Archive for the ‘brandy’Category

Copper & Kings bucks bourbon trend

distiller Joe Heron of Copper & Kings

Joe Heron may be the most colorful distiller in all of Kentucky—which is saying a lot in a region that prides itself on colorful characters. In 2014, Heron and his wife Lesley launched Copper & Kings (1121 East Washington St., Louisville, 502-561-0267, copperandkings.com) in the Butchertown neighborhood of Louisville, one of the oldest parts of town. It’s now one of the hottest, and Copper & Kings is part of the happening vibe.

Although bourbon is basking in a renaissance, Heron hasn’t jumped on the artisanal bourbon bandwagon. “We would never do bourbon. There are too many good bourbon producers,” he told us as he led us through the distillery, which is surrounded by a huge butterfly garden. Instead, Heron said, “we want to make definitive American brandy.” He quickly clarified that he didn’t mean cognac in the French style. “We’re about fruit intensity to reflect the American taste and palate.”

Copper & Kings distills grapes from central California and apples from Michigan. Heron himself is a South African who relocated from Minnesota. “We wanted to be anchored in the heart of American distilling in Kentucky,” he said, as if there was no other choice. “We wanted to carve out an identity in the land of bourbon.”

Brandies at Copper & Kings

Named stills and sonic aging


A walk through the facility is a peek into Heron’s approach—and the workings of his mind. “Brandy is the one spirit where the philosophy revolves around concentration and retention,” he mused. “The pot still is a tool of intensity.” Heron has named his three stills Isis, Magdalena, and Sara after women in Bob Dylan songs. “You can’t be a real distiller until you’ve named your stills,” he told us with a practiced shrug. He double distills to clarify the spirit, keeping some fermentation flavors and culling out others.

As fond as Heron is of his stills, he contends that “maturation is as important is distillation.” As he pointed out, “Brandy is promiscuous. It takes on flavor very quickly.” To instill a distinctly American character to the finished product, he ages most of the brandy in Kentucky bourbon barrels. Heron also uses American white oak barrels for the grape brandy and Spanish sherry casks for the apple brandy. Cr&ftwerk series brandy is aged in craft beer barrels.

“You muscle bourbon into shape,” he said. “But you stroke brandy into shape.”

Don’t expect hushed aging cellars at Copper & Kings. Heron has embraced “sonic aging.” Music is pumped into the cellars so that giant sub-woofer speakers can “pound a bass pulse into the spirit by increasing the contact between the spirit and the barrel through sound waves,” he said. He changes the Spotify playlist daily. “The principle has existed for a while. We are the distillery that has embraced it.”

Liquors and liqueurs


It probably goes without saying that Heron and his team like to experiment. The distillery has already launched more than 30 products, including several varieties of absinthe and gin, Orange Curaçao, and Mistelle—a muscat brandy liqueur infused with honey. For the Brewskey line, Copper & Kings distills craft beer and ages the result. “It tastes like whiskey with the flavor of beer,” Heron explained.

bartender Eron Plevon at Copper & KingsAfter passing through the art gallery, we reached the top level tasting room with a roofdeck and city skyline views. When we finally got to taste, we were glad that the products seem to justify Heron’s enthusiasm. We sampled the lavender absinthe, which had a marvelous swirl of anise and lavender botanicals, in a glass of Death in the Afternoon. (Just add champagne.) And we sampled the flagship spirit of Copper & Kings, the American Brandy. Tasted neat, it had sparkling fruit on the tongue and a long, smooth finish. It was brighter and sweeter than cognac—more like a Spanish brandy made from Pedro Ximenez grapes.

Wisconsin Brandy Old FashionedIt was showcased well in the trendy Wisconsin Brandy Old Fashioned. Bartender Eron Plevan mixed a jigger of brandy, a few dashes of bitters, a sugar cube, orange slices, maraschino cherries, and a splash of soda. (Copper & Kings made the bitters-infused soda, too.)

“It has all the authenticity of Pabst Blue Ribbon,” Heron said with a grin.

07

11 2017

Summit cocktail gives Cognac real sass

Yoann Saillard mixes Cognac Summit cocktails I was surprised to learn at the Camus Cognac House that the French are rather tepid Cognac drinkers. Sales in France account for only a paltry 3 percent of the brand’s market. (America, by the way, is the leader, followed by Russia and Asia.)

Perhaps that Gallic lack of enthusiasm spurred the Cognac trade association to assemble mixologists to devise new cognac cocktails that might give the storied brandy a modern edge. One such concoction, the Cognac Summit, appears to have caught on and a great place to try it is at the Bar Louise at the Hôtel François Premier Cognac Centre. It occupies a gorgeous, newly renovated old building right in the heart of town.

Young mixologist Yoann Saillard (above) hails from Normandy and knows that region’s signature Calvados apple brandy well. But he has become a big fan of Cognac. “It’s a most interesting spirit,” he said. “It has all the complexity of wine. Lots of people drink it on its own.” Saillard, however, is a showman at heart and mixing cocktails is his thing. For the Cognac Summit he prefers VSOP, which has at least four years of aging. “This cocktail respects the Cognac,” he told me as he sliced ginger and limes and muddled them with the spirit in a chilled water glass. “All the flavors are equal.”

The resulting drink is refreshing and bright, with a peppery sass from the ginger, a fruity tartness from the lime, and bubbly effervescence from the soda. Here is Saillard’s version of the simple, soon-to-be classic Cognac Summit. He uses Fever-Tree Sparkling Lemon but Sprite makes a good substitute here in the U.S.

Cognac Summit cocktailCOGNAC SUMMIT

Makes one serving

Ingredients

3-4 large slices of fresh ginger
slice of lime
1 shot (40 ml) Cognac
sparkling lemon soda
cucumber peel for garnish.

Directions

Muddle the lime, ginger, and Cognac in a chilled water glass.

Add ice to fill.

Top with lemon drink.

Garnish with cucumber peel and serve with a straw.

03

11 2014