Maple syrup

I have five little words that will improve any stack of pancakes: Bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup. It’s equally adept at improving slices of French toast.

Specifically, syrup aged in bourbon barrels by Uncle Mike’s Syrup. It is delicious. Maple syrup sweetness layered with vanilla and caramel bourbon flavors is a natural fit. Plus, the whiskey tasting notes came without the alcohol burn.

Those flavors are a perfect complement to the egg-custard-cinnamon nature of French toast.

Uncle Mike’s Syrup owner, Mike Taylor, knows maple syrup. He has been gathering sap from his farm in Birnamwood and running the business out of his Stevens Point home since 2004. His syrup has earned a blue ribbon from the Wisconsin Maple Syrup Producer’s Association.

When Taylor started aging maple syrup in bourbon barrels a couple of years ago, he figured it was a trend that would disappear. But, he’s been surprised at the appetite for barrel-aged syrup.

It’s his bestseller when he’s at craft shows, farmers markets and other events where he can dispense samples. Once people try it, says Taylor, they buy it even though it’s more expensive than his regular syrup.

He also answers the oft-asked question if there’s alcohol in the syrup. The answer is no. If that answer disappoints you, use a teaspoon of the syrup to replace the sugar cube in your next old-fashioned. (You’re welcome.)Maple syrup

Boiling hot syrup is poured into recently emptied bourbon barrels from either Northern Waters Distillery in Minocqua or Great Northern Distilling in Plover to age for “several months,” soaking in charred oak flavors. Taylor uses fresh barrels, which are better at imparting bourbon flavors into the syrup.

The syrup is boiled again before bottling. Any residual alcohol evaporates during the final heat treatment.

At the base is an excellent maple syrup that’s, well, maple-y sweet. Layered in are the bourbon flavors that complement rather than overpower the natural syrup flavors.

While there’s nothing wrong with reserving this syrup for breakfast, it is equally tasty as an ice cream topping.

Regardless of how it’s used, here’s to this trend sticking around for a good long time.

While not distributed statewide, several shops in central Wisconsin and the Fox Cities into Green Bay carry the syrup. It’s also sold at craft fairs, farmers markets and similar events. Check Uncle Mike’s Syrup Facebook page for details. Uncle Mike’s Syrup does an excellent job of balancing maple and bourbon flavors. It’s a natural fit for breakfast foods but is equally good as an ice cream topping or even in old-fashioneds. And what isn’t to love about the syrup being aged in barrels from Wisconsin distilleries?

Fox Valley: Uncle Mike’s Bake Shoppe (De Pere, Suamico and Green Bay), Haen Meat Packing (Kaukauna), The Meat Block (Greenville), Lamer’s Dairy (Appleton), Vande Walle’s Candies (Appleton), Cedar Ridge Crafts and Gifts (Neenah), Eaton’s Pizza/Wisconsin Cheese Worldwide (Fond du Lac), Neumann’s Piggly Wiggly (Waupaca), Crossroads Market (Green Lake), Webster’s Marketplace (Ripon), Horseradish Kitchen + Market (Princeton)

Central Wisconsin: Sweets on Third (Wausau), Stevens Point Area Co-op, Great Northern Distilling (Plover), Weber’s Farm Store (Marshfield), The Cheese Shop (Tomahawk), Besse’s Meat Market (Rhinelander), Northern Waters (Minocqua), The Cheese Board (Minocqua), TJ’s Butcher Block Meats (Minocqua), Whimsies’ Impulsive Necessities (Mercer), Alder Lake Cranberry Gift Shop (Boulder Junction), Sentry Foods (St. Germain), The Trading Post (Eagle River), Three Lakes Winery (Three Lakes), Cenex/Insight FS (Auburndale), Plainfield Travel Plaza, Amish House (Westfield)