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Love Tasting Bourbons? This Fredericksburg Bed & Breakfast Might Be Your Dream, meet Owen King from Ironclad Distillery

Love Tasting Bourbons? This Fredericksburg Virgina Bed & Breakfast Might Be Your Dream Visit, Owen King from Ironclad Distillery shares Delicious Details

Ironclad Inn is the first B & B & B – Bed & Breakfast & Bourbon Tasting Room.

Ironclad Inn is the first B & B & B – Bed & Breakfast & Bourbon Tasting Room
Ironclad Inn is the first B & B & B – Bed & Breakfast & Bourbon Tasting Room

Today’s conversation with Distiller Owen King from Ironclad Distillery has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, un-edited conversation, visit our YouTube channel here.

 

Owen King, Ironclad Distillery
Owen King, Ironclad Distillery

Joe Winger: 

A lot of really cool things are happening right now. I want to jump into your tasting room, the distillery, we’ll get into bourbon tastings in a few minutes.

But first and foremost, what’s the most important thing with Ironclad right now for you?

Owen King: 

The most important thing about Ironclad for me right now is the same thing it’s always been, trying to make the best bourbon we can

The other thing is spreading the word about our bed and breakfast; and bourbon. It’s a bed and breakfast in Fredericksburg that when you’re there, you can drink bourbon.

Ironclad's famous Old Fashioned cocktail
Ironclad’s famous Old Fashioned cocktail

We make a lot of old fashions there and we always have all these leftover oranges. Now the perfect thing is in the morning you have fresh squeezed orange juice from our [leftover] old fashions.

It’s really working double duty now.

Besides that I just love the fact that we can now expand our distillery up to Fredericksburg. So we can have more people try our bourbon and enjoy our bourbon, which is the goal.

Joe Winger: 

Getting to know you before you jump into Ironclad, I want to use the word “were”, you were a football player and cooking changed your life.

Tell us more about your cooking. Was there a special dish that enhanced your life?

Owen King: 

I’m Italian. So obviously with the Italian genes, we share our love through food. Growing up I cooked a lot.

When I went to college [I cooked] for my teammates.  I’d make dinner for everyone. So when we decided to open the bourbon distillery, I figured, I know how to cook. I think I could probably figure out how to make bourbon. 

I know flavors. I know how things go well together. I think I have a pretty decent palette. 

So putting all those things together to make a great bourbon was the goal. 

Food is one of those things where you never stop improving. I feel the same about bourbon.


FlavRReport.com on YouTube
FlavRReport.com on YouTube

 

Joe Winger: 

Is there a favorite dish?

Owen King: 

Breaded chicken cutlets and spaghetti.

That is how it started. Then I was like “I really like cheese.”  Maybe I could put cheese in with the breadcrumbs and then do that. Then I started expanding.  Chicken Parm.  Making my own sauce.  Thinking I could add something here to make that better.

It’s the same way I look at bourbon.

Thinking, “I like what this person’s doing. Let me see what they’re doing. I can build off that to make it work on my own.”

Creating my own recipes, going from there, just continually tweaking little things here and there.

We’ll make a 5% difference, maybe a 10% difference.

Joe Winger: 

Ironclad Distillery is in Newport News, Virginia. The bed and breakfast Ironclad Inn is in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

For most people when we think of bourbon, we don’t always think of Virginia as the first choice. What would surprise us most about coming down to Virginia for a bourbon tasting and staying the night?

Ironclad Distillery
Ironclad Distillery

Owen King: 

If you’re coming down to Virginia, you have to remember Virginia is the birthplace of American spirits. The first place spirits were made in the new colonies, in the new world, was here in Virginia. 

The first corn liquor which would eventually become bourbon, was made in Virginia.

You can also talk about Elijah Craig, who was from Fairfax County, Virginia, before he moved out to Kentucky. 

On top of that, Kentucky wasn’t a state until 1793. Evan Williams was doing distillation in 1783, and at that point Kentucky was still Virginia. 

The birthplace of bourbon is right here in Virginia.

I’ve been to Kentucky a lot. They talk about the birthplace of bourbon being there in Kentucky.

Maybe the territory it’s in was Kentucky, but it was still Virginia at the time.

Whenever someone comes by, I can tell them the history of actual bourbon, where you’re gonna get the whole story, not just the fantasized story that you get in Kentucky.

Joe Winger: 

I’m incredibly glad you just shared that.

