If you haven't heard the good news yet, Belle Isle Craft Spirits is extremely excited to introduce the latest addition to our lineup, Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee.
Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee is the result of our first collaborative effort to create a new infusion. In every bottle, you'll find the perfect combination of our award-winning Premium Moonshine, Blanchard’s Roasting Co.'s cold brew coffee and fresh roasted beans, and just a hint of real Virginia honey.
This creation and collaboration didn't happen overnight. We took plenty of time working to find the right ingredients and perfect balance to develop our invigorating new infusion. To celebrate, we invited our partners in crime at Blanchard's Roasting Co. to the distillery for a final tasting and to learn more about how Belle Isle Cold Brew Coffee came to be.
How did this collaboration between Belle Isle Craft Spirits and Blanchard's Roasting Co. come together?
Gregg Brooks, Director of Production at Belle Isle Craft Spirits: After having played around with the recipe for years and with the thought that this might work as a viable product, I cold-called Blanchard’s one day in the Fall of 2015 to see if they’d be willing to meet to discuss the product. I was already a fan of their coffee, and that point before their move they were just a few blocks away from Belle Isle HQ in Manchester. I initially talked to Seth, he seemed stoked so we set up a meeting for a few days later.
When I showed up to Blanchard’s, I was ushered upstairs to a small room with a table and chairs. David, Stephen and Seth were all there waiting on me, and at that point I felt like I was on a job interview. Nothing like pouring shots of moonshine to prospective collaborators early in the afternoon.They were all great, loved the idea, and were very helpful in pointing me in the right direction in terms of how to get the best infusion from their product. When we decided that we definitely wanted to do a coffee infusion product, I already had the recipe and process ready to go.
Stephen Robertson, Director of Sales & Marketing at Blanchard's: Gregg showed up one day to our roasting facility that was, at that time, just a few blocks from Belle Isle's space. He mentioned he had been playing around with coffee infusions with moonshine and wanted to see if we were interested in taking a stab at a collaboration. We are always up for trying new things - and we were at a point where we said yes to pretty much anything that sounded like it could be fun and creative, so, we all started dropping coffee beans in moonshine to see what shook out.
I remember, vividly, our first tasting meeting which happened in the early afternoon in our tasting room. We didn't taste that much moonshine, but I remember saying afterwards, "I don't know how those Belle Isle guys do quality control on a regular basis, because I'm exhausted and I just want to take a nap."
What went into choosing the right ingredient combination for the infusion?
Stephen, Blanchard's: When we went about deciding which coffees to use in the infusion, we had a number of factors to consider. First and foremost, we wanted a quality coffee - that is a no-brainer - but we also wanted to maintain consistency within that quality, meaning we needed to source a coffee that has a large enough production that it is available to us for the entire year.
We were already sourcing large quantities of an excellent organic coffee from the Santa Rosa Estate in Honduras and it seemed like a perfect fit. It also happens to fit into the flavor character we were shooting for in this infusion - a rich chocolate-caramel character. The Santa Rosa Estate, in unison with our Hair of the Dog Cold Brew work perfectly in unison with the soft sweetness of the organic honey to create a lovely coffee flavor and soft texture in the final product. We're really proud of the way it turned out.
Seth Bauserman, Chief Roaster at Blanchard's Roasting Co.: For the cold brew component, we sourced our coffee from one of our partner farms, El Obraje, in Colombia. The beans have this wonderful balance that really lends itself to the cold brew process. There's some heavy swiss chocolate notes, but also some citrus and herbal complexities.
What were your initial thoughts on this collaborative project?
Seth, Blanchard's: I was a little weary at first. I didn't really know what to expect and didn't know how it would all come together. But I've got to say, Gregg's persistence paid off and over the course of six months we created something really interesting. Using fresh coffee as an ingredient is always difficult, because it often ends up tasting stale and oxidized when it is not immediately consumed. The cold brew offers that fresh coffee experience which lasts, and that ultimately is what became the key to this product.
Gregg, Belle Isle Craft Spirits: The outcome of the final product is definitely beyond my expectations. I never thought we’d use honey as a sweetener, but it mixed so well and adds just the right amount of sweetness to offset the bitterness from the coffee. It’s also much more versatile that I had first imagined it being. I think it looks great in a bottle. I’m truly proud of the work that went into this product, and obviously even prouder of what we made in the end.
Stephen, Blanchard's: Honestly, my initial thoughts and my thoughts on the project throughout its development were that of keeping an open mind and hoping for the best - assuming it would be a fun project, but not building up a lot of expectation. It didn't hit me until Gregg dropped off a prototype for the finished product exactly how exceptional the final product would be. Part of this is that Gregg plugged along on the recipe and we didn't really taste the final product until it was the final product. We tasted some early prototypes, and they were good, but not great, but when he finally nailed it, I was blown away. That, in addition to the stellar packaging - I was absolutely floored with how the product turned out. It really hit me how special of a product we had when I saw the bottles on my local ABC store shelves, and I was super proud of seeing it there.
What do you think makes this product different from anything else out there?
Stephen, Blanchard's: To my knowledge, there is only one other coffee-moonshine in the world - and it is not in the US - so that is obviously a contribution to the uniqueness of the product. Outside of that, I think the Belle Isle brand has such great agency with customers and bartenders already, that this infusion is a natural seller. Additionally, the people who buy Belle Isle are the same kind of people who buy craft coffee like ours, so combining the two is a natural fit.
Gregg, Belle Isle Craft Spirits: The main difference is that, just like all of our other products, everything in this bottle is real. There’s spirit made from organic corn, coffee and honey. Nothing else. No artificial flavor or colors or extracts, just real ingredients. That makes a huge difference to us at Belle Isle, and we hope that resonates with anyone who is interested in our products.
How do you imagine people drinking Cold Brew Coffee Moonshine?
Seth, Blanchard's: Neat.
Gregg, Belle Isle Craft Spirits: My first thought is people taking shots of it in the morning after a long night of drinking. That’s pretty much how the whole idea came about many years ago. Before there was Blanchard’s Hair of the Dog Cold Brew, there was Gregg’s Hair of the Dog Hangover Shot. It was popular at brunch for sure. I now truly envision the product being included in many different styles of cocktails. It plays nicely with liqueurs, amaros and bourbon. It’s obviously a great substitute for Kahlua in any drink, especially the good old White Russian. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s also great to pull a bottle out of the refrigerator and take a shot straight to the face.
Stephen, Blanchard's: Originally, I figured this product would be somewhat of a novelty from a home-use perspective, and an ingredient for cocktail makers, but the final product is so good - especially with the addition of honey - that I think it stands alone as well as it adds to cocktails. It pairs well with fruit-forward cocktails just as well as it pairs with more savory cocktails, and it is absolutely perfect over ice.
Photos by Joey Wharton