Industrious Spirit Company’s Blue Velvet Bourbon is Back

The bourbon generally ages for at least two years and it's now available for purchase and tastings at the Providence distillery.
Rachel Hulin

Photography by Rachel Hulin

Fellow whiskey enthusiasts, take note: the Industrious Spirit Company (ISCO) is doing us all a solid and adding their delicious Blue Velvet Bourbon back to their spirits lineup next weekend. To say its debut in January 2021 was well-received would be an understatement — the company’s initial run sold out in mere hours.

“We are proud to bring back Blue Velvet Bourbon,” say head distillers, Dan Neff and Eric Olson. “This continues to be a very special project for us. While good things take time, and bourbon generally ages for at least two years (as will most of ours), the unique nature of the corns that we used for this special project has allowed us to create something youthful yet fully expressive, showing off our passion for flavor.”

While ISCO is well known for its vodkas and gins, bourbons have always been in the plan for the Providence-based distillery.

“We’ve actually been making bourbon since the very beginning, but it takes a lot longer than other things, and that’s why our other spirits have all come out first. This is just the first of what will be a series of bourbons that will come out over the upcoming years. There’s lots more to come,” says Manya Rubinstein, ISCO’s CEO.

Blue Velvet is a strong opener, and its genesis is all thanks to a friendly challenge from a friend.

“They are involved in a company that creates masa, a type of maize dough made from nixtamalized corn that’s used for making tortillas, and they work will all these amazing family farmers in Mexico. They source just these incredible grains, and the tortillas made from them are most incredible tortillas you will ever get from a restaurant or make at home,” Rubinstein explains. “So, that was really the genesis, like could this corn that had been grown for flavor make an amazing bourbon?”

The answer was yes, yes it could. Neff and Olson created Blue Velvet from 100% blue corn using a blend of two very distinct varieties: the aforementioned landlace (a.k.a. a plant grown in its original region with a nearly identical genetic makeup to its wild ancestor) blue strain from Oaxaca, Mexico, and an organic strain of indigo developed in Kentucky. After being cooked and fermented, the bourbon was carefully distilled in small batches before being stored in charred new oak barrels for twelve to eighteen months.

“When we released it last time, it was really our experimental barrel. We have quite a lot more available this time around, but we still expect to sell out. It’s definitely less limited, though — hopefully more people will get to try it!” Rubinstein says.

Rubinstein is more than happy to tease the tasting notes for those who may have missed the bourbon last time.

“On the nose, it sort of has a butter caramel thing going on with notes of cocoa and blue corn. And then on the palate, it’s more of a toasted corn and vanilla spice. It’s quite nice. Then finish is really smooth with notes of light roasted coffee and chocolate as well as a warming cinnamon flavor,” she says. “It’s really a lovely thing neat or over a big ice cube. I suppose you could put it in a cocktail, but why would you?”

The head distillers concur: “Our favorite way to enjoy Blue Velvet is sipped neat or on the rocks.”

Proceeds fromt he recent raffle at the launch party will benefit the American Farmland Trust and Fundacion Tortilla.

“We thought, because the bourbon is a blend of Mexican blue corn with an American blue corn, we would split the proceeds between two different organizations. I came to this project through a deep passion for regenerative farming and sustainable agriculture, and these are two organizations that both engage with those things in different ways. The American Farmland Trust is an awesome American organization that works to protect agricultural land and to help farmers farm in more environmentally sustainable ways. And then Fundacion Tortilla, they do all kinds of really great work promoting the culture and consumption of Mexican maize — everything from breeding programs to preserve heritage grains to culinary programs to help promote this traditional food source,” Rubinstein says.

Supporting these organizations are in line not only with the bourbon’s origins, but also with ISCO’s mission to help people begin to start thinking about spirits the way they think about their local food.

“We want to get curious about the story of how something’s made, where it comes from, what that process looks like, who grew the grain inside the spirit you’re drinking and make those connections more,” she explains.

Visit ISCO’s website for more information.