Whatever you do, don’t call the guys and gals at Dark Matter Coffee Company “progressive,” even despite the fact that they are the first coffee roasters in Chicago to offer barrel-aged coffee—a service that was previously only provided by local breweries.
In fact, one of those local breweries, Goose Island, is to thank for this new product
Owner/roastmaster Jesse Diaz insists that, even though barrel-aging goods is all the rage—whether the goods are beer, wine, jam, syrup, etc.—this practice, particularly when it comes to coffee, “…isn’t innovative. This is Old World.”
It’s the Dutch East India Company‘s historic, 17th-century method of shipping green coffee: in barrels, often previously used for rum, bourbon, pickles, or salt.
This is going to be a rotating barrel-aged series of iced coffee, using whatever coffee they are presenting at the time, and branding it as Black Splash. Currently, Black Splash is from Vista Hermosa in Santa Ana, El Salvador—one of several farms belonging to the Pacas family—and their current batch of greens is spending a week in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels.
Federico Pacas and family are some of the most innovative coffee producers in the world. The Pacas trees that are found on this property are a heritage coffee first planted in 1965 and named after Federico’s grandfather, Don Alberto Pacas.
Dark Matter’s barrel aging experiment will continue as more barrels are on the way: absinthe barrels from Letherbee (to be filled with Ethiopian beans), whiskey barrels from Koval, and a bourbon barrel that recently held Virtue cider.
Welcome to my Table, here in the corner of this cafe. Today we’re partaking in a special treat—the Pacas Joven Bourbon Barrel-Aged “Black Splash,” from Dark Matter Coffee Company in Chicago, Illinois. Feel free to pull up a chair.
region: Santa Ana, El Salvador
farm: Vista Hermosa
producer: Federico Pacas
elevation: 1500 – 2000 meters above sea level
process: pulped natural
The aroma of the Black Splash erupts out of my snifter. This coffee has a really unique and complex aroma, almost certainly due to the bourbon barrel. Really beautiful scents of coconut and chocolate milk intertwined with massive scents of, you guessed it, bourbon.
The flavor is pretty extraordinary too. It has incredible notes of chocolate malt and cherry, coconut and grape, apple and praline almonds—that’s the Vista Hermosa coming through. I can certainly taste the barrel, though, as each sip has a heavy dose of oak and that unmistakable bourbon mustiness that leaves behind a slightly astringency sip after sip.
Full body; buttery mouthfeel; grape acidity; dry finish.
the bottom line:
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Black Splash, from Dark Matter Coffee Company. No, I take that back—I kind of knew what was coming when I learned that Dark Matter was doing a barrel-aged coffee; I figured that the coffee would be a flavor experience, the likes of which I had never tasted before.
Not just because it is, indeed, a bourbon barrel-aged coffee, but also because it was, indeed, roasted by Dark Matter Coffee, and that is quite the combination.
What I wasn’t expecting, though, was that this coffee would be as enjoyable as it is. Honestly, going on I thought that it would be too much flavor—a flavor overload. Instead, though, the Black Splash was surprisingly enjoyable—a nice afternoon treat to slowly sip on a hot summer afternoon. It’s even better to enjoy on the back porch with a cigar, under the night sky, with a little blues music in the background.
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Andrew is a husband, father, dog lover, craft beverage enthusiast, content creator, and niche market Internet celebrity. Formerly of A Table in the Corner of the Cafe and The Pulitzer Project and contributor to Barista Magazine and Mental Floss, he’s been writing on the Internet for years.