How a love for adventure led to the first soy sauce microbrewery in the US
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos by Andrea Hutchinson
For Matt Jamie, Owner and Founder of Bourbon Barrel Foods, what began as a calling sparked into a lifetime of travel, adventures and creating the business of his dreams. “I had this idea and I ran with it, and it has become everything that I dreamt it would be and then some,” explained Jamie. “I am surprised on a daily basis and grateful that I’m in the position I’m in. It has afforded me certain perks and adventures that have made for a well-rounded life at the age of 50 that I never really imagined, travel being one of them.”
Creating the first soy sauce microbrewery company in the United States took time for Jamie, three years of research to be exact. He explained that he wanted to be like an avant-garde cheese maker because of the romance behind making the products, but with something that no one else had done before. According to their website, his sauce is unique because, not only is it the first and only micro-brewed soy sauce in the U.S., but it is made in small batches using only whole Kentucky grown non-GMO soybeans, soft red winter wheat and the purest limestone filtered Kentucky spring water. They ferment and age the soybean mash in re-purposed bourbon barrels that give it a smoky and brothy taste with hints of oak and a mild sweetness reminiscent of fine Kentucky bourbon.
If you’re familiar with Jamie’s story, you know that he has traveled to Japan multiple times, but what you might not know is that he never stepped foot in Japan until ten years after creating his soy sauce. “The travel was a byproduct of starting the company. I was not very well-traveled before I started my business. Honestly, I taught myself how to make the soy sauce online. I didn’t go to Japan until I had been making soy sauce for ten years which is a very important part of the story, especially to the Japanese. When I finally went there it was to be on the number one television show in Japan. They paired me with a true Japanese soy sauce master and we worked together for a day. As a fifth-generation soy sauce brewer, he loved that I did not visit Japan to learn how to make it. He said, ‘You have distinguished and differentiated yourself by not doing it. If you had come, you would have been giving us what we are accustomed to getting. Now it’s unique.’ That was ten years into making soy sauce so it really didn’t define me so much as a company and the product that we make as much as it broadened my perception of the world. Japan was a very influential experience for me,” Jamie said.
Japan was just the start of Jamie’s globetrotting adventure that Bourbon Barrel Foods has enabled him to do. He has traveled all over the United States, Barcelona, the Netherlands and the list goes on. He’s hoping to go to South America soon.
During my interview with Jamie, what stood out to me the most was his enthusiasm and admiration for the company that he started in his garage. With no business background, he built a business plan that worked for him, and boy did it work. “Well there’s no bad part to it, I don’t look at things like that. Every experience is something I’ve learned and grown from. I get asked a lot if I would do anything differently knowing what I do now and the answer is always 100% no. I celebrate each failure that I have because it has brought me to where I was supposed to be,” said Jamie. “So there’s nothing that I regret about what I’ve done. Regret and remorse are optional and I opt not to have them in my life. I embrace those kinds of things and learn from them.”
I’ve never heard someone say that regret is optional before, but I have to say I’ve adopted it as my new life motto — thanks, Matt Jamie. A love for life starts with self-recognition, not being afraid to fail and embracing your mistakes; so take a page out of Jamie’s book as we all embark on a new year.
Bourbon Barrel Foods
1201 Story Ave. Suite 175
Louisville, KY 40206