BY LORI MCDONALD | For The Republic

Before they started Burton’s Maplewood Farm, Tim and Angie Burton owned a technology company.

When an opportunity arose to help the Medora family with their sap collection, the Burtons were introduced to the syrup business, and their lives were changed forever.

“My parents, Patrick and Mary Jane Burton, were looking for a place like Mayberry to raise their kids, and they found it,” Tim said. “So they moved me and my three siblings from the West Coast to here in Medora, and I was in the sixth grade at the time.”

Tim’s wife, Angie Cowles Burton, was born and raised in Jackson County. They have two children, Greg (Amy) Burton and Mallery (Josh) Underwood.

“My parents were not farmers, and my wife and I were operating a systems integrated technology company,” Tim said. “One of my Hewlett-Packard technicians, Joe Evans, asked if he could leave a little early one February day.”

Tim told his employee that as long as the customers were taken care of, it was fine.

This went on for about three or four days, and then Evans told Tim he had been leaving early to drive down near Heltonville to help a family collect sap and invited Burton to go along next time because it was fun.

Our syrup is used at some of the high-profile restaurants, but as far as availability, it can be purchased at R2GO Specialty Market in Indianapolis.

—Tim Burton

“I went to help collect sap, and I was just enamored by the process and the fact that this was a lost art,” Tim said. “Years ago, whether they raised pork or cattle, families and neighbors would come together to help each other on the farm and then share the spoils.”

The Burtons already owned a farm. They just hasn’t realized how many maple trees were on it. They then tested the waters of the maple syrup business by first collecting sap from another farm and selling it to a maple syrup producer in Washington County.

“The next year, my uncle, Jay Mellencamp, and myself built a log cabin called the Maplehouse, and then the following year, we started making syrup here,” Tim said. “That was about 10 or 12 years ago. Now, fast forward to today and our farm has really evolved since then.”

Down on the farm

Tim and Angie own Burton’s Maplewood Farm and have more trees on their farm than what they tap.

Production depends on how many taps they can put on the tree, and they don’t put a tap on a tree that’s smaller than 8 inches in diameter.

“For every 4 inches above and beyond that, we’ll put another tap in,” Tim said. “The rule of thumb is that you can anticipate that each tap will yield about 10 gallons per season.”

Tim said as far as ideal conditions go, they look for freezing temperatures or below 32 degrees overnight, and then temperatures above freezing during the day. The bigger the temperature variance, the better.

“The more the variance, the more the sap will flow,” Tim said. “Typically, the sap season for southern Indiana and throughout is the month of February, give or take a couple weeks on either end of the month. We’ve also been known to tap the trees as earlier as the second to third week in January.”

This year, there were a couple of good runs in the month of January, which is not always expected. It’s like playing chess with Mother Nature, Tim said.

“It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. The sugar content of the sap typically runs about 1.8 to 2 percent sugar, and that’s all natural,” he said. “It converts from sugar to starch, and all of the bottling takes place there on the farm.”

Branching out

The Burtons’ barrel-aged syrups came about seven or eight years ago when they were looking for a way to make their syrup stand out.

“So the idea came up to barrel our maple syrup in used rum, bourbon and brandy barrels,” Tim said. “It has become even more of a major part of our overall business. and we’re collaborating with distilleries around the country.”

Tim said the newest addition to the product line will be coming out October and is probably the most exclusive maple syrup in the world. It’s called Patriarch Trifecta and can be preordered now. The three distillers that aged their syrup for it are Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace and Pappy Van Winkle.

Patriarch is like no other barrel-aged maple syrup they’ve ever created, Tim said.

Trifecta represents three select Kentucky distillers, and these barrels were hand-selected by Tim and fire-infused twice a month for three years at their farm, he said.

“Chasing over 29 years of the devil’s cut (bourbon that has soaked/trapped in the charred American white oak staves) into this syrup rendering the deep, smooth, robust bourbon maple finish,” he said.

The culinary possibilities with this sweet elixir are endless, Tim said.

There will be a limited release of 533 bottles per batch with a limit of two bottles per order, and it will be served in 12-ounce glass bottle that will be $105 each.

“It’s very expensive but very exclusive as well, and it has been aged for over three years in each one of those barrels,” Tim said. “I don’t expect a lot of people to buy it, but I think that maple connoisseurs and bourbon connoisseurs would be quite interested.”

Maple syrup, especially barrel-aged syrup, goes beyond pancakes. It’s great in savory dishes like salmon, Brussels sprouts, baby carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes and desserts, too.

On the dessert side, it can be put into bread pudding or simply drizzled over ice cream, Tim said.

Most people who buy their maple syrup are using it in dishes or on dishes as opposed to just putting it on top of pancakes and crepes.

“Our farm has evolved from just making pure maple syrup to focusing a lot on barrel-aged maple syrups,” Tim said. “There is no alcohol actually added to the syrup. It’s just picking up the nuance of the barrels.”

There is a process of fire and fusion where they heat the barrels from the outside in, and that chases the devil’s cut into the maple syrup, he said. The devil’s cut is the liquor that’s actually absorbed into the barrel wood.

Pick up a bottle

The Burtons will be participating in the Indiana Artisan Marketplace in April at the expo hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

“One must apply to the Indiana Artisan Marketplace where there is a jurying process where your products are either juried in or not,” Tim said. “After we were juried in, I was asked to serve on the Indiana Artisan board, which I did for a couple of years. We’ve been involved from the inception.”

At the marketplace booth, they will have maybe four different barrel-aged products and also the traditional, classic maple syrup.

“Our syrup is used at some of the high-profile restaurants, but as far as availability, it can be purchased at R2GO Specialty Market in Indianapolis,” Tim said. “The chef there is chef Regina Mehallick, and the Jackson County Visitor Center carries some of the product line, too.”

GET A TASTE

What: Indiana Artisan Marketplace and All IN Gallery Exhibit

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. April 7 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. April 8

Where: Expo hall at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis

Cost: $10 event admission; free for children 15 and younger; $5 fairgrounds parking

Info: indianaartisan.org

DISTILLERY COLLABORATIONS

Nationwide

  • Arizona Distilling Company, Tempe, Arizona
  • Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge, Colorado
  • Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Kentucky
  • Cowboy Country Distilling, Pinedale, Wyoming
  • Hamilton Distillers, Tucson, Arizona
  • Headframe Spirits Distillery, Butte, Montana
  • High West Distillery, Park City, Utah
  • Peach Street Distiller, Palisade, Colorado
  • Willie’s Distillery, Ennis, Montana
  • Woodford Reserve Distillery, Versailles, Kentucky

Indiana

  • Bear Wallow Distillery, Nashville
  • Starlight Distillery, Starlight

ON THE WEB

For information, visit burtonsmaplewoodfarm.com.