Copper & Kings American Craft Brandy
We use traditional copper pot-distillation to forge non-traditional craft-distilled, natural, pure pot-still American brandies.
We make definitive American brandy influenced by American whiskey and American music. We do not make derivative brandy styled upon a European sensibility. Our brandies are batch distilled exclusively in copper pot-stills, are non-chill filtered, with no added sugar, boisé (powdered oak, shavings or infusion) other flavors, synthetic chemicals or caramel colorants for an uncorrupted, authentic, natural flavor, nose and color. Our aged brandies exit the barrel full integrity intact.
We adopt a “low & slow” distillation philosophy – a relatively low distillation temperature, for a longer, slower distillation, maximum copper contact, to express fruit intensity, concentrated flavors, aromas, and a velvet finish.
Philosophically the art of brandy distillation revolves around the concept of retention and concentration. The distiller is attempting to retain and concentrate the nuance found in the base wine. (As opposed to whiskey distillation where the concept revolves more around extraction and purification to palatability.) You “stroke” brandy into shape.
With that said, we believe that the art of brandy starts in the vineyard or orchard, and our wines are selected for superior aromatics and quality. Our focus is the distillation of unfiltered, un-sulfited wines. We are attempting to retain this essential character of the wine, the vibrancy and personality, and the better the base wine the better the brandy.
Our grape brandies typically use classic brandy varietals – (French) Colombard, Muscat de Alexandrie and Chenin Blanc. Grapes that have intense aromatics, and high acidity, for a distillate that is crisp and bright with a lovely nose. These grapes find their home in, and we source largely in, the Central Valley and Central Coast regions of California. It takes 5 tons of grapes to make 1 barrel of brandy, and California provides the ideal environment in which to produce grapes at sustainable scale. The fermentations are done at a very low +/- 64F to maximize retention of aromatics and fruit nuance.
We also distill an annual Kentucky vintage brandy using the Vidal Blanc grape varietal.
Our apple-wine is fermented and sourced from Michigan and is selected for its fresh, crisp, high acid, highly aromatic character. The fermentations are also done at a very low +/- 64F, with a superior (South African) white wine yeast selected for high aromatic retention.
Our aged grape brandy is matured in Kentucky bourbon whiskey barrels, and medium-char new American white oak barrels, for a distinctive new world American flavor, nose and style. Smooth and aromatic, but a little feisty and rambunctious. Our apple brandy is aged in Kentucky bourbon barrels and Spanish sherry casks.
Our original “DNA” brandy, first bottled in mid-2014, used sourced copper pot-distilled brandies from fine purveyors who were generous enough to share some of their wares. This DNA has continued to evolve over the years as aged brandy is added to younger “new make” in a variation of the classic solera system. Spirit distilled in Butchertown will start entering the bottled blends in Spring 2018.
We believe that the barrel as a maturation vessel is pivotal, critical and beyond essential to the quality and character of our aged brandy. It is the vessel that adds texture, fragrance, complexity and balance to the spirit. At Copper & Kings we firmly believe that American Oak is a perfect medium for brandy maturation. American Oak is high in lactones, which when toasted release more linens and vanillin to provide warm, buttery, woody, vanilla and coconut flavors. It is this honeyed warmth and caramel that we find so attractive in our American Brandy (and other brown spirits).
We also believe that a used bourbon barrel, is a perfect maturation vessel for brandy – some of the power has been taken from the barrel by the original whiskey, and as brandy distillate is quite delicate and very malleable, this is helpful, and we also try and extract some of the whiskey notes in to our distillate.
We do not dilute from still to barrel, so our entry proof is approximately 135 proof. We also do not dilute with water to compensate for the “Angel’s Share” during maturation, preferring to concentrate and intensify the spirit profile.
