A partnership continues: The Shared Commitment to Passion & Quality that makes our Signature Syrup oh so sweet!
When we launched Pappy & Company over 10 years ago, we had a simple desire and a simple plan. Share our family’s legacy with all of you in new and interesting ways. While we have grown and expanded in ways our imaginations couldn’t conceive then, there were a few products we set out to create from the very beginning.
One of those products was a Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup. We just knew that the natural flavors of pure maple syrup infused with the natural flavors of our buttery rich and oaky bourbon would be a match made in flavor heaven, and well…when you are right, you’re right! We had the idea, we had the barrels, we just needed the partner.
As with all of our collaborations, who we work with is equally as important as what we are making. Finding a family led brand with the same mission, vision and devotion to the quality of their craft seemed like a pipe dream - until we met Nate from Bissell Maple Farm. We instantly knew. Introduced via a similar search, as Nate too had the idea that maple syrup and bourbon go together like…well two flavor profiles with similar flavor notes! He had been reaching out to furniture makers who crafted pieces out of retired barrels and happened upon someone we were currently working with. The rest, as they say, is sticky sweet history!
So just why is our syrup so special? It pretty much boils down to a few simple ingredients: the source, the farmers, and the formula. So let’s start there, or rather years back, when the barrel was sealed on a batch of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and stored in the distillery to begin the aging process responsible for that instantly recognizable (by both aroma and taste) iconic, ember hued liquid.
Fortunately, for us (and anyone who has tasted or will soon enjoy our syrup), we have exclusive access to the Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels once they are freshly dumped (yup, that is the correct terminology). By virtue of becoming bourbon, those barrels have now completed their important work, and can no longer participate in the bourbon aging process. So now, they begin anew.
So just why is our syrup so special? It pretty much boils down to a few simple ingredients: the source, the farmers, and the formula. So let’s start there, or rather years back, when the barrel was sealed on a batch of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and stored in the distillery to begin the aging process responsible for that instantly recognizable (by both aroma and taste) iconic, ember hued liquid. Fortunately, for us (and anyone who has tasted or will soon enjoy our syrup), we have exclusive access to those barrels once they are freshly dumped (yup, that is the correct terminology). By virtue of becoming bourbon, those barrels have now completed their important work, and can no longer participate in the bourbon aging process. So now, they begin anew.
The Source: Barrels: Selects are chosen (essentially exactly what they sound like). These are freshly dumped barrels that are judged to be in good condition with no cracked staves, and minimal damage after the aging process. They undergo the char process whereby different char levels produce different flavors (the longer they are under fire the deeper the flavor), yet it isn’t exactly the char that provides the flavor. Rather the char releases the flavor held within the barrel by heating it up (it also happens to remove impurities, but let’s stay with flavor for now). So, back to the importance of the barrel - you want the best bourbon flavor possible - enter our retired Pappy Van Winkle bourbon barrels with a deep char.
The freshly dispatched barrels, still wafting with aromatic plumes of the bourbon so recently released - are sent to the Bissell Maple Farm in Jefferson, Ohio. There, an equally recognizable, deeper hued liquid of pure maple syrup, tapped from the trees on their farm - with the familiar notes of warm vanilla and buttery caramel, is poured and sealed into the barrels.
The Partners: Farmers: We tend to talk frequently about what it means to have true partnerships, and for us this is a wonderful example of an organic partnership that brought together two family led businesses with a similar mission and passion. Not to be overly saccharine here, but it sure is sweet!
Seventh generation farmers, the Bissell family would certainly know a thing or two about a generational family business. They’ve been making maple syrup in Northeast Ohio, just across Lake Erie from Canada, since the late 1800’s, and share the same belief in hand-crafted, high-quality goods. Today, Bissell Maple Farm is run by Nate Bissell, who grew up in Jefferson, Ohio, learning the trade from watching his father. Embracing the traditional methods of making maple syrup, with an eye for sustainable growth and development, Nate is known equally for his passion for syrup (he really, really, really LOVES maple syrup) as for his creativity and commitment to making the best syrup there is.
This is exactly how, and with whom, we want to be making unique products. Which leads us to the next defining characteristic of our unique Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pure Maple Syrup. The good stuff itself: The formula.
It’s really no surprise that the recipe for our maple syrup isn’t all that different from the recipe if you will for the bourbon responsible for the flavor. It comes down to quality really, beginning with the selection process. Just as the retired barrels are selected, Bissell is particular about their formula. They use red maple and sugar maple to get not only the best truly signature pure maple syrup flavor combination, but also the best combination and coloring to complement the inherent sweetness of the bourbon.
Using the traditional (nee old fashioned - a term we don’t shy away from) - they tap their maple trees manually in the spring using galvanized buckets. The combination of Red Maple and Sugar Maple makes the syrup selection unique with a certain complexity and depth of flavor along with complimentary hints of caramel. The sap is transferred into tanks in the sugarhouse and pumped through a reverse osmosis machine that extracts the water to increase the sugar concentration. Afterwards it is evaporated, and what is left is the highest quality concentration of pure maple syrup that is ready to be barrel-aged.
100% pure. Though it should go without saying, we will say it anyway. This is 100% pure maple syrup straight from the source - no high fructose corn syrup or added flavors. Seeing as how the term natural flavor has become a bit of a marketing misnomer, we hesitate to explain the flavor profile of our barrel-aged syrup as natural, even though, by definition - it is. Bissell uses the darker syrup to stand up to the aging process, for the end result being a syrup that still maintains the syrup flavor once infused with that of the bourbon. Syrup goes into the retired Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon barrels hot, to pull the flavor out of the wood, while the cooling process of the syrup in the barrel creates a vacuum sensation of negative pressure that allows for deeper flavor infusion. This particular portion of the aging process is also an example of trial by error, or rather, learning something magical by accident and repeating it on purpose.
Once the barrels are once again happily filled, we let them age and soak in the flavor. Fortunately, we just happen to understand the concept of waiting for a good thing and for us at Pappy & Company and Bissell Maple Farm, aging is not a four letter word. While 80% of the flavor is infused upon the initial fill - we happen to know that what happens in the next 20% is what sets it apart. A deeper and fuller infusion of flavor is worth the wait.
There you have it, hard work, pure ingredients, the rarest bourbon barrels, and a shared underlying commitment to quality and craftsmanship - we happen to have it on record that this is the formula for the best bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup in the world. Offered in our original standard bearer, our classic and signature Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pure Maple Syrup, we also have a smaller, limited-edition batch, 23-Year Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Pure Maple Syrup(the magic there is right in the name, as it is aged in the extremely rare and coveted retired 23-Year Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrels for truly iconic flavor), and a recently introduced Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Spicy Maple Syrup that gets a kick from our Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Ghost Pepper Mash.
We truly are incredibly proud of this product, and of our continuing partnership with Bissell Maple Farm, and it is often the product cited by all of us that we use most frequently in our daily lives. It’s hard work, but we share Nate’s unbridled enthusiasm and we think you will agree - you can taste the difference.
"The only thing maple syrup isn’t good on - is the floor.”
- Nate Bissell