Review: Black Fly Bourbon and Black Rooster Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
(2016) I was recently given indication that Americans go above and beyond in the category of waffles. Unless someone out in the interwebs says otherwise, I was told that authentic Belgian waffles use maple syrup as an ingredient and not – as American counterparts – a fixing. That is, only Americans pour maple syrup on waffles. I know. Strange. Who doesn’t love to douse things in tree sap?
On every foray into the Adirondacks, specifically in Keene, NY, I have focused on a sugaring shack not far from the road. “I’ll stop there on the way out of town,” I’ll say to myself. Then, when properly done in by the notion that vacation was ending, I would zip right past the shack on the way out. Eager for god knows what.
This story has a happy ending in the fact that I learned of the name of the shack: Black Rooster Maple and checked them out online when I got home. At nearly the same time a rumor had come to my attention. Some sugaring place in the northeast was snagging bourbon barrels to store maple syrup in. (It gets better.) After having no further use for the barrels, the company was rumoured to give the barrels back to the whiskey maker for something truly magical. If you haven’t exploded out of your knickers by this point, you must be one of the few who don’t put syrup on a waffle.
After clicking around the Black Rooster website, I sat aghast at my luck. I had found the exact crew in the middle of such a shared experiment.
Black Rooster Adirondack Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup
Satisfyingly the cycling industry is cozying up to maple syrup and its ridiculously simple ability to provide nutrition on the go. Ted King, once of the Cannondale squad and Vermonter, has promoted his product, Untapped Maple Syrup, as a natural alternative to gels. Syrup itself has some mysterious ability to have the sugar instantly absorbed into the blood, giving the cyclist instant glycogen.
While this isn’t something to use on the bike, Black Rooster syrup is one of those additions to the kitchen that may just get hidden, only to be brought out on special occasions. The glass bottle is beautiful, making it difficult to hide from the family on any given day. I found myself making a case for the syrup every couple of days. That lasted for a short while. Then I resorted to sneaking large spoonfuls as I passed by. It progressed (or spiraled completely out of control, if you prefer) to me finally using it every day for the last week’s worth. And I loved it.
The flavor is unique. That’s the best part. There’s maple syrup, but then there’s bourbon barrel aged maple syrup. Black Rooster clearly starts with the finest tasting syrup and adds a little zing in middle. The bourbon taste carries well. Like I said, by itself it’s wonderful. Pairing it with sweet pancakes, French toast, or especially Belgian style waffles makes the flavor shine through.
One bit of warning is that the bourbon barrel aged syrup is so tasty and excites the taste buds so much, that any syrup afterward can feel like the kiddie coaster at the local carnival. You’ll find yourself wanting to set up automatic withdrawal payments to Black Rooster.
What’s even better is the fact that Kirk, the operator at Black Rooster, is extremely friendly. I placed my order over the phone and enjoyed giving him business. He is genuinely proud of his product. Accessibility to purveyors such as him makes it that much easier to support a business.
But before I go, I must implore you to try one more product from Black Rooster:
Black Rooster Maple Cream
What is maple cream you ask? Cook the syrup for just a bit longer in the sugaring process and you get maple candy. However, in between those two sweet spots (sorry) there is a brief moment where skilled artisans can cut the heat to make something called maple cream. It is something you’ll want to bathe in.
Maple cream has the consistency – at room temperature – of coconut oil. It’s a solid. It becomes really solid in the refrigerator. Maple cream is called for in more than a few northeastern dishes. Recipes will state that if maple cream is not available, maple syrup mixed with cream cheese will have to do. But let me say, this is in no way a substitute. Even recipes follow up with a missive stating this is hardly going to end up decent without maple cream.
Maple cream can go on anything you choose. I put it on bagels fresh out of the toaster and let it warm up. Peanut butter and maple cream is pretty much the greatest experience ever. Putting it on top of ice cream is the second greatest experience. It’s sugary, gritty, and super satisfying. Take the Skratch Labs Belgian waffle recipe and slather maple cream on it and be prepared to enjoy the nutrition mid ride.
Black Rooster has a great thing going. Their products will come in handy for those upcoming cold rides or those holiday mornings when the special occasion is having the family all gather around for breakfast.
Gristmill Distillers Black Fly Bourbon
For those days when it’s time to kick back and reminisce about the cold ride completed that morning, Gristmill Distillers is there for nightcap service. Located just down the road from Black Rooster, this distillery keeps itself honest by using only local ingredients. Secretly I managed to get my hands on some all in the name of research.
But the label took the Missus back a bit.
Several years ago we excitedly boarded kayaks in Saranac Lake in early June. Our ambitious plan was to paddle the Saranac River to a point nine miles south of our launch site. It was a new experience. And boy did we get one experience never felt (and hopefully never again) before.
Black flies are the things of nightmares. I would love to tell you I was chewed to smithereens by these flying steel jaws, but unfortunately for the Missus, they are attracted to other things. Like the smell of hair product. After several miles of paddling we realized the moment the trip made a turn for the worse: In hindsight we replayed the question, “And would you like to buy some bug repellant?” from the kayak rental place. Stupidly we said we would not. The Missus was peppered for nine kayak-paced miles by a relentless squadron of black flies chewing at the back of her neck. There was blood. When we pulled out and waited for our rescue truck, I resorted to pacing back and forth on the road in the hopes I could escape the cloud of atonement. I couldn’t.
So to have Black Fly Bourbon in the house brought back those “fond” memories on the Saranac. I also felt like Bandit and Snowman for having a bottle of this in Pennsylvania. I eagerly snapped the plastic wrapping off the cork.
There are whiskeys that cause the fishhook face. Those whiskeys are abrasive and hardly enjoyable. When I sampled Gristmill’s offering – all in the name of research – I found it to be subtle but spicy. The middle of the taste was sparkly and enjoyable. It was perfect for a newly crisped fall night. I found myself wanting to come back to it more but also wanting to preserve it just as much.
At having only the 350 mL bottle, the research went quickly. I am being honest when I say this is now one of my favorite whiskeys to sip. The lingering flavors are clean and progressive. Its aroma is inviting and hardly off-putting. Everything about Black Fly is welcoming, just like the Adirondacks. This, like the Black Rooster syrup, is the perfect accouterment to any special gathering during the upcoming holiday season.
Naturally it all must come back to coffee. These products have not been tested in our favorite dark roast, but our next batch of orders will certainly explore it. That’s the best part about syrup as well as bourbon: they are infinitely useful in the kitchen as well as in the living room celebrating everything from family gatherings to finally standing atop the podium. Just remember, if you’re going to fill a flask to keep you energized on your ride, make sure it’s not bourbon. Because, I guess I gotta say this, no one should ride with bourbon. Saving it for when you get home makes the evening that much more enjoyable. There. I said it.