We have an extensive partnership program with exemplary American Craft Brewers where we swap barrels with each other, and in our case we are aging our American Brandy in barrels previously used to age dynamic world class craft beers. These are released under the Copper & Kings CR&FTWERK sub-brand. We also have significant investment in novel barrels from New American Oak barrels that use ex-Oloroso sherry butt wood for kindling, Kentucky hogsheads, tequila barrels, Port barrels, Mistelle fortified wine barrels, and Serbian Juniper barrels.
ALEMBIC BRANDY DISTILLATION
The word brandy is derived from the Dutch – “brandewijn” – “burnt wine”, a simplistic description of the boiling of wine in the distillation process.
Brandy is an agricultural spirit, distilled from (fruit) wine – fermented juice without skins, stems or residual pulp. Whiskey, in contrast, is distilled “beer” from fermented grains.
An alembic is an ancient alchemical still consisting of two connected vessels used for distillation. The modern descendant of the alembic is the copper pot-still.
The French word “Alambic” is also in common usage and Shakespearean middle-English refers to the process as “Limbeck”.
The ancient art of alembic distillation can be traced back to 3000 BC in China, 2500 BC in East India, the Greeks in 1000 BC, and the Romans in 200 BC, but rose to prominence with Persian and Arab alchemists in the 7’th and 8’th centuries. These early scientists used alembic distillation for the distillation of perfume and chemicals.
The Islamic conquering of Mediterranean Europe lead to the spread of distillation techniques and the improvement of distilling equipment across Europe by alchemists and monks. Brandy production appeared in Spain (and possibly Ireland) at the end of the 8’th century
Arnaud de Villeneuve was the first to distill brandy in France in 1250.
ABOUT OUR POT STILLS
Our alembic copper pot-stills were manufactured in Louisville, Kentucky by our Butchertown neighbors, Vendome Copper And Brassworks.
Our pot-stills were designed to our unique, brandy focused specifications and hand crafted and hand hammered by the artisans of Vendome to maximize the uncorrupted, authentic brandy flavors and aromatics through maximum copper contact and the experience of 4 generations of true copper artisans and artists.
We have 3 beautiful copper stills, all named after women in Bob Dylan songs – all songs appear on the Dylan album “Desire” – this is a deliberate lyrical reference for brandy (brandy is inherently sexy, it is viscous and rhythmic, it is power and grace, it is smooth with a punch, it is the velvet glove).
Isis: 1,000 gallons. Big, bold and robust distillate. Isis is the Egyptian Goddess Of Fertility.
“I married Isis on the fifth day of May
But I could not hold on to her very long
So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away
For the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong”.
Magdalena: 750 gallons. Elegant, full of character, lovely polish in terms of distillate. The song is Romance In Durango.
“Hot chili peppers in the blistering sun
Dust on my face and my cape
Me and Magdalena on the run
I think this time we shall escape.”
Sara: 50 gallons. Sara is a mirror image of Magdalena in all ways. She is small, gorgeous and makes the prettiest, refined distillate. She is named for Bob Dylan’s second wife.
Sweet virgin angel, sweet love of my life
Radiant jewel, mystical wife.”
Copper & Kings brandies are exclusively double-distilled, and our aspiration is minimal intervention beyond spirit and barrel maturation.
- Wine fermented cold for maximum aromatic and flavor retention.
- Basic First Distillation – a simple concentration of alcohol, without Heads, Hearts & Tails cuts.
- Second Distillation – the “Doubling Run”. The most important part of the distillation craft – a hands on tasting, proofing process with a focus as much on palatability as efficiency. Heads, Hearts & Tails cut process, separating the alcohol in to distinct categories for usage.
The art of distilling and the art of music are related and symbiotic. The orchestration of different moving parts, the “vision” that no one else quite sees until fully formed, the bit by bit, piece by piece creative process and most of all the energy and imagination that creates something vibrant and spirited. Copper & Kings is American Brandy and is as rooted in American culture, particularly music and art, as it is in the craft of distilling fine spirits.
This is not a platform.
This is who we are. We are all inveterate music lovers. It informs us as people not marketers or distillers. To do it any other way would be shallow and inconsequential. And hokey.
