Coffee? Good. Bourbon? Good.
If you’re wondering what happens when you bring them together, then you’ve come to the right place.
Barrel-aged coffee has become something of a mini-trend within the coffee world in recent years, and Oak & Bond is one of several companies that have thrown their proverbial hats into the ring. They’ve quickly managed to stand apart from the crowd with their eye-catching packaging and commitment to sourcing high quality, single-origin coffee from small farmers around the world.
Their Bourbon Barrel Aged coffee is made using a small lot, single-origin, 100% Arabica coffee beans from the southeast region of Brazil. As it turns out, the flavor profile of these beans is very well matched to the tasting notes that come from the barrel aging process. Undoubtedly, that was no accident.
Coffee beans aged in oak bourbon barrels sound like a great idea in theory, but of course the real question is, how does it work in practice?
We brewed up some Oak & Bond Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee to find out.
Why Age Coffee Beans?
There are a lot of ways aging coffee beans can go wrong. Conventional wisdom (correctly) assumes that coffee should be used as soon as possible after roasting. Once coffee beans have been roasted, they hit peak freshness within three to five days. “Aging” them at this point will only result in dull, dry, flavorless coffee.
The best aged coffees—Oak & Bond being one of them—age their coffee before roasting it, essentially side-stepping this problem. In this particular case, the beans are aged in American oak bourbon barrels from Kentucky distillers, a process that imparts a tremendous amount of flavor.
The folks at Oak & Bond point out that every barrel ages differently, and as a result, the amount of time needed to properly age the coffee varies. The batch we tasted is marked “barrel age: 10 years”, though we presume that refers to the age of the barrels themselves, and not the coffee, since Oak & Bond hasn’t been around that long.
Suffice to say, the actual aging time is indeterminate, and at the end of the day, it probably doesn’t really matter all that much. For quality control, members of the Oak & Bond team sample and cup a small amount of the coffee to determine if it’s been aged to perfection.
Once it has, the coffee beans are roasted to a medium roast level. This seems like an appropriate roast for these beans—pulped-natural processed coffee from Brazil—which is known for mellow acidity, rich mouthfeel, and a balance of fruity and chocolate tasting notes.
Tasting Oak & Bond Bourbon Barrel Coffee
As soon as Oak & Bond’s Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee hit our grinder, the bourbon aroma was immediately apparent. There’s no actual alcohol in this coffee, and the beans are only aged in bourbon barrels, which means they’ve never been in contact with any actual bourbon.
Given that fact—coupled with Oak & Barrel’s insistence on never using added artificial flavors in their coffee—it’s generally surprising how much of a bourbon-like aroma one gets on the nose as these beans are ground, and then again as soon as the hot water hits them. It’s rich, a bit sweet, and mingles pleasantly with the fragrance of the coffee itself.
The effect on the palate is similar. Sweet, bourbon-y notes are right upfront alongside the big flavors of chocolate, caramel, and citrus that come from the Brazilian Arabica beans. There’s a nutty quality to the brew as well.
This coffee has some real complexity to its flavor profile, but everything ultimately melds together into a truly smooth, satisfying cup of coffee. It’s easy-drinking with a medium-light body and not too much acidity. Coffee like this makes you want a second cup as soon as you’re done with the first.
Best Brewing & Serving Methods
We made Oak & Bond Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee using both a French press and a pour-over method (Hario V60, to be precise). Both made an excellent cup of coffee, though the French Press resulted in a bolder, fuller-bodied brew. The pour-over smoothed off its edges, resulting in a lighter, silky-smooth but slightly less robust cup. In both cases, a medium grind serves the coffee well.
This coffee is great served black. Drinking it this way really allows you to pick out the tasting notes that come from the aging process, as well as the origin flavors in the beans themselves. It’s truly a rich, aromatic, and thoroughly enjoyable coffee.
That being said, don’t be shy about stirring in some cream and sugar. We found that the added sweetness and creaminess resulted in something akin to Irish coffee, or a somewhat more subtle version of coffee with a shot of Bailey’s in it. Drinking it this way, it’s hard to believe that there isn’t any actual booze in this coffee.
Final Word: Should You Brew It?
If you like coffee, and you like bourbon, then you’ll most likely find that drinking Oak & Bond Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee is a satisfying and thoroughly enjoyable experience. The bourbon flavors are distinct without being overpowering, and the use of quality, single-origin coffee beans clearly brings an added dimension to the end result.
There are some significantly less-than-successful mergings of coffee and bourbon on the market, and we’re happy to report that Oak & Bond is not one of them. Is it for everyone? Maybe not. But if you like this type of thing, this is a particularly good version of it.
This might not be a coffee you choose to drink every day, but it’s a fun novelty, and we can see it making a great gift for a coffee-and-bourbon connoisseur. Even if you’re a purist who thinks that coffee should always taste like coffee, it’s still worth trying a cup.
And in case you’re interested in trying some other variations on this theme, Oak & Bond makes a few other coffees that are aged in rye whiskey barrels, Scotch whisky barrels, and even California cabernet sauvignon wine barrels. Each is made using a different variety of coffee bean and utilizes a specific roast level intended to best compliment the tasting notes that come from various barrel aging processes.