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Copper & Kings Bourbon finished in American Apple Brandy Barrels Review

Copper & Kings Bourbon finished in American Apple Brandy Barrels Review

In the New Jersey Bourbon and Yacht Club, there has been a longstanding debate over which Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaboration Series has been the best. My own opinion on the matter was the first Chateau de Laubade release which saw MGP bourbon finished in Armagnac Casks. But I was surprised to hear the majority of the guys claim their favorite was the Collaboration Series that saw MGP bourbon finished in Copper & Kings Apple Brandy Barrels.

All of that is to say that when I first caught wind of a Copper and Kings bourbon finished in their own Apple Brandy Barrels – I immediately thought that people were talking about that BBCo Collaboration Series release from 3 years ago. It turned out I was wrong and that it was an entirely new product. My friend and fellow reviewer, David Levine over at Whiskey In My Wedding Ring brought the bottle to my attention and told me I had to try it.

He came back from a trip to Kentucky in late 2023 and sang it praises for the quality of the bourbon compared to its price. The majority of our group were skeptical about his conclusion, but they determined that if it was anywhere near as good as the Bardstown Bourbon Company release that I just mentioned, then they’d be open to trying it.

The makeup of Copper & King Bourbon and a word about its finishing process

This is one of the rare times I don’t have to go hunting for the source of the bourbon inside. David already did the homework and found out that each batch is made up of a blend of

  • 64% 5-year-old bourbon from Bardstown Bourbon Co.
  • 24% 10-year-old bourbon from Barton
  • 12% 15-year-old bourbon from Heaven Hill

It’s then divided up into fresh Apple Brandy barrels from Copper & Kings where it’s sonically aged for 12 months (which is rather long in my opinion). You may have