Monday, November 23, 2015

Kentucky Brandy: Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy


Last week I tasted a single malt from Cognac. Today, it's a brandy from Kentucky. It's become a topsy-turvy spirits world.

Copper & Kings is a brandy distillery/blender in Louisville, Kentucky. Their brandy has recently appeared at K&L in California, so I thought I'd try one of their offerings (there's lots of background about the distillery on K&L's blog). While they do have a distillery, Copper & Kings is currently bottling sourced brandies aged in a solera style. They have three aged brandy offerings: Small Batch Brandy ($35), Butchertown Brandy ($60) and an apple brandy ($40). Today I'm tasting their Butchertown Brandy which is cask strength and non-chill filtered.

Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy, 62% abv ($60)

The nose is spicy with light fruit like a good Cognac. The palate opens with sweet grapes and cocoa. Midway through, it takes on spice which gets stronger through the finish which is spicy on the palate but fruity on the nose. It's got great flavor, though you can definitely feel the high abv. Where it really shines though is with a splash of water. Water brings out a fuller fruit on the nose and a more rounded palate which synthesizes the fruit and the wood. It was tasty without the water, but with the splash, it tastes like one of those great single cask Cognacs that K&L has brought in over the last few years.

The K&L blog called Copper & Kings the next big thing. I'm a big fan of the K&L blog, but I can understand some people's skepticism since sometimes it seems like everything they write about is described in glowing terms. In this case though, I'd have to agree. This is fantastic stuff and at $60, it's a great price for the quality you're getting. Brandy fans, and fans of good spirits generally, should definitely give this one a try.


23 comments:

Florin said...

Very interesting Sku, thanks for checking this out! But I question the "Kentucky Brandy" term, and I'm curious if it appears anywhere on the labels. According to Chuck Cowdery, American brandy is generally distilled in California, then aged in Kentucky in ex-bourbon barrels. (It isn't well-known, but the big distilleries own the major American brandy companies, e.g. Korbel is owned by Brown-Forman, Christian Brothers by Heaven Hill, etc.) It makes a lot of sense that Copper & Kings would source some of this brandy, which is widely available and not so sought-after - not yet. However, it would make zero sense that this particular lot is in fact distilled in Kentucky. If it is distilled, indeed, in California, then it's no more Kentucky Brandy than Templeton is Iowa Rye.

sku said...

Florin, good point. Per the K&L blog, Cooper & Kings is sourcing brandies from all over (Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Ohio, Michigan, and New York). And to be clear, I called in Kentucky brandy. That's not what it says on the label.

Florin said...

This being said, they seem to have the right approach: bottle it unadulterated (no sugar, boise, caramel, or other crap), and at higher strengths (45% and 57% or so). Obviously they are catering to whisky fans. Also their prices seem to align with what, say, Smooth Ambler charges for their sourced ryes, both in the regular (around $35-40) and barrel strength version (around $60). They got my attention and I will try one of both.

Funky Tape said...

Florin said it; it's brandy trying too hard to be bourbon. A local store just bought a barrel of C&K and that's pretty much what it tastes like. It's huge and mildly offensive at a price that mirrors the flavor.

For the same price, K&L sells a few really nice Armagnac bottles at 10+ yrs that are great. The David's do exceptional work bringing this stuff in, but this forced exhilaration on part of the whole company is ridiculous.

Joe H. said...

Making booze is similar to making music. You want everyone to love your album, but sometimes they don't like every song, and sometimes they don't even like the music. Sometimes it grows on you, especially the good albums. Sometimes you grow in to it. It's really all about personal taste. We think we make good juice and we work hard at it, and we are very proud of it.

We do not make Kentucky Brandy. We make American Brandy. We do not make derivative French style brandy. We are unapologetic that our influences are American Whiskey and American Music. But we don't make Brandy trying to be Bourbon, it would have been far easier just to make Bourbon. We make American Brandy. In our own style. http://www.copperandkings.com/american-brandy-rocks/

Thank you for the kind words. If you don't like it, perhaps it will grow on you, or you may grow in to it.

Zach S said...

Hey there, Mike,


Just a quick note to say thank you for what you guys have come up with. I appreciate being adventurous, and you guys have definitely done that.

I purchased the American brandy last week. I can't say that it's yet a "Washing Machine" for me, but it's definitely a "Crooked Rain." I do know that I keep thinking about it and wanting to go back to it in the middle of the day. If you can get people thinking about your product when they're not using it, I'd say that you're going in the right direction.

And I'm definitely a whisky drinker, but because this is priced right, I was able to experiment with a new kind of drink, and it'll likely not be my last.

Keep up the good work. I look forward to seeing what you guys come up with next.

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah ....
Not Kentucky, American ...
And blah blah blah ...
....
Oh would you enjoy some more blah, blah blah ?

Patrick said...

