The Sweetest Thing: The Sugar Mamas Bakeshop & Pappy & Company's Bourbon Balls
Working with partners who become friends and working with friends who become partners, yes that sure is sweet! Making our delicious, famous, hand-crafted Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Balls together...even sweeter!
The quintessential Kentucky treat - may for some be Kentucky Derby Pie (and don't worry, that has a place on our list too), but for us, it is THE Bourbon Ball. Originally dreamed up and created in the kitchen of Ruth Hanley Booe (of legendary Rebecca Ruth Candy fame) back in 1938, who worked on her formula (which remains under lock and key to this day) for two years before perfecting it, the Bourbon Ball deserves its iconic status.
Chocolate, bourbon, pecans. Simplicity at its finest, made with love, and most importantly, made with our Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon. When we started Pappy & Company we had a short list of products we set out determined to make. Our Pappy Van Winkle Bourbon Barrel-Aged Syrup and a signature Bourbon Ball felt absolutely essential. All we needed was a partner. Not just any partner, the right partner. The ability to develop a sophisticated pallet is what sets bourbon tasters apart from the rest, and for us, we are just as selective about who we work with, and on what.
When we set out, the first promise we made to ourselves (and in effect, to all of you) was that we would maintain the highest dedication to quality and craftsmanship that is part and parcel of the Pappy Van Winkle legacy. So, while it may sound like hyperbole to say we only work with the best partners, we can assure you, it isn't.
Fortunately, when seeking the right bourbon ball partner - we didn't have to look far. We knew Maggie Jones of The Sugar Mamas Bakeshop. A fellow Louisville girl we knew from high school, who herself started with a dream in her kitchen, just like Ruth in hers, and around the same time we were setting up shop in Louise's basement. She was always baking treats and custom cookies and cakes in her own kitchen for her family and friends, until she opened the doors on her own little bakeshop in 2013.
When we approached her with our own Bourbon Ball dream - we both had small operations, small teams led by working moms, and big dreams. However, we also shared something else, perhaps even more important. A shared dedication and passion and unwavering commitment to quality, a refusal to cut corners or sacrifice taste, quality or ingredients. And a promise to make things the way they were meant to be made.
Working around the clock that first holiday season was a learning curve for all of us, and one we think we can finally look back on and laugh (maybe...it may be too soon). Our Pappy & Company Bourbon Balls are still made the old fashioned way, the only way Maggie is willing to make them, the only way we will, and quite frankly, the way we like to believe that Ruth herself always envisioned.
Working with Maggie was our first partnership, and our first gourmet product. We are incredibly proud not only of the end result, but of what we were able to learn along the way - only because we had a true collaborative partner we could trust. When we first called Maggie, she was just getting into the art of the cake ball, and had never made a bourbon ball before. Well, neither had we - but we knew what we wanted it to taste like. We wanted it to taste like nostalgia, like sneaking bites from our grandmother's candy dish at Christmas time. Bourbon Balls were a holiday staple at her house and we wanted to be transported back to that memory through that first bite of creamy, buttery chocolate, pecan and of course, bourbon.
We enjoyed the taste testing process, but honestly we got it right pretty quickly. Maggie would hand-make a batch and deliver them to us to try in a little egg crate. As soon as we got the exact flavor we were looking for, completely different than anything mass produced or store-bought you've ever had - we knew we had done it. We launched them right before Christmas, to bring a little taste of our Christmas traditions to you, and boy were we not prepared for what came next. Let's just say we learned a lot about supply and demand in a very short period of time.
Continuing to work with the same partner means you have the opportunity to put what you learn into action, and we have continued to make our bourbon balls with the exact same passion, recipe and hand-made craftmanship as we did that first year, we've just been able to employ new methods to make it easier along the way so that we can streamline the growth - and, best of all, enjoy these treats all year round. From the days when Maggie was driving her mini-van all around town sourcing the best chocolate, to being our own personal delivery drivers back and forth from the store to her bakery - this enduring partnership and friendship has made one of our absolute favorite, and first, products that much sweeter.