America’s first experience with distillation took place in 1640, with brandy as the initial recorded spirit.
Today, Copper & Kings Distilling seizes the opportunity to evolve the classic and fuses it with modern American culture and energy. Their spin on American Brandy sends the adventurous drinker on a journey free of narrow, provincial dogma, and onward toward a liberating selection of the diversity of continental American fruit, barrel finishes, and rock and roll.
Joe Heron, CEO of Copper & Kings Distilling, American Brandy Co., sets his American Brandy apart from other traditional positioned brandy. “We are from Kentucky, our brandies reflect a definitive American sensibility versus a European tradition,” explains Heron. “Influenced by American whiskey rather than being more Cognac-centric.” A perk of being stationed in the United States is the ability to distill and blend a wide range of grape varietals focused on full aromatics and high acidity. Dynamic in comparison to Cognac’s traditional Ugni Blanc varietal, which produces a more neutral wine. The use of this neutral grape in Cognac grants character dominance to the soil over the grape.
On the other hand, when dealing with American Brandy, the fruit dictates character. This is where Copper & Kings thrives, producing American Brandy with high-intensity aromatics and strong varietal personality. Their primary varietals are French Colombard, Muscat de Alexandrie, and Chenin Blanc, all from Californian grapes. Apple Brandy sources fruit in Michigan, and Pear Brandy utilizes Oregon pears. Fermentation is unusually cold and slow, at approximately 60 degrees Fahrenheit, to maximize aromatics and retention of fruit character intensity.
“It’s not made in a column still, but rather double-distilled in classic alembic copper pot-stills, made just up the road from the distillery in Butchertown, Louisville, Kentucky, by Vendome Copper & Brassworks,” says Heron. “We distill unfiltered, un-sulfited wine (on the lees) to maximize aromatics, flavor, and fruit essence.” While the focus on the quality of the fruit, such as apple, pear, or grapes is paramount, the maintenance of the distillate’s integrity is a top priority. “We are unadulterated by any post distillation additives like boisé (oak flavor or infusion), sugar, flavors, essences, or caramel color,” explains Heron. “We do not chill-filter our spirits, retaining flavor intensity and a smooth, lightly viscous mouthfeel.”
The brandies are aged in Kentucky Bourbon barrels with a percentage of new American oak to enhance the whiskey tonality. Copper & Kings are ardent evangelists for the high lactone nature of American oak, seeing it as the perfect wood medium for brandy maturation, imparting warm notes of caramel and honey that are often used to describe superior quality brown spirits. Ultra-premium Floodwall Apple Brandy uses Bourbon barrel and Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks for a unique style with butterscotch warmth wrapping around the apple distillate. The spirits enter the barrel without dilution at plus or minus 135-batch proof, and no water is added to compensate for Angel’s Share evaporation during maturation. Another intriguing method of maturation used is called “Sonic Aging,” which takes place in their basement cellar.
Rock music is played to the barrels twenty-four seven, which in Copper & Kings’ opinion facilitates maturation through pulsation waves into the barrels. All these creative ideas convey how Heron’s company embodies a distillery with a distinctive modern American aura, infused with art, music, and adventure. A final statement from Heron sums up the theme of his company, “We care deeply about the intrinsic quality of our spirits—taking care, paying attention, and focused on the details. But, what gives us joy is that we are extremely imaginative, bringing creative conceptual spirits to the bartender and consumer—moving brandy away from a traditional stuffy, old-fashioned image to something more bold and contemporary. We don’t do innovation, we do invention, giving our drinkers a unique personal adventure.”