I’ve always been something of a lightweight when it comes to holding my liquor. Considering my affinity for bourbon, this has always felt like a rather cruel trick played on me by the food gods. Yet whenever I toss back a little Bluegrass Soy Sauce, well, let’s just say I consider it my own personal Southern Comfort.
It seems that Matt Jamie, the chef and genius behind the only U.S.-based soy sauce microbrewery, is looking out for me. Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Jamie begins with non-GMO soybeans and soft red winter wheat, which are both grown on a nearby farm in Bourbon County. But it’s more than terroir that brings the Bluegrass to this briny blend. Jamie relies on traditional Japanese methods for mixing and fermenting, and then, in a purely American twist, he ages the homemade soy sauce in repurposed oak barrels from Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky. The wood is permeated with a smooth, oaky, caramel aroma, and as the soy sauce ferments, it, too, becomes infused with that distinctive bourbon twang. It, in turn, imparts a little of it to an endless array of foods. A couple of glugs add notes of smoked pepper to tomato sauce; a splash over tofu and broccoli brings a vanilla saltiness to Chinese stir-fry dishes; and I admit that merely eyeing the bottle now inspires me to order take-out sushi, just so I can dip tuna sashimi in a small puddle of the woody, brown-sugary brew. Even though a shot of it served straight up isn’t nearly as appealing as bourbon itself, Bluegrass Soy Sauce allows me to indulge my cravings. And without the looming threat of a hangover the next day, indulge I will.