. While Annapolis, Maryland-based Ceremony Coffee Roasters are generally credited with pioneering the process, many other roasters also barrel-age their beans, including Death Wish Coffee in Round Lake, New York; Oskar Blues-connected Hotbox Roasters in Longmont, Colorado; San Diego’s Modern Times Brewery, which uses the beans in special releases of its City of the Dead export stout; Whiskey Barrel Coffee in Commerce City, Colorado; and Dark Matter Coffee in Chicago.
Instead of shipping all of its used barrels to parts unknown, Woodinville Whiskey Co. in Woodinville, Washington, repurposes some as maple syrup aging vessels. Vanilla, caramel, coconut and woody spice can all be found in the dark amber maple syrup that eventually pours out; this is recycling at its finest.
Columbus, Indiana-based 240Sweet makes its Bourbon Barrel Aged Vanilla Extract by combining whole and chopped Tahitian vanilla beans with grain alcohol and aging the mixture inside bourbon barrels for six months. The extract absorbs flavors perfectly to give treats like 240Sweet’s Kentucky Bourbon marshmallows a warm whiskey kick.
The Rare Tea Cellar’s inventory of, well, rare teas includes a Chinese pu-erh, mellowed three years in oak barrels, and Gingerbread Dream Rooibos, a South African tea with ginger, Madagascar vanilla and a secret spice blend aged 13 months in wet, 30-year-old rum casks.
Hot Sauce, Soy Sauce, Fish Sauce, Sherry Vinegar
BLiS Gourmet (it stands for Because Life is Short) employs used barrels to season a veritable kitchen cabinet full of food products. The Michigan-based company’s fish sauce, soy sauce and sherry vinegar all spend time in bourbon casks that previously held BLiS maple syrup. Its Blast Hot Pepper Sauce ages in the same barrels its Grand Rapids neighbor, Founders Brewing Co., once used for its popular Canadian Breakfast Stout.
Cigar makers approach barrel-aging from several angles. The Arturo Fuente Anejo smokes pictured, for instance, are wrapped in a Connecticut maduro leaf aged inside Cognac barrels. Other cigar producers choose to age the filler: Partagas’ 1845 Extra Oscuro is made with a blend of tobaccos aged in rum barrels. Cigar maker Asylum even tosses whole, finished cigars inside barrels that once held New Holland Brewing’s bourbon-aged stout, Dragon’s Milk.