Mike Ryan knows his bourbon. He spent the past three decades amassing an impressive collection of bourbons and whiskeys from all over the world until one day he looked at his collection and wondered if he could do better. Ryan, a longtime Katy resident, is a chemical engineer, and the science of the process and flavors of bourbon always fascinated him.
“I looked at all the bourbons and whiskeys and said, ‘I think I can do better.’ So I started experimenting,” Ryan recalled.
Ryan called his best friend, Joe D. Baker, an attorney and former Marine, and the two decided to create and sell the perfect bourbon. The result is Semper Fi Big Stick Bourbon, a bourbon with a unique scientific element to it. Five percent of all proceeds from the sale of the bourbon go directly to veterans’ charities.
The company name Semper Fi is a nod to the U.S. Marine Corps and the company’s commitment to supporting veterans. The Big Stick brand comes from the oak stick in each bottle of bourbon.
The stick is the secret to the science of good bourbon, Ryan said. The sticks are American charred white oak made in Katy. When the bourbon is poured into the bottle, the flavor finishes on the oak stake. “When you put the bourbon in the bottle, the flavor dramatically changes,” Ryan explained. “It goes from three shades lighter to three shades darker, and the flavor profile is extremely different.”
Because the flavor profile comes from the stick and not a prolonged aging process, according to Ryan, he has created a bourbon with a flavor that emulates decades of aging that he can sell at a lower price. “It goes from a normal bourbon to something that other people have said tastes like 16-year-old bourbon, but not at that price point.”
By Claire Goodman
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