Louisville is a whiskey distilling town and the unlikely home of the Copper & Kings Distillery; unlikely because contrary to the overwhelming majority of Kentucky's distilleries, Copper & Kings doesn't produce whiskey. Instead the distillery focuses on creating world-class American brandy, Absinthe and other brandy-based spirits. American mixology is that much better for their debut.
Established in 2014, Copper & Kings is a modern, state-of-the-art facility poised to take the domestic brandy category to new heights. The majority of the grape brandies currently aging in Copper & Kings' warehouse are pot-distilled from Muscat De Alexandrie, Chenin Blanc and Colombard grapes. The distillery is outfitted with three copper pot stills, each of which is named after a woman mentioned in a Bob Dylan song. There's "Sarah," a small, 50-gallon still used for experimental batches and special distillation runs, "Magdalena" a 500-gallon production still, and "Isis," the 1,000-gallon queen of the castle.
Copper & Kings utilizes a variation on the classic "Solera" system to continually blend aged brandy stock into younger distillate, then aging it in ex-bourbon barrels and a percentage of new American oak casks. This creates a distinctive American brandy imbued with Copper & Kings' singular character and personality, and ensures that the distillery's DNA is maintained through the years and the maturation cycles. The brandy is comprised of an exclusive blend of copper pot-distilled American spirits, each possessing unusual depth of flavor and contemporary American style.
As the company moves forward, it will continue to blend superior, acidic, highly aromatic wine stock into new make brandy distilled at the recently opened distillery in Butchertown, Kentucky.
One of the distinctive techniques employed by Copper & Kings is something distillery owner Heron calls "sonic aging," the continuous pulsing of loud music through five enormous subwoofers installed in the aging warehouse. The driving bass line in the music is thought to enhance the interaction between the oak barrels and the resting brandy.
"Our aspiration at Copper & Kings is to produce the definitive American Brandy, one that is not derivative of European tradition," says Heron. "We craft pure, copper pot-distilled brandy, and mature it in Kentucky bourbon barrels. We do not top up evaporated spirit during maturation—so no dilution to compensate for the "Angel's Share," and all of our products are non-chill filtered. We do not adulterate post-distillation with the addition of boisé (oak flavoring), or caramel color. They are bottled with full integrity intact."
Copper & King Butchertown Reserve Casks Brandy is a huge, flavor-laden spirit without equal. The small batch, exclusively pot-distilled brandy is principally aged in ex-bourbon, American white oak barrels with 25% being matured in new American oak casks. Bottled at a lip-tingling 62% alcohol (124 proof), the brandy has a rich reddish/golden mahogany appearance, a silky textured body and a generous bouquet redolent of fresh fruit. Be patient and let this gem of a brandy breathe in the glass a few minutes longer than usual. Your patience will be richly rewarded as more of its inherent aromatics come forth.
A splash of water, or a large piece of high quality ice, helps the brandy to fully open up and display its broad assortment of long lasting, dark fruit flavors. It is an amazingly smooth and accessible spirit, especially considering its unusually high alcohol content.
Equally alluring is Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy, a world-class spirit bottled at 45% alcohol (90 proof). It, too, is non-chill filtered, which explains its slight cloudiness and the trace amount of natural sediment. The brandy is primarily aged in ex-bourbon, medium char, American white oak barrels with approximately 15% aged in new American oak.
The American Craft Brandy is sublime pleasure from start to dreamy finish. It has a generous bouquet of vanilla, caramel, grapes and Bartlett pears with subtle floral notes. Its aromatic signature is something special. The brandy's smooth, lip-smacking palate is fruit-forward and decidedly spicy. Enjoy on the rocks, even with an expressed orange peel for a quick and easy cocktail. This is a genuinely terrific brandy. Kudos!
The distillery's range also includes the mahogany colored Copper & Kings Floodwall Apple Brandy. This stately copper pot-distilled spirit is aged for a minimum of 4 years in ex-bourbon barrels and 250-liter Oloroso sherry casks imported from Spain. The non-chill filtered brandy is bottled at 50% alcohol (100 proof).
The apple brandy is an exuberant and vivacious spirit with a brilliant fruit bouquet and the flavors of baking spice, flora, Macintosh apples and butterscotch. The lingering finish is spicy and flavorful. Overall, the taste profile is reminiscent of both Calvados and Scotch whisky.
Its unusual name refers to the floodwall built in 1957 that protects Louisville from the flooding of the Ohio River and provides the "castle wall" to one side of the Butchertown distillery.
Copper & Kings brandies present a boon to drink making. "Our brandies imbue cocktails with all of the heft and structure you need from a brown spirit," notes Heron. "Plus our brandies have long, silky smooth, extraordinarily flavorful finishes, which add elegance and finesse to every libation."