The Maple Maven

A woodworker makes distinctively flavored syrup by aging it in used whiskey casks

September 20, 2012

Art Drauglis ages and sells booze-enhanced Langdon Wood Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup.

Woodworker Art Drauglis’ small furniture showroom in Northwest D.C. near Takoma Park is a modest affair. Windowless and hot, its walls are dotted with Drauglis’ handmade walnut and cherry wood shelves. Though you wouldn’t expect it, Drauglis is masterminding a culinary mash-up in this unassuming space.

It’s all happening in the wooden barrels filled with amber liquid that sit on the floor. What’s inside isn’t high-proof liquor, though; it’s maple syrup.

The sweet stuff comes from Milroy Farms in Salisbury, Pa., and spends two months inside these casks. Over that time, the maple syrup gets infused with the natural flavors from the barrels (currently, Drauglis is using a pair of 30-gallon rye whiskey casks from Purcellville, Va.’s Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. and a single 10-gallon wheat whiskey cask from Bainbridge Organic Distillers on Bainbridge Island, Wash.).

“You’re going to get some warmth from the liquor,” Drauglis says. “Maybe a little bit of smoke from the char in the barrel.”

It definitely isn’t your average Aunt Jemima. What Drauglis has dubbed Langdon Wood Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup (named after his Langdon Park neighborhood) possesses a boozy undertone — which means you can finally have whiskey on your pancakes without raising any eyebrows.

Flavor Development

The venture began early last year after Drauglis participated in a bottling workshop at Catoctin Creek. The distillery was selling some of its used barrels, so he bought a few.


Drauglis packages a crate of Langdon Wood syrup at his woodworking studio in Northwest Washington.

Months later, he experimented with a whiskey-aging kit and wondered how he might reuse the tiny wooden cask it came with. When he read that Michigan’s Founders Brewing Co. had aged beer in bourbon barrels and then used those casks to age maple syrup, he decided he wanted to try something similar.

Last July, he put his first batch of syrup into his larger barrels from Catoctin Creek. At the end of September, he tapped them and handed out the results to friends and family. “Everyone loved it,” he says. “They convinced me to scale up.”

Off to a Sweet Start

Drauglis’ barrel-aged maple syrup’s big debut was at the Crafty Bastards art fair last October. Without any advertising, he managed to sell about 200 bottles of maple syrup — more than two-thirds of his first batch. Compared to his wood products — which can cost thousands of dollars — this was an unprecedented amount.

“Furniture can be a hard sell,” Drauglis says. “But people would stop by the booth, have a taste of the maple syrup, and walk away with a bottle.”

Since then, he has aged several more rounds. He sells the syrup at local events such as the Grey Market, in the Catoctin Creek Distilling Co. showroom and in his Etsy store.

“People keep coming back for it,” he says. “That’s really satisfying.”

Circle of Life

To make Langdon Wood Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup, Art Drauglis uses each whiskey barrel just once. But the barrel’s story doesn’t end there: Drauglis passes his used containers on to brewers, who reuse them to age their beer in. One barrel went to DC Brau for a batch of its Stone of Arbroath Scotch ale, while several others were passed on to 4 Hands Brewing Co. in St. Louis. The casks give the beer maple-y undertones.

Purchase Langdon Wood Barrel-Aged Maple Syrup at the Grey Market (Emergence Community Art Collective, 733 Euclid St. NW; Oct. 7, noon-4 p.m.) or online at Etsy.com/shop/LangdonWood.
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