Bourbon-based jelly? 
It’s a Kentucky thing

When you live in Kentucky, sometimes you just want a little bourbon to spread on your toast in the morning. It’s what we do here.

Enter Highland Bard, a small, local outfit operated by father-daughter team David and Morgan Bard, who recently rolled out a new line of products including a jelly made with tea and Maker’s Mark, among other ingredients.

The duo started out doing custom leather goods and art but later expanded into natural teas and now jellies, landing their products locally in Lucky’s Market and Bourbon Barrel Foods, as well as at Jungle Jim’s in Cincinnati. They’re also talking with Rainbow Blossom about placement in its four locations locally.

But what of this bourbon jelly?

Well, it’s actually called Vanilla Spice Tea Jelly, and it comes on with hints of butterscotch and vanilla and, of course, a hint of the bourbon within. It is made with rooibos, calendula petals, almond slices and bourbon vanilla tincture (essentially, vanilla beans dissolved in bourbon) for a bright, unique flavor that offers plenty of options for uses.

David Bard suggested that using the jelly to make a glaze for salmon is a good starter. But his mother uses their jelly products as a snack, with crackers and cream cheese.

Moonlight Mango Tea Jelly combines flavors of pineapple, mango orange, tangerine, strawberry and more for a bright, almost tropical, jelly product. Peach Dragon Tea Jelly is a subtler blend that includes flavors of apple, hibiscus, chamomile and, of course, peach. The rich Forest Berry Tea Jelly is sure to please your inner 8-year-old and would be a natural pairing for peanut butter or as a dessert glaze.

But the Mint Julep Tea Jelly might be the most complex of the new product line, with a plethora of flavors, ranging from peppermint and spearmint to lemongrass, plantain, lavender and wintergreen.

The teas and jellies contain no animal products (unlike many gelatin products), and the consistency is probably closer to Jell-O than to Smucker’s. Part of that is because the jelly is tea-based and not fruit-based, meaning it also has about half the sugar of a commercial jelly. It’s nearly guilt-free.

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Highland Bard began rolling about two and a half years ago, but the team has obviously been together much longer – Morgan is 19 and an artist. David is an entrepreneur who has worked extensively in the tech space, but he always had his daughter close at hand so she could learn the ropes.

“He’s been taking me to business meetings since I was 10,” she said. “It definitely prepared me for starting my own business.”

The company, which has products recently certified Kentucky Proud, has been hanging its hat on the new bestseller, which is the Maker’s Mark-infused jelly. The refreshing Mint Julep version isn’t far behind. Hey, it’s Kentucky. “The bourbon thing is a whole new market for us,” David said, and it’s a market they tend to continue pursuing.

But the Bards are descended from Scottish and Irish ancestors, which is why the company began with a Celtic theme — and the brand still reflects that. So it is that a new wave of products is currently in development that will focus on alcohol-based jellies, including getting back to the Celtic roots.

The new line, which the Bards hope to launch in early fall, will pair with the Maker’s Mark and Mint Julep jellies and will include a jelly made with Jameson Irish Whiskey that will feature flavors of apple cloves and cinnamon. A mead-based jelly also is in the works, which would bring with it flavors of orange blossom.

And a Scotch whisky is being developed with GlenDronach scotch from a distillery owned by Brown-Forman and located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Coincidentally, that’s where some of the Bards’ ancestors originated, which sort of brings the new direction full circle.

David admitted his particular excitement for the Scotch jelly, noting that it will be quite different, with a “chocolatey, dusky” flavor to blend with the natural peat flavors in the whisky.

Of course, the kicker is continuing the journey as father and daughter. David has developed apps, worked in the music industry and more, but he’s excited like never before by teas and jellies. “This is the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, to build a successful business with my daughter,” he said, adding, “And we never argue.” That’s when I learned that Morgan has a truly robust laugh. Dads are so funny.

You can meet the Bards and sample the jellies Friday, July 20, from 5 to 7 p.m., at Lucky’s Market, 200 N. Hurstbourne Parkway.

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