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Copper & Kings Brandy Visit & Barrel Selection


Outside of Copper & Kings Brandy Distillery

When you think of Kentucky, you don’t exactly think of brandy and when you tour said brandy distillery, you don’t expect to put your tag on a barrel. But then again, as with Alice’s “Drink Me” potion sometimes up is down, the path is blurred and things are not exactly what they seem.

Copper & Kings is a brandy distillery that burst onto the scene recently with the release of some incredible brandies and grape based absinthe. We stocked their product soon after tasting it- while there are many craft producers that seem to be finding their branding and style, Copper & Kings came to the table with both of these elements done beautifully. They offered an exceptionally well made, focused product that was well packaged and marketed. So while in Kentucky to select our next Knob Creek Single Barrel, we figured we’d stop in to Copper & Kings and check out just what the hell was going on over there.

Shipping containers used at Copper & Kings Brandy DistilleryThe distillery is sitting in a neighborhood of Louisville called Butchertown- a name derived from the meat packing business that used to dominate the area. There is one small processor remaining across the street and the tales of screaming pigs almost made us reconsider bacon. ALMOST. The area is one of several up and coming parts of Louisville that are part of what some would call a “hipster revival”. I concede the term sounds negative, but in my mind it’s not at all. Think- independent, well conceived food and drink places without the stiff collars and a little bit of grit. This is happening in urban centers around the country and I, for one, am all for it. Copper & Kings embodies this urban renaissance and adds a well funded shine. They’ve employed repurposed shipping containers for structures on your arrival- a small gift shop, greeting area and food prep area for parties. They’ve installed butterfly gardens in the front and taken what looks to have been a (pardon my french) total piece of shit building, blown off the cobwebs and turned it into a GORGEOUS distillery and event space.



Copper & Kings StillsCopper & Kings head distiller, Brandon gave as the skinny on the beautiful, mad scientistey copper pot stills that dominate the distillery- three alembic copper pot stills hand made by one of the leading manufacturers, and Butchertown neighbor, Vendome. Lots of shiny copper, piping to take the spirit to all parts of the building, glass peep holes and a gin basket that protrudes through to the second floor art gallery which is used to jam all of those botanicals in for their delicious absinthe. A lot of thought went into both preserving the character of this old structure while providing Brandon an incredible tool box to play with.

Producing brandy (and brandy based absinthe) means starting with grape juice. And since you don’t hear many folks talking about the great wine growing region of Kentucky, Copper & Kings sources their juice from California wineries. After distillation, the brandy is barreled and rested in the basement- a cool, subterranean area with music blasting. I’d heard about their sonic aging techniques and was prepared to call bullshit, but as it was explained I began to understand. It’s commonly understood that 70% of a spirit’s flavor is derived from its contact with wood. Copper & Kings is testing the theory that by blasting music as the spirit ages, the vibration in the liquid and the barrel causes more interaction with the wood and positively affects the end product. Certainly, more testing would have to be done to determine if it’s true or not, but the basement rocked regardless.



Barrels aging at Copper & Kings Brandy DistilleryThis is where things started to get interesting… Brandon told us a bit about his background- a personal and family history in winemaking and distilling. He showed us the work they were doing with unique barrels- beer barrels on loan from partner breweries, sherry butts, port pipes and some unique wood you don’t normally see in a distillery. He then mentioned there were around ten barrels aging in bourbon casks that they had selected for a single barrel program. Our ears perked up.




Barrel Samples From Copper & Kings Brandy DistilleryWe sidestepped through some very tight racking with a drill and some hand scrawled notes. Brandon had some “honey barrels” identified and we went down the line checking them out. While all were incredible, it came down to two- one aged in a Willett barrel and another in a Woodford Reserve barrel. While the former had the name appeal that would make everyone go crazy- the latter had the quality in the juice. Explosive and all encompassing bourbon flavor with a finish that lingers far beyond your typical bourbon. The nose is just like bourbon and while the flavor is very similar, it activates all parts of the palate. “This is brandy, right?” I asked. We were totally blown away by this spirit, but a bit nervous by the word “Brandy” on the label. We knew if blind tasted, this bottle would sell itself, but most people come to us for whiskey, not brandy, so there would be some education required. Luckily, we had traveled to Kentucky with a friendly competitor who was similarly blown away. We agreed to split the barrel. Our Copper & Kings Cask Strength Single Barrel (from a Woodford Reserve barrel) is now available!


Barrel Selection at Copper & Kings

Four Firkins Closing

Last night I learned with the rest of you that Four Firkins is closing. Now, it’s not often that we take time to talk about our competition let alone sing them praise, but in this case it is well deserved. I’m not friends with the Firkins crew- I know Alvey only in passing. We’ve worked together on Sunday sales and we’ve bumped shoulders competitively a couple of times. So this isn’t an endorsement of my buddy by any means.

I’ve been in the retail liquor business for just over 10 years and had followed a relatively tried and true model. When I started hearing grumblings of this specialty store in St. Louis Park, it piqued my interest and as more and more of my customers were getting into craft beer I heard more and more about the Firkins. I never made the actual trip to see them until the new store opened and immediately a light turned on in my head. Taking a creative retail approach to this business really hadn’t been done in the cities. I traveled around the country and observed other concepts that were executed similarly brilliant and that light in my head turned to a strobe.

“Head into the light!”

Alvey was a trailblazer with this concept. Sure, in the postmortem you can dissect every wrong business decision he made, but unless you are in his shoes, you can’t ever understand the complexity of issues that led to their closure. This is a note simply to thank Alvey for raising the bar for the competition, recognize the Firkins concept for it’s originality and wish all the best going forward.

Gift Card Redemption
The gift card issue seems to be sticking in people’s craw- understandably so. To lessen the pain for those stuck holding the cards and to turn some people on to a great alternative, Ace Spirits will be offering $10 in store credit for any Four Firkins Gift Card. Sure, there are some limits- You need to make at least a $40 purchase, we will need to keep the card, we limit it to one card per person per day and we reserve the right to terminate this program at any time. But, you’ll get a little something where you otherwise might have none.

Anyhoo… A sad day for the beer community and the Twin Cities as a whole.

Oak by Absolut- Vodka? Whiskey? Whisky?

“I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
-Humphrey Bogart’s last words

Oak by AbsolutMinneapolis is one of three markets where Absolut has launched Oak– a vodka aged six months in new oak and of course, we had to bring it in. But Absolut Oak begs the question- is this vodka? Is this whiskey? Frankly, the release somewhat bothers me as it blurs category lines that can already be a bit confusing.

Oak by Absolut is made from wheat and distilled to a proof higher than allowable to be considered whiskey. Aside from that, it looks and tastes like a very light whiskey. It’s certainly not the worst I’ve tasted, but I’d take a bottle of Booker’s over this any day. Oak by Absolut was launched with the intention of bringing vodka drinkers into the whiskey category. While we love to get people turned on to whiskey here, I’m not sure we want vodka drinkers raiding our increasingly scarce supplies, but I suppose if they stick to this, we’ll be good. 😉

I’m curious to hear what you think about this… Anyone?

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Our Blog Died- RIP the blog…

So I did something stupid for a change.  With the click of the mouse, I deleted both our old blog and the backup of our old blog.  Because sometimes I’m brilliant like that.   Recreating our old blog posts does not sound like much fun, but there was some good info in there and I might just have to bring myself (kicking and screaming) to do it.  In the mean time.  Welcome to our fresh start!