We've had Copper & Kings in Minnesota for about a year now, and everything they make is fantastic. The Immature that THEY ARE distilling is fantastic. Just think of it as a great pisco, and it makes perfect sense. The Immature apple is the same deal. Their Aged & Aged Apple are both absolutely great, especially with the sherry finishing on the Apple. Great stuff, made the right way.

Everyone loves High West, and they're doing the same thing, so why shit on C&K?

sku said...

Joe H., thanks for your comments. It's always great to hear first hand from producers.

Florin said...

Hi Joe Heron, It is indeed good to hear from you. I bought a couple of bottles and I am looking forward to trying them. I believe your products will stand on their own merit - and I hope they are great!

I also find your American flag waving - both in your comment and especially on your website - a little too in-my-face and over-the-top, especially given that you and Lesley are South African. Not that there's anything wrong with that, except that this breathless patriotism rings particularly hollow and makes me feel manipulated.

I mean, really? "American" and "USA" a couple dozen times on the link you quoted, tons of stars (where are the stripes?), so many hard rock, rock hard associations that I hear Bruce Springsteen in the background... The color theme was subtle though. No red, white, and blue, but rather go with option two: the Harley-Davidson orange-black, including the scratched fonts - that was a nice touch! And then there's all the language! Big-ass this, broad shoulders that, no bullshit the other thing, to the point that it parodies itself. For the TV ad I recommend you go with Stacy Keach and the KouchTown team.

Of course, it's your company and you do as you want. If you can get the Harley riders to put down their Jack and grab a Copper & Kings at 2.5 times the price, that's great! But most likely you'll count on customers like me, who have tried already 50 other rye & bourbons and are looking for the next great thing. And I am interested in authenticity, in the bottle and in the company, and I find this U-S-A! ethos somewhere between distracting and insulting.

I don't mean to be offensive, take this as customer feed-back.

sku said...

So Florin, in your opinion, you're not allowed to be patriotic if you immigrated here?

I have to say I don't really understand the cynicism in the comments. This is a great product without any additives and without any label mischief. It may be partly my fault for calling it a Kentucky brandy, but still, I don't get the skepticism.

Joe H. said...

Well as an immigrant, perhaps the romance of America still burns a little more brightly within our family. And still means a lot to us. We appreciate the opportunities given to our family. We owe this country a lot, and we are proud American citizens. And as beneficiaries we are not cynical or jaundiced about it. Perhaps its just more clearly formed in our hearts. We don't take it for granted.

Joe H. said...

Happy Thanksgiving all.

Joe H. said...

Sorry to respond again. Before I get too annoying.

The graphics for the American Brandy Rocks blog post is a homage to the band The Wallflowers and their album Bringing Down The Horse (which is amazing). So not very Springsteen. Although anyone who under-appreciates Bruce Springsteen ....

In terms of movie tonality for our brand - oh I love the movies - but Walter Hill's The Long Riders feels just right for me in terms of tonality. And aye - Stacy Keach stars. Great movie - beautifully shot, and most famous for starring James & Stacy Keach, David, Robert & Keith Carradine, Dennis & Randy Quaid. And Chris & Nicholas Guest. Not to mention Kalen Keach and Ever Carradine.

Ry Cooder does the musical score.

Great Thanksgiving movie, enjoy, everyone.

Florin said...

Hi Sku,

I'm distinguishing the product from the advertising. As I said before, I totally applaud the fact that the brandy is made without additives and bottled at higher strength, which is why it got my interest. I am looking forward to try the bottles that I bought. I find the patriotism of the advertising as heavy-handed. I'm glad it hasn't spilled onto the label.

Florin said...

I do want to apologize to Joe & Lindsay for the South African comment. I didn't realize you immigrated to US, I thought you were based in South Africa, as several other whisky entrepreneurs.

D3B6 said...

I grab a bottle today and follow the instructions from the little booklet : on the rocks ! Very nice, bottle will never survive up to NY.

My Annoying Opinions said...

I'm drinking the sample I got from you tonight (I mean I'm drinking it tonight, not that I got it from you tonight (which you know but others (especially idiots) might get confused by)). I'm getting a lot of anise on the palate right off the bat---almost ouzo-level, in fact. Anybody else get that?

Joe H. said...

MAO. Can you contact me directly? Stu has my contact details. Is this a sample that you received from C&K, or from a friend that bought a bottle in a store? Just would like to understand the situation and as a minimum get you another sample.

My Annoying Opinions said...

A sample I got from Sku. No need to send me anything--it may just be my palate.

Joe H. said...

Dude, you scared the shit out of me! Feel free to make contact if you want to.

My Annoying Opinions said...

Not sure why this is so scary--is a note of anise a sign of failure in brandy making?

Joe H. said...

The ouzo comment read to me that there was an extreme anis note. Anis is not uncommon for a brandy note, as is mint (especially from Muscat de Alexandrie base). But happy that its a note and not the pervasive flavor.