Copper & Kings

Collabor&tion Review

Photo credit Bardstown Bourbon Company

The Bardstown Bourbon Company joined forces with Copper & Kings for Collabor&tion, a limited release of two different whiskies.  Started in 2015, Collabor&tion is a project two years in the making.  Both products start with a 10-year-old bourbon from MGP.  One spends more than 18 months being finished in ex-American brandy casks from Copper & Kings and bottled at a cask strength of 113 proof.  The other release sees a similarly extended secondary maturation period in Muscat mistelle barrels bottled at a lower 94 proof.  Both whiskies are non-chill filtered.  

I’m a big fan of Copper & Kings, and MGP can produce some wonderful whiskey.  Bardstown Bourbon Company selected the barrels used for this release, and both companies worked together on the blend.

So, how are they?  In a word – fruity.  I should elaborate.

Let’s start with the whiskey finished in Muscat mistelle casks.  First, what’s mistelle?  It is unfermented grape juice fortified with unaged brandy.  The nose is full of caramelized fruit, plums, and a slightly musty quality.  On the palate, Muscat grapes permeate the bourbon’s DNA.  The whiskey’s dark caramel gives way to the dark fruits, citrus zest, and some oak.  The long finish leaves some spice, fruit and slight floral notes.

The other release, finished in ex-American brandy casks, starts with a more robust nose showcasing hints of mulled wine, brown sugar, lemon oil, and oak.  Tastewise, spice and citrus are layered on top of velvety caramel and fruit jam.  Some oak tannins make their appearance going into the finish, which brings to the forefont the whiskey’s concentrated spiced fruit character, soon becoming dry.

Here’s the thing: I don’t smell or taste anything that resembles bourbon.  The spirit’s character is completely overtaken by the barrel finishing, thus my aforementioned use of the adjective ‘fruity’.  In other words, these releases are more brandy/mistelle and less bourbon.  As they stand, however, Collabor&tion is quite delicious.  I would happily buy a bottle of the brandy cask-finished whiskey, but I would struggle to call it bourbon.  

Muscat mistelle cask-finished bourbon – 8/10

American brandy cask-finished bourbon – 8.5/10

Thanks to the Bardstown Bourbon Company for the samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Copper & Kings Blue Sky Mining Brandy Review

Photo courtesy of Copper & Kings

New from American Brandy producer Copper & Kings is Blue Sky Mining, a 7-year-old 100% Muscat brandy finished in a Kentucky hogshead cask.  The different brandies produced by Copper & Kings are all full-bodied, flavorful spirits.  They all stick to the creedo of no coloring or flavoring added.  No chill filtration.  Blue Sky Mining is no exception.  Like I mentioned earlier, it is made from exclusively muscat grapes.  And the folks at the distillery are estatic over this.

“Wow, wow, wow – we couldn’t have dreamed this one up,” said head distiller Brandon O’Daniel. “It’s just spectacular, heavenly, easily some of the best liquid to come out of our basement cellar. Muscat de Alexandrie aromatics have always been spectacular, and this is illustrating that beautifully. The larger volume, 80-gallon hogshead, with used Bourbon staves and new American oak heads is a fantastic medium for brandy maturation – incredible polish that lets the fruit shine brightly, whilst still letting the oak impart its typical warmth and layered honey. I wish I could keep this one all to myself!”

So how is it?

The nose is very aromatic, with big floral and perfume notes.  Underneath find hints of honey, vanilla bean, lemon oil, and a certain flintiness or minerality.   Taste-wise, there’s lots going on here.  Sweet white wine, honey, and rose petals dominate.  There’s a touch of vanilla, crisp apples, a little spice and even a touch of a slight malty character.  At times, the honey and floral notes make this brandy feel like a second or third cousin to Glenmorangie Astar.  The finish is long, and leaves behind the fruity/floral notes from the palate.  

Blue Sky Mining may be one of the more interesting spirits I’ve had the pleasure of tasting this year.  I’m intrigued by the big floral notes, and surprisingly not turned off by the perfume nose.  There’s enough happening in the glass to keep you interested.  A big kudos to the Copper & Kings team for releasing something different from their “standard” brandies. It is bottled at 100 proof, and available at the distillery and very select shops around the country in limited quantities.   8.5/10

Thanks to Copper & Kings for the sample.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Cigar Pairing: Copper & Kings Butchertown Brandy & J Shephard Butchertown Blend Cigar

(Edit: This article was edited to clarify that the cigars are suspended over a barrel of brandy.)

I’m not a big cigar smoker, though I do occasionally enjoy a stick with a great spirit.  When I heard that Copper & Kings sold a cigar especially made to pair with their Butchertown Brandy, I had to check it out.

The cigar is blended by J Shepherd Cigars in Louisville.  According to the cigar blender:

“The cigar is a private blend made by a third generation Cuban cigar maker producing cigars in Nicaragua.  The wrapper and binder for the cigar is a Cuban seed Corojo grown in Ecuador, while the filler tobacco is a Cuban seed Criollo grown in Nicaragua.  Both wrapper and binder are from 2003, so there is a limited supply.”

The cigars are suspended over Butchertown brandy where the spirit evaporates up through the cigar, adding another layer of flavor.  Copper & Kings sells the cigar at their Louisville distillery boutique for $12.

As for Butchertown, it’s a bruiser of a brandy!  Bottled at 124 proof, Butchertown Brandy is aged mainly in ex-bourbon barrels alongside a small amount of new American oak barrels. My original tasting notes for Butchertown still hold true:

I get strong notes of spicy white wine, burnt caramel, and vanilla. In the background is a bit of oak and a lovely perfume note. Surprisingly there are no expected alcohol vapors. The entry here is softer than expected at first, with the high proof slowly revealing itself, tingling your tongue in the process. I’m smacked with a blast of stewed red fruit and brown sugar. Some old oak dries things up just a little. Small waves of butterscotch and vanilla carry over into the long finish, where a fresh, sweet berry note appears.

The cigar immediately gives off sweet fruits and spice, along with hints of earthiness, dark chocolate and and oakiness.  The sprinkling of Butchertown brandy is evident.  Sips of ice-cooled Butchertown brandy in between puffs really accentuates the fruiter notes.  About a third into the cigar, spicy notes begin to emerge, along with more pronounced wood notes.  Quite a lovely pairing!

Thanks to Copper & Kings for providing the cigar.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.