For coffee lovers who hate to choose between night drinking and day drinking, your prayers have been answered. Bourbon and whiskey-flavored coffee is the latest trend in specialty coffee, and it’s coming from both big liquor brands and small-batch roasters.
There are a few ways to get that warm flavor into the beans, ranging from infusion to barrel aging to old-fashioned artificial flavoring. While these coffees don’t contain alcohol, you certainly will smell like you’ve been hitting the bottle before breakfast. So drink with caution.
Whiskey Barrel Coffee – Light Roast Small Batch
From the packaging to the aroma, this coffee made an excellent first impression. The coffee is presented elegantly in a glass bottle with a wax seal. The aroma is sweet with a smoky bourbon smell. When ground, the coffee bean aroma comes forward. While brewing in my Chemex, it smelled like dark chocolate fudge.
This was my favorite of all the samples because of its balance of intense flavors. The coffee tastes strong without being bitter. This is definitely a different flavor from regular coffee; however, it does not have the medicinal aftertaste that the real combination of coffee and alcohol can create. It pairs well with whole milk and little sugar, which adds a caramel sweetness.
Whiskey Barrel Coffee – Blacksmith Espresso
The small batch espresso from Whiskey Barrel Coffee has a more subtle bourbon flavor and makes a delightful espresso shot that is full-bodied and creamy. It makes a slightly tangy cappuccino that has a kick to it as well.
The Colorado-based company specializes in exactly what the name says: whiskey barrel-aged coffee. Through a selective process they have sourced beans that won’t be overwhelmed by the bourbon flavor, and they place unroasted green beans in bourbon barrels so they can slowly absorb the flavor characteristics of the bourbon. The company offers a decent selection from high-end sourced beans to quality blends. Shout out to their Moonshine blend for creativity.
Jim Beam – Bourbon Vanilla
Jim Beam just released its new line of bourbon-flavored coffees in May. The Arabica beans are artificially-flavored, and the coffee is non-alcoholic, but it has a distinctive bourbon taste. While brewing with a Chemex, it produced a strong, spicy aroma suggestive of bourbon and baking vanilla. Overall, the flavors are smooth and well-integrated. This coffee reminds me of how I used to love International Foods’ French Vanilla when I was in college but it’s less stale-tasting than the powder. It’s a nice sipping coffee that pairs well with milk and sugar.
The Bourbon Vanilla makes a sugar-sweet cappuccino (with whole milk) that doesn’t actually need added sugar. It has a caramel, vanilla taste that’s even, and would make a good dessert coffee.
Jim Beam – Original Bourbon-Flavored Coffee
The Original makes a warm chocolate/cinnamon flavored cappuccino. These medium-roasted beans balance with the bourbon taste so that it’s not too much. Jim Beam’s coffee is distributed by White Coffee, which also distros Kahlúa Coffee. Fans of the brand will like this as well because it’s not too heavy on the bourbon taste and can be easily paired with the real thing for a cocktail. Jim Beam’s flavor experiments also include Cinnamon Stick and Spiced Honey.
Fire Dept. Coffee – Bourbon-Infused
If you are looking for a strong bourbon taste, this is the one. Bold, dark, and full-bodied, this is the most bourbon-forward of all the samples I tried. This new small batch roaster recently was founded by firefighters in Illinois. The beans are handcrafted with an obvious attention to detail. Each bag comes with a batch stamp, and the beans taste freshly roasted.
I had to adjust my normal coffee-to-water ratio to bring the balance more to my liking because this coffee is strong. Whole milk and a little sugar mellows the bourbon flavor without watering down the drink overall. As an espresso shot the bourbon flavor seems to take center stage, making it a solid base for a liquor/espresso cocktail.
Their Spirit Infused Coffee Line features a proprietary infusion process. The lineup includes tequila-infused and rum-infused coffees.
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey Coffee
This coffee smells amazing in the bag with its mix of vanilla, caramel, and brown sugar aroma. As it’s brewed, the pleasant aroma transforms to something reminiscent of chocolate-covered cherries (at least, to me). The whiskey flavor is subtle and yields to the coffee bean flavor. It makes a cup of bold coffee without a heavy mouth-feel.
The beans are described as “artificially flavored” with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, and the coffee is produced in partnership with World of Coffee. Unlike the small batch samples, this coffee, like the Jim Beam coffees, comes pre-ground, which means it’s going to be less fresh. Although I do accept that for flavored coffees that are brewed infrequently, not everyone wants to spend a lot of time grinding beans. I would have preferred a whole bean option.
Medium roast body of 100% Arabica beans with vanilla, caramel flavor (and a dash of cinnamon). As an espresso, the whiskey flavor balances out and it produces a weighty shot. It makes a great base for a cappuccino with a twist.
Black Powder Roasting – Bourbon-Infused
This bourbon-infused coffee is more than a novelty. There’s an alcohol heat without the aftertaste. It’s darker than a medium roast but not too oily or bitter. Of all the samples, I used the least coffee-to-water here to balance out the intensity of the flavors, which means there’s a wide flavor spectrum depending on how you decide to brew it. The hand-selected, craft-roasted beans are from Costa Rica and were infused, aged and slow-roasted with Kentucky Straight Bourbon. I preferred this one unadorned, without milk or sugar.
The small batch roaster from Mooresville, NC, in the Charlotte-area, offers a variety of special roasts including a cognac-infused coffee and a coconut and rum flavored Jamaican-inspired blend.