One Saturday following work found me driving around random streets in Louisville and I came across brown tourist signs directing me to Copper & Kings Distillery. I’ve never heard of such a place so, since I had my camera, I just had to go down that rabbit hole. It took me to an area called Butchertown, which seems pretty badass. More on that later. Here’s what I was presented with when I arrived.
Very modern looking with the use of connex containers for building materials. Pretty cool choice of colors.
The welcome center was closed temporarily so I waited with a surprising number of other people. Once the guide returned to take admission, I realized why I’d never heard of it before.
They make brandy, not bourbon. In Kentucky. Who knew? Wait, what is brandy? This could be an eye opening experience.
What is brandy? It’s essentially whiskey made out of fruit instead of grain. They basically take apples, pears, or grapes and ferment it, distill it, and age it in bourbon barrels.
Vendome is a Louisville manufacturer of stills and they ship worldwide. I really need to find a way to visit their production facility. I bet it would push all my manufacturing geek buttons.
Brandy doesn’t have the bourbon rules that say “Thou MUST use new charred oak barrels” so they get barrels that have already worked their magic on grains turning moonshine into bourbon. Now they fill it with their distillate, which is essentially wine, and age it into brandy. They’re essentially making a Kentucky version of Cognac. The orange painted barrel heads cover up the markings from the first life of the barrel. Those barrels with spigots are for visitors to bottle their own cask strength brandy bottles.
There wasn’t much to see in the still area so we went into the aging warehouse in the basement. That’s where things took another surprising turn.
We were in the basement, which a northerner like me knows has pretty consistent temperatures year round. That conflicts with the goal of aging whisky, which says the temperature changes move the contents of the barrel into and out of the actual wood staves, interacting with the alcohol and giving it flavors from the sugars and the char in the wood. The wood actually absorbs the juice over time and then releases most of it back into the barrel, changing it for the better. I know a guy who buys used barrels and “sweats” his own whiskey out of them. Basements seem like the wrong place to get that action. So Copper & Kings does something different to foster that interaction. They play music. Specifically rock & roll. That’s kind of their theme. See the speaker above the barrels? They blast music round the clock, using the bass notes to vibrate the liquid and force it to interact with the used bourbon barrels, imparting the flavors from the wood. They choose playlists based on artist’s birthdays and whatever theme strikes their fancy for the day. Did you notice the old timey radios in the welcome center?
Part of the Copper & Kings business model is to conservation, both ecologically and in their use of renewable energy. Besides reusing barrels, they have a large array of solar panels to generate the electricity needed to power their production.
That’s downtown Louisville in the distance.
That awesome logo is for the Butchertown soccer team. They’re one level below Major League Soccer (MLS) but apparently they are quite popular in the Louisville area. The team and city is building a stadium in distance to the right of that sign. It’s going to be quite a place if the artist renderings can be trusted.
Copper & Kings is going to have quite a view of the place once it’s built.
Of course the tour ends in tastings. Brandy isn’t among my favored drinks and, while interesting, this tour didn’t change that. That’s ok, because I’m sure there are plenty of brandy drinkers who will find this place and their products quite tasty.
The setting is designed for entertainment. They have parties here with bands and other drinks. It seems like a really cool place.
Another aspect of their conservation is keeping a stop over for the monarch butterflies during their migration. It would be cool to see this area filled with them.
Anyway, I quite enjoyed the tour. I believe it cost about $12, but I can’t remember. I didn’t buy anything since, well, brandy. If that’s your thing, great! More power to you.
Their website is very well done:
Copper & Kings
121 E Washington St
Louisville, KY 40206