On the Trail

COPPER AND KINGS

Copper & Kings is located in what's known as Butchertown—an old industrial section of Louisville with classically-midwestern architecture and an Americana atmosphere that seems almost frozen in time. Amidst the charmingly rundown buildings and empty warehouses sits the impeccably-remodeled distillery—half of it refurbished brick from the site's original foundation, and the other half a modern making of steel and glass. It blends into the general construct of the area, while simultaneously standing out like a beacon of light on the corner of Washington Street. "Wow," we thought as we approached, "these guys are not kidding around."

Joe Heron and his wife Lesley came to the U.S in 2002 from South Africa—via England and Sweden—settling into Minnesota before diving right into the drinks business. They founded a soda company called Nutrisoda which they sold to PepsiAmericas in 2006, then Crispin Cider in 2004 before eventually selling off the label to MillerCoors in 2012. "We lost our minds and decided to start another business," Joe told me later on. So why Kentucky brandy and not Kentucky Bourbon? "We were interested in the romance of what a definitive American brandy could be," he said. They have three gigantic pots cranking away most days. Not just any type of stills, mind you, but real, hand-crafted copper Vendome stills—the top of the line, created by the local Louisville brassworks company (and neighbor to Copper & Kings); the Cadillac of distilling equipment. Their brandy is delicious, the distillery itself a revelation of tasteful design with artistic accents.

"We wanted to do something inspired by American whiskey and it seemed brandy was less crowded. But brandy distillates are not conductive to the smaller, accelerated techniques being used by some of the smaller, newer distilleries today, so we knew we would have to source some of our product to get up and running." There were plenty of aged stocks available for the company to source while waiting for their own spirits to age—from Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, and New York. They were selective, however, choosing only brandies distilled from pot stills—never from column. And what did they do with all those mature stocks? They made a gigantic solera system, what Joe likes to call the "DNA base". The new make spirit distilled onsite is slowly blended into the aged blend to create an expression based upon brandies created all over the country. When you read "American brandy" on the label, it's truly that. Copper & Kings brandies are only available at K&L on the West Coast.