People in Kentucky are known for doing interesting things with old bourbon barrels.


Make your staircase fancy.

Bourbon barrels can be made into decor.

Bourbon barrel planters.

They can also be turned into furniture.


Bourbon barrel seating.

They can also be repurposed for making soy sauce. (What? Hold on. I’ll explain.)

Six years ago, while living in Gainesville, Florida, chef Matt Jamie came up with an idea that had not been “tapped” into yet: making soy sauce in old bourbon barrels. Interestingly, in Japan, there are over 1,500 microbrewers of soy sauce. In America, until recently, there were none. As soy sauces go, what we use here, usually Kikkoman, is comparable to Budweiser in the beer world (and by that I simply mean basic, not bad). Soy sauce in Japan is treated like small-batch alcohol is here. There are small boutique soy sauces and even soy sauce tastings (imagine tasting a flight of soy sauces). Knowing this, Jamie sensed an opportunity in the making.

After returning to Louisville to live with his family, Jamie taught himself how to make soy sauce. Although he makes the soy sauce in a standard fashion, he ages it in bourbon barrels for 12 months. The charred oak and tannins from the barrels are what make his soy sauce unique.




He began Bourbon Barrel Foods, whose motto is Eat Your Bourbon, in 2006, and he moved into his current space in Butchertown, sharing a building with Cellar Door Chocolates and Work the Metal, four years ago.  


Wrap your head around this one: Eat Your Bourbon.

Making soy sauce, from soybean to bottle, is quite involved and is all done in house, and his “slow, small, simple” philosophy spills over into all aspects the process.


The finished product.

The soybeans he uses are all locally grown. He then cooks it down with other ingredients and it forms a brine mash.


Shown here: soybean brine mash.


This is then aged for 12 months in a bourbon barrel.



It is then prepared to be bottled, which workers do by hand.



They hand label with the batch number and ship all the product out themselves.



In addition to the soy sauce, he smokes spices using wood from bourbon barrels in his smoker. 



He smokes demerara sugar (like sugar in the raw), salt, paprika and pepper in his smoker. Shown here: bourbon-smoked pepper.



Bourbon-smoked sea salt



He also produces sorghum, salad dressing, Kentuckyacki, Worchestershire sauce, vanilla extract and other sauces.



His biggest seller to date, and he has only been producing it four months, is Woodford Reserve Bitters.

His goal right now is to become a local tourism spot on the Bourbon Trail. He has a beautiful tasting kitchen, completely outfitted by GE Monogram, that can host large groups. He wants to do tours of his facility and tastings.

Bourbon Barrel Foods keeps it small and personal. Even Jamie’s dad has an office here, complete with his own cubicle.




Bourbon Barrel Foods are sold at many retailers locally. To see all of their products, click here: To find a retailer near you, click here