Hi everyone, The Whiskey Shelf here, a DC area-based whiskey blogger with a love for all things whiskey. In the past 20 months or so, I’ve done over 100 reviews and 30 comparisons, all with the goal of educating others about whiskey and what I think is good, great, and worth avoiding.
As I continue to review whiskeys and learn (it’s a journey not just a drink), I’ve also started expanding into other spirits, primarily brandy, because learning about other drinks can make me a better whiskey drinker. I won’t delve into the details of brandy since I’m still fairly new to the spirit, but I have landed on the fact that I really like what Copper & Kings is doing.
In short, Copper & Kings is an up-and-coming distiller, headquartered in Kentucky smack in the heart of bourbon country, that mainly focuses on grape and apple brandy, but also makes a few other spirits. I like their whiskey-like approach with no additives and good old-fashioned barrel aging to bring character and color to the spirit. Plus, being in Kentucky probably infuses a little extra magic in the air from all the whiskey that’s being taken by the angels. For me, it also makes brandy feel a little more familiar and comfortable.
For this review, I decided to explore Copper & King’s Capitol Strength Single Barrel grape brandy, a limited-release cask strength single barrel brandy that was selected for the DC market. I purchased this in DC for $80, so it certainly wasn’t cheap. There’s not much information on the brandy itself, but apparently, it was finished for 3 years in a Willett rye barrel, which infuses that much more whiskey familiarity into something I don’t know well. Maybe I’ll be able to pick out that rye character as we go along in this review.
On the nose, Capitol Strength Single Barrel initially comes off bourbon-y with honey, vanilla, a lot of citrus, and a little peach, pear, and apple. For grape brandy, the grape doesn’t come through as strongly as I would expect, but that instead may manifest itself as the constant and varied fruitiness I’m smelling. There’s a noticeable pine tree and general winter-y essence with a little licorice, and alcohol that blasts cold, mint, and wintery air into my nose. I can’t say for sure, but it seems that the rye finish adds those winter scents.
Digging through the scents more brings out more honey, apple, and pear, reminding me of Calvados, a French apple or pear brandy. The licorice, pine, and mint still bring that winter quality, and the oak creates an oaked white wine sensation. At 64%, there’s a potent bite from the heat, but nothing good ever came easy right?
Copper & Kings Capitol Strength Single Barrel’s flavors pack a lot of sweet fruitiness – honey, orange, green grapes, and mint, with hints of oak and cinnamon, as well as a surge of alcohol. The rye starts to shine through with enough licorice, fennel, and wintermint to add an extra twist to the grape brandy, while the rye and oak meld into a pleasant Christmas-like pine and mint. Kentucky “chewing” through this thick and intense brandy teases out more honey, orange, apple, grape, peach, and licorice, again reminding me of oaked white wine, but with more oak, cinnamon spice, and plenty of alcohol.
It’s a very fruity brandy for sure, but there’s enough wood, rye finishing, and punchy alcohol to add balance so it’s not fruit juice. The flavors certainly take me on a wild ride up and down the fruit, oak, and alcohol lane. This is a fun and welcome change of pace that takes the bourbon formula and cranks up the fruit and really turns down the oak, cinnamon, and toasted sugars.
I’m really digging Copper & Kings Capitol Strength Single Barrel, and I’ll miss it now that I’ve finished the entire bottle. I especially like the mix of honey, orange, pear, and grape that is complemented with mint, licorice, and pine. The contrasting fruit and winter qualities are quite interesting. My only wish was that this had been aged longer before finishing. It did come off a little too hot in both the nose and palate at times and possibly could have been remedied with a few more years in oak.
Ultimately, Capitol Strength Single Barrel is a fantastic American brandy that sometimes reminds me of home (whiskey) but still brings a number of new tricks to the party. I’m looking forward to what Copper & Kings has in store for us in the future and already have a single barrel bottling of their apple brandy waiting to be opened.