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Monday, February 13, 2017

Copper & Kings American Brandy

Review by John Barecki

The process of brandy distillation was created out of a need to extend the profitability of each year's fruit harvest. With the discovery of barrel aging and its influences, distillers started to churn out aged products that eventually became some of the most sought after spirits on the market in the form of cognac, calvados, slivovitz and others.

In the long run, the popularity of these spirits was overturned by the introduction of prohibition as well as the phylloxera epidemic during the 1860s that destroyed many grape crops in France and almost ruined cognac's production. Even with these setbacks, brandies of many verities still have a place as collectors items, and they are starting to enjoy a renaissance in the craft spirits and cocktail sectors.The Copper & Kings distillery is aiding in this new beginning with their own multifaceted expressions that are produced in an area that most people would consider uncommon territory, Kentucky, the home of Bourbon.

An article posted on the Copper & Kings website states that Kentucky has been the home of many brandy distilleries in the past. Sourcing information from Chester Zoeller's book Bourbon in Kentucky: The History of Distilleries in Kentucky, the article states that there were over 450 brandy distilleries in the state and over 100 whiskey producers were distilling before prohibition. Michael Veach supports this, stating that bourbon Merchants such as W.L. Weller and Sons and Brown-Forman had brandies in their portfolios, some of which were being produced and sold as “bottled in bond” products.

Copper & Kings have rejuvenated this tradition with their own grape- and apple-based brandies. These are created from the Muscat de Alexandrie, Chenin Blanc, Colombard and Kentucky Vidal Blanc grape varieties that are chosen for their bold flavor, acidity and aromatic properties. The apple varietals they use are selected much the same way, and include a few that are Michigan-grown as well. In addition to their brandies, they also produce an absinthe that uses the Muscat de Alexandrie grape as its base. They create this by macerating traditional herbs into the first run of spirit and then distill it again creating a clear but monstrously flavorful product.

To produce these spirits they have chosen to employ three Vendome copper pot stills of varying size. Between the size of the posts and the reactions that copper induces during distillation, the spirits that flow from these stills are chock full of flavors and aromas. This is backed up by their choice to double distill the base wine keeping more of the bolder characteristics intact in the distillate, and the fact that they don't chill-filter the spirit or add any altering flavors or color. Once the new-make brandy is placed in the barrel it is allowed to lend itself to a full array of oak influences ranging from new American oak, ex-Bourbon, Sherry, Tequila and ex-beer barrels.

During the process of maturation these guys have an interesting way of energizing the spirit in which they place sub woofers in their cellar and pump heavy bass towards the barrels 24/7. This “sonic aging” uses sound waves to keep the spirit moving, and with the help of mother nature it is used to extract as much aroma and flavor from the wood as possible. Some of their aged expressions also go through a solera system, which is a process that blends the young with the old producing a rich and complex end product that shows the best of both worlds.

Utilizing full flavored base spirits and a keen ear and eye for barrel aging, Copper & Kings distillery is pushing the boundaries of what we perceive as American brandy. They produce aged expressions that have flavors and aromas that are more akin to scotch and bourbon, and continue to explore new possibilities in an effort to create more complex products. In my opinion they have the ability to rival some of the more traditional brandies and whiskies on the shelf, and offer a new alternative for spirit connoisseurs of all tastes.

Immature Grape Brandy, $35.22/750ml

    • Muscat base, 90 proof
    • Nose: Very floral and fresh (youthful), with bold anise, caraway, jasmine, honey and apricot
    • Palate: Viscous body, notes of candied fruit, black licorice and honey
    • Finish: Medium length, with a rich grape fruitiness that fades to a slightly mentholated floral note

Unaged Apple Brandy, $35.22/750ml

    • 90 proof
    • Nose: Orchard and cooked apples, youthful, with a lavender floral note
    • Palate: Medium bodied with fresh apples with light caramel, muscovado sugar, hints of vanilla, herbs slight citrus and pepper
    • Finish: Apple peel, herbaceous and earthy, with a tannic like dryness at the end

Aged Grape Brandy, $38.52/750ml

    • 90% ex-Kentucky bourbon, medium char, 10% new american oak barrels, 90 proof
    • Nose: Dried figs and raisins, butterscotch, cinnamon, cavendish pipe tobacco, worn leather, almost sherry like
    • Palate: Medium-bodied, caramel crème, peppery ginger and baking spice, with stewed grape and dried fruit
    • Finish: Fruity and floral, dry with the return of sherry like qualities

Floodwall, Aged Apple Brandy, $46.75/750ml

    • Ex-Kentucky Bourbon and Sherry barrels, 100 proof
    • Nose: Rich apple, maple syrup, vanilla and slightly savory baking spice, with minty notes, dried fruit and oak
    • Palate: Rich body, with dried fruits and caramel, cardamom and ripe apple, a bit of dried herbs and nuts
    • Finish: Medium length, lingering sherry influence of dried fruit, dates, nuts, earthy mushroom notes and light honeyed tobacco

Butchertown Reserve Cask, $64.88/750ml

    • 75% Kentucky bourbon 25% new American oak, 124 proof
    • Nose: Intense notes of cherry, coconut, black licorice, honey, caramel. With vanilla, baking spice, grape jelly and burley pipe tobacco
    • Palate: Bold and viscous, slight butteriness with black pepper and melon followed by charred oak, vanilla, caramel, and hard grape candies and pipe tobacco
    • Finish: Oaky, vanilla, light caramel, slightly savory fruitiness with notes of ginger and tropical fruit

Absinthe, $62.23.750ml

    • Muscat base with herbs, 130 proof
    • Nose: Herbaceous and floral, Black licorice pastels, lime peel, minty, and candied fruits 
    • Palate: Oily, black licorice, fig preserves, molasses, sassafras, slightly minty with an underlying unrefined sugar quality 
    • Finish: Long, mentholated and floral with lingering anise, dried fruit and citrus peels

All of these products are now available at Siciliano's Market, and will be sampled on February 14, 2017, from four to seven pm.