“Unique, bold, and a beacon of joy.” Those are the words that Joshua Mahan, the Fat Baby Bourbon founder and Sleepy Hollow resident, uses to describe his daughter Pepper, and the craft bourbon that he named after her. Pepper suffered a stroke when she was only two days old. The doctors told Mahan and his wife Rachel that Pepper “would never walk, speak, or have the chance to live a fulfilling life.” Fortunately, they were wrong. Pepper is now three, and Mahan says she’s “Doing great but still has some issues to contend with, but at the end of the day they are so minor compared to what the doctors had assured us would happen.”
The doctors at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital call her the “miracle baby” – and he couldn’t agree more. Mahan says, “Against all odds, she turned her story around, reminding everyone she meets of the incredible strength that can be found within.” Pepper’s spirit and “zest for life” became his inspiration.
Mahan started his career in the tech business – but he also comes from an Irish family “who liked their whiskey.” So, he decided to give it a shot and become a distiller – something he always wanted to do. He says he enjoys the industry as it’s “kind and cooperative, which is different than the tech business – which is so competitive. People in the spirits business help each other, and don’t treat each other like competitors.” Mahan adds, “people are more into the passion and creativity than the business (of distilling).”
That led to the birth of Fat Baby Bourbon. Mahan says he’s a self-taught distiller who “took training courses, read about it, and learned from colleagues.” All of that gave him the skills to get Fat Baby off the ground – with the first batch going on sale online and in their tasting room in Glenville, N.Y., this summer, after ageing for four years. Mahan says, “we are fighting the big boys like Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, but we appeal to a certain type of person who enjoys craft bourbon.”
Bourbon is a uniquely American whiskey that’s made primarily from corn, but it can also contain rye, barley, and wheat. In fact, Congress recognized bourbon as a “distinctive product of the United States” in 1964 – cementing the iconic American status it’s earned over hundreds of years. Fat Baby is 114 proof, and Mahan says its strength contributes to its flavor and character, “we aren’t proofing it down by adding a lot of water – which can drain some of the flavor and essence of the whiskey.” He also says his favorite way to enjoy Fat Baby is straight over one large cube, as “it’s helpful to have the ice dilute it a bit but you still get the full essence of the whiskey.”
Some people are whiskey snobs – and find it akin to sacrilege to mix anything into their bourbon. But Mahan says, “enjoy it the way you want to enjoy it. Mix it with Coke, mix it with ginger ale, mix it with whatever you like – it’s about enjoying life and making the moments count.” And that is what Fat Baby is all about.