We’ve built our love of music across the company – our name is meant to sound like a band (think Kings of Leon, Shovels & Rope, Band Of Horses, Iron & Wine). We name our cocktails based on musical genres – Classics, Indie, Covers and Jazz.
We have 5 major sub-woofers in our basement maturation cellar. The principle of Sonic Aging (maturation) is not vibration but PULSATION.
We pulse (a bass note in particular) music through the cellar. The alcohol molecule being less dense than a water molecule starts to move away from the pulse, and collide with other alcohol molecules inside the barrels which eventually collide with the barrel wall, they slide up the 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.
And at the very least, happy brandy makes for happy drinking.
Aged in Kentucky Bourbon Barrels. Matured with rock ‘n roll.
Yessir. American Brandy boogies.
BRANDY IN AMERICA
It is likely that enterprising early settlers distilled Eau de Vie from excess fruit harvests and as the excess crop exceeded the needs for pies, preserves, jellies and wine. Fruit simply cannot store as long as grain, and to the enterprising this also represented an additional income stream.
The first recorded distillation in America, was for brandy (likely Apple Brandy) on Staten Island in 1640 by William Hendricks, for Cornelus Toun. This was 8 years before Rye whiskey and +180 years before the recorded distillation of Bourbon. (It has been said that brandy is the inspiration for Bourbon, with the Tarascon brothers shipping whiskey from Louisville, Kentucky to New Orleans, Louisiana, in charred oak barrels to mimic the flavor profile of brandy).
Brandy production in California dates back to the Spanish missions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. In the years following the civil war, brandy became a major industry, with a substantial export trade to Europe by the end of the century.
Distillation of brandy is as old as the commonwealth of Kentucky. Historical records show brandy being regulated and taxed in Kentucky as early as 1781 (and at a 11% premium price to “good” whiskey!). The commonwealth of Kentucky was founded in 1792. Indeed the first commercial winery in the USA was founded in Kentucky in 1798.
In the late 1800’s there were approximately 400 brandy distilleries in Kentucky, with an additional 100 that distilled both whiskey and brandy.
American brandy, made from distilled grape wine must, be aged in oak for a minimum of 2 years, otherwise the un-aged spirit is called “immature” brandy. This definition does not pertain to fruit brandies which with the Fruit and Word brandy is acceptable no matter what the age profile is – Apple Brandy, Peach Brandy, etc.
Alcohol is an agricultural product. Agriculture is dependent on environmental sustainability – with water supply and pollinator health being the 2 biggest (but certainly not only) issues.
Sustainability and responsible commerce is our personal responsibility. We can all make a difference, and the highest state of consciousness is the state of doing. We all need to do something, even if perceived to be quite a small initiative, and the little things add up to big things to making a positive environmental impact, especially if they catalyze a collective effort.
We work hard at being environmentally responsible and conscious – we use solar energy to supplement our energy supply with a 42 panel array (all we could fit on our roof), which catalyzed the installation of an almost 600 additional panels by our friends in the immediate Butchertown neighborhood.
We have 2 separate closed loop water recycling arteries – one for the Chiller (for the chilled water for the condensers) and the other for the boiler system (for gas fired steam to heat the stills). Our aim is to get as close to 100% recycled water within those systems as possible.
Our maturation environments utilize ambient temperature with no HVAC systems installed for climate control.
We planted a Monarch butterfly garden to serve as a Monarch migratory way station, and this doubles as storm water run-off mitigation as a groundwater drainage system for the city.
We use repurposed shipping containers for our retail and event space and amenities. As well as planters for shrubbery in our Courtyard.
We are quite proud of the tables and shelving that uses the wood we recycled from the renovation of the original building.
If you ride your bike to Copper & Kings we will give you a 50% discount on your tour.
We believe that we can and will do more, but it’s always better to walk than talk, that doing amounts to something, even if you action a whole lot of small things.