This is the first of a four-part series sponsored by Copper & Kings
Home to the well-traveled Bourbon Trail, Kentucky seems like an unlikely place to set up shop to produce craft brandy. However, for beverage entrepreneurs Joe and Lesley Heron, it was the perfect location for their distillery, Copper & Kings. In the early stages of conceptualizing their brandy, they imagined themselves in the Pacific Northwest. After running into some logistical roadblocks, they finally realized that being a craft brandy producer in the middle of bourbon country would be a match made in heaven. They would be producing a unique product (not just another whiskey), and have the support of the City of Louisville and the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (a huge benefit in an industry notoriously burdened by legal red tape). After finding their location, the Herons moved quickly and began making their unique American-style brandy in 2014.
But what exactly is brandy? It is a spirit made by distilling wine – primarily grape wine or apple wine. In Europe, the most well-known types of brandy are Cognac and Armagnac, but today, there are many varieties made all around the world.
Copper & King’s style of brandy is decidedly American. They source grapes from California and apples from Michigan. The distilling and aging process borrows from the Kentucky bourbon tradition. As Joe Heron explains, “We make brandy in the way that bourbon is made and we often age in bourbon barrels. We don’t dilute in the barrel, we don’t chill filter which leaves a lot of the character of the fruit and the barrel within the distillate. Making whiskey is a process of extraction and purification to palatability whereas brandy is a process of retention and concentration; you are trying to keep the nuance of the fruit inside the distillate.”
Plus, they actually play Rock & Roll for the brandy during the aging process using five sub-woofers in the cellar. Not only do they want to rock out on the job – they have a working theory that this is beneficial for the brandy: “The alcohol molecule being less dense than a water molecule starts to move and collide with other alcohol molecules inside the barrels which eventually collide with the barrel wall which starts to create a ‘distillate wave’ inside the barrel resulting in increased frequency of contact over time between the distillate with the barrel walls and in our opinion enhances maturation.”
To that we say, rock on and cheers!