Let’s talk about The Ironclad Bed and Breakfast now. The bourbon tasting room, the event space.

Owen King: 

We wanted to spread our bourbon out around the state. We’ve always really liked Fredericksburg. It’s a beautiful town. It’s got a ton of history to it.

Nothing goes better with bourbon than a good story.

So we can always tell our history while drinking. So with our bed and breakfast, we looked at what the bigger guys were doing. A lot of them were starting to have these places where you could stay [the night] and get an experience to go along with it.

We really wanted to spread our Ironclad experience. 

We have a tasting room. It’s beautifully decorated by my sister. We’ve got a bottle shop where you can pick up pretty much every one of our bourbons that are available. We’ve got a bar so you can try it from our seasonal cocktail menus where we change it five times a year.

We have a winter, a fall, a spring, summer [menu].Then a holiday menu as well. 

No matter what time of year you’re there, you’re trying something that’s going to go well seasonally.  

Everyone likes seasonal drinks.  You don’t want to drink in the fall, what you’d drink in the summer.

We always have an old fashioned and it’s a damn good old fashioned. 

Then we also have an event space. We have weddings. We’ve had 50th birthday parties. 

Ironclad Inn wedding and special events
Ironclad Inn wedding and special events

We’ve had any event that you want to tie into with our bourbon or just if you want a beautiful event space in a building that was built in 1793 we have that as a great option. 

It’s a really cool spot that you can go and see and experience.

It’s something we want to share, our love for bourbon with everyone.

Whether you’re here in Newport News or in Fredericksburg, you’ll get a King family member there to tell you our story and tell you all about our bourbon and show you around.

Ironclad Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Ironclad Bottled-in-Bond Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Joe Winger: 

Outstanding.  Let’s get to the tasty part now.  You have several amazing bottles.  When someone comes to your tasting room this weekend, what should they be looking forward to? 

Owen King: 

We do a few bottle releases that are once a year for us. One of my favorites. 

A five year, three barrel blend of three 30 gallon barrels. Bottle of Bond.

The history alone is one of my favorite things to talk about.  In 1897 the federal government stepped in because there was people dying from drinking bad whiskey.

They stepped in to “certify” everything in there.

“If you bottle it at four years old and at 100 proof, we will claim that this is a bottle and bond bourbon certified” by the federal government that it is safe to drink.

That story alone is one of my favorites of bourbon lore. 

We just want to make sure that we do that every year that we can.

It’s absolutely one of my favorite bourbons. It’s our four grain mash bill. 70% corn 10% wheat, 10% rye, 10% malted barley. 

So with the corn and the wheat, it adds a nice sweetness to it. But then the rye is there to kind of balance that whole thing out.  Before it gets [to be] a very sweet bourbon, it balances out, a little baking spice, maybe even some clove, maybe a little black pepper.

It balances it out to be a nice, rounded bourbon.

Ironclad Sweeter Creations Maple Syrup Cask
Ironclad Sweeter Creations Maple Syrup Cask

Joe Winger:

Let’s move on to your Maple Syrup Cask

Owen King: 

Absolutely delicious. But this is a cast finish, not a flavored bourbon.  So we’re not adding maple syrup to it. People who drink it might think it’s going to be super sweet and not going to like it. Because they don’t like maple syrup.

This is my version of drinking maple syrup responsibly and not getting diabetes. 

After we empty our barrels, we give them to a maple syrup producer in upstate New York.  He’ll age his maple syrup using our bourbon barrels. 

By doing that through transference, there’s about a gallon of bourbon stuck in the staves of the wood. So when he puts a new liquid in there, that maple syrup is going to absorb into the wood and that bourbon is going to come back out.

Now his maple syrup is picking up that beautiful bourbon flavor and we are picking up all that maple syrup flavor into the wood. 

When he brings those barrels back down to us, we put our aged bourbon back in there and we let him finish in there for about three to six months. 

After we take the bourbon out, it’s now got this beautiful, mild sweetness, but it’s got that hint of maple syrup at the end.

I always say, I don’t want it to be maple syrup with a hint of bourbon. I want it to be bourbon with a hint of maple syrup, which I think it absolutely is.

Ironclad Missouri Toasted Oak Cask
Ironclad Missouri Toasted Oak Cask

Joe Winger: 

The maple syrup is so subtle, almost a tertiary flavor to it. 

Moving on to the Missouri Toasted Oak Cask.

