While in Louisville, we went to a distillery. Now, before you think that I am going to start writing about Bourbon, and I may have once or twice, Copper & Kings produces American Brandy, manufactured in Bourbon barrels and the barrels listen to Rock ‘n Roll for the two years that they are resting. Brandy is derived from the Dutch word brandewijn which means burnt wine and that is because the wine is distilled by heat, and at Copper & Kings the “juice” is distilled twice. The first reference for brandy was on Staten Island in 1640, and eight years before Rye whiskey was recorded and about 180 years before distillation of brandy was recorded in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Brandy became a big industry in California thanks to the Spanish Missions that were founded there. Brandy distillation was being regulated and taxed in Kentucky in 1781, the Commonwealth was founded in 1792, and the first commercial winery in Kentucky was founded in 1798. I just get a kick out of the fact that they were regulating and taxing before the state was founded, politicians have found ways to get into someone else’s wallet since time immortal. In the late 1800’s there were about four-hundred brandy distilleries in Kentucky and another hundred that produced both brandy and whiskey. For the record brandy is made from fruit and whisky is made from grain.
Copper & Kings is located in the Butchertown neighborhood of Louisville and the property has been recycled, and the distillery is big on recycling and sustainability. Wood has been recycled from torn down structures, offices and shop areas are recycled shipping containers, they have solar panels on the rooftops and have mounted another six-hundred or so, on the rooftops of the neighboring businesses. They have planted a Monarch garden to entice the Monarch butterflies to make a stop over on their classic migrations. They are also started to grow their own herbs for flavoring some of the other products that they make like gin and absinthe. They have even found a way to recycle water that is used for chilling or heating the necessary pots for making the brandies. They belong to different cooperatives and exchanges to acquire different barrels that have been used for producing bourbon, beers, sherries and other beverages. American Brandy, made from distilled grapes must be aged in oak for a minimum of two years, and this ruling does not apply to fruit brandies like apple, peach etc. The alembic copper pot-stills were manufactured and set in place by another Butchertown business, the Vendome Copper and Brassworks, and the three stills have been named for women that are mentioned in Bob Dylan songs; Isis, Magdalena and Sara. The grape brandies use three different varietals known for their aromas; French Colombard, Muscat of Alexandria and Chenin Blanc and the fruit comes from the Central Valley and Central Coast of California, and they also produce, but it was not offered at the time, an annual Kentucky vintage brandy using the Vidal Blanc grape. For you mathematicians out there, it takes five tons of grapes to produce one barrel of brandy. As a side note they did mention that all the apples that they use are from Michigan. We also took a tour of the basement maturation cellar and they use the principle of Sonic Aging (maturation) and it is not vibration, but pulsation. They have five major sub-woofers to pulse especially the bass notes of music, since the alcohol molecule is less dense than water, the pulsating beats keep the brandy in a constant “distillate wave” within the barrels. While we were in the cellar, they actually put the speakers up to their normal level and we were in the midst of the barrels and you could actually feel the liquids vibrating and waving.
The final part of the tour ended up in the tasting room, where we were given a complimentary sipping glass, and there was also glasses of water available to help with the tasting. Each guest was allowed three tastes and since we are talking about products in the 90-120 proof, that seemed logical and sensible. We, all started with the classic “American Brandy” which is the house label using white oak barrels and 90 proof. It is a good thing that he warned everyone to slowly taste the brandy and there were a few in the group that did not heed his warning and they had quite a mouthful, and I am not sure if they could taste anything afterwards. My Bride and I decided to share each other’s other two tastings to get a better report. “A Song for You” is their anniversary limited release, which carries the signature DNA of the original brandy and it is done in a “Solera” system like when they make Sherry and I really thought this was smooth, and it was an even 100 proof. The next one that I tried was “Cadillac Walk” a French Colombard brandy finished in Tequila barrels and at 130 proof, and while I thought it sounded intriguing, I was not that thrilled with the finished product. My Bride tried the “Distillaré Intense Chocolat that was finished by reverse osmosis to get the 90 proof and finished with chocolate nibs and honey, and neither of us were really excited by it. Her last choice was “Way Up West” and it was American Brandy finished in Pacific Northwest Single Malt Whiskey barrels at 128 proof and it was very smoky, like a Scotch and since she prefers Scotch when we have cocktails, she was all over this bottle. We actually had to go back with our tour guide to another part of the tour, and she actually bottled this brandy and she has just the perfect recipient of this bottle as a gift, which will be announced at a later time. All in all, the tour at Copper & Kings was informative, fun and we did buy lots of stuff, including an interesting cook book, some house bottled cherries and their own Bitters.