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By Wesley Robinson
News Intern/The Oldham Era
Behind quality packaging and crazy catchphrases, Kentucky BourbonQ has built a strong local brand with a bit of international appeal.
The locally owned company produces several flavors of barbecue sauce, spices and rubs, all of which are made, packaged and shipped out of Louisville to locations all over the U.S. and Canada. It even boasts business as far away as Australia.
Kentucky BourbonQ’s recipe for success is simple.
“People pick up the bottles, read the labels and then they find out it’s a good sauce and come back,” said owner Tracy Best. “We do have a unique flavor. We use all fresh and natural ingredients. It’s gluten- and MSG-free. We really strive for the quality of our sauces.”
The company sells its sauces under two brands: Pappy’s and the more upscale BourbonQ label.
Each sauce is bottled in a glass bourbon flask, which helps preserve flavor and adds to the quality of the overall product. Sauces range from mild to hot and retail for $6.99 (Pappy’s) and $8.99 (BourbonQ) for 12.7-ounce bottles.
Despite the name, the sauces contain less than 3 percent bourbon. The sauce’s alcohol content is cooked out during the cooking process, but the unique bourbon flavor remains in the finished product, Best said.
All of the Pappy’s brand labels feature a unique slogan or catch phrase designed to attract the eye of potential customers.
The BourbonQ line goes for simplicity with a more classic design.
Best said she and her ex-husband Shane started manufacturing BourbonQ sauces in 2000, after their catering business became more complicated and less lucrative than they had hoped.
Aside from the Louisville manufacturer, Bloemer Foods, Best works from her Westport home and is aided by Jennifer Nolte, who does sales and marketing for the company on a part-time basis.
Nolte attributes the company’s success to great products and going above and beyond with customer service, something most companies wouldn’t be bothered to do.
“I think a lot of business now is just (about) being flexible,” Nolte said. “Tracy’s really good about being open-minded to ideas and taking one extra step for the customer.”
Nolte said a lot of the business BourbonQ has garnered has come from people getting to taste the sauce at shows all over the United States, along with the packaging concept.
“I think it’s just getting it out there and showing it off to the right people,” Nolte said.
Best said she competes in cook-off competitions, presents the sauce nationally at product showcases and is working with the Kentucky Small Business Development Center to further expand Kentucky BourbonQ’s business.
Recently, the BourbonQ Classic sauce was featured in “Every Day with Rachael Ray” magazine in the July/August issue’s spread titled, “United States of Sauce.” Best said the people from the magazine reached out to her to include the sauce in the article.
Ellie Troutman, owner of the 1887 Corner Store in La Grange, has been selling Kentucky BourbonQ’s sauces for nearly a year. She said all of the company’s products sell quickly, particularly at the holidays. She singled out the BourbonQ Classic and the Not Made in China sauces as the most popular her store.
“All of it sells well,” Troutman said. “None of it stays on the shelves very long.”
Troutman has a portion of the Corner Store devoted to local products to avoid giving her store an overly commercialized feel.
“The best selling point is [BourbonQ products are] locally made,” Troutman said. “This is specific to our region. People want to send gifts that are local.”
E-mail us about this story at Intern@oldhamera.com.