Owen King: 

This is a double oak bourbon.  With double oaking, what you’re going to do is exactly how it sounds. 

You’re going to go from one new charred oak barrel. But instead of a second new charred oak barrel, we’re going to go to a lightly toasted barrel.

So my analogy for this is you’re sitting at a campfire and you’ve got a marshmallow. You’re roasting your marshmallow over the flame and it gets burnt. It catches on fire. So now you’ve got that roasted marshmallow where you’re still gonna eat it because it’s a roasted marshmallow.

So you eat it and it’s still sweet. But it’s got that sort of maybe a bitter acrid note just cause you burnt those sugars. You haven’t toasted them. 

Now you take another marshmallow.  You’re a little more patient this time.  You’re going to stick it down in the coals and you’ll slowly rotate it until you’ve got that perfectly golden brown marshmallow. 

When you taste it, it’s now twice as sweet because you just caramelize those sugars as opposed to burning them. 

It’s the same with a charred oak barrel to a toasted oak barrel.  With that charring of those oaks, you’re gonna you’re still gonna have that sweetness.  We’re amplifying that sweetness with the toasting of the oak. 

With this one you get those softer vanilla flavors like toasted marshmallow. You get a cookie dough flavor,  maybe it’s raw cookie dough without the chocolate chips.

Joe Winger: 

That’s amazing. mmIs there an extra bottle when I come down there, I’m in the tasting room, another good bottle we should ask for?

Owen King: 

Another one that we have right now that is a very limited run.   Very small release is our blueberry mead cask finish

We give our barrels to a meadery in Williamsburg, Virginia and they make this blueberry honey mead.  So now they have this bourbon barrel aged blueberry mead. And when they’re done with them, they give them back to us. 

You’re not necessarily overwhelmed with [a] heavy blueberry flavor but it opens up to this really nice fruitiness and then like a fermented honey flavor on the front end. 

It’s so unique, but it’s great neat on the rocks.

Joe Winger: 

If we come down for the weekend, we visit the distillery in Newport News. What’s a tour like? 

Owen King: 

If people aren’t the biggest bourbon drinker, I want you to walk away saying, “Okay, I found something that is made with bourbon that I like.”

We are a distillery that only makes bourbon. 

I want to make sure that everyone who comes here has something they can enjoy.  This isn’t an uppity bourbon bar.

I want someone to come and be able to say,  I’m not the biggest bourbon fan. What kind of cocktails do you have?” We always have a cocktail on every single menu that’s open for everyone. 

Everyone’s going to love it and whether you’re a big bourbon fan or not.  We just really want to be accommodating. We want to be a fun place for everyone to hang out. 

We want to tell our story, the history of the Ironclad ships.  Go through our distillery tour, we’ll show you that. If you want to know the history of Fredericksburg, or the history of What the bed and breakfast is we’ll tell you that.

Nothing pairs better with bourbon than a good story. And we really care about spreading that word.

Joe Winger: 

Whether it’s a romantic getaway, a weekend getaway, why choose your bed and breakfast instead of a hotel?

Owen King: 

While we’ve only had it a short time.  But we’ve been adding things here and there. You’re going to get a fresh orange juice in the morning, made with the oranges that we used for our old fashions [last night]. 

We have our barrel aged maple syrup for your pancakes.  So you’re going to have that maple syrup with a hint of bourbon. 

Ironclad Inn
Ironclad Inn

We really drive home that it’s a bed breakfast and bourbon experience. Get immersed in the bourbon culture.  That’s our goal.

Joe Winger: 

Any favorite bourbon and food pairings?

Owen King: 

Bourbon’s wonderful for food pairings.  

We’ve gone from pasta pairings to pizza pairings.  Anything that’s fatty is a perfect pairing.  Pork belly with a cherry reduction over top of it with one of our bourbons straight 

We have this bourbon cream, Buzz’s Bourbon Cream, where it’s made with our small batch bourbon that’s infused with coffee beans, cacao nibs, and vanilla beans. That one over vanilla ice cream is perfection. 

You’re adding a little booze, some coffee, a little bit of chocolate.

You take a bite and all of a sudden you had three scoops and it’s gone 30 seconds later.

Joe Winger: 

What’s the best way to learn more about Ironclad Distillery and Ironclad Inn?

Owen King: 

We have our website at ironcladdistillery.com. All of our social media Facebook and Instagram

Joe Winger
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: [email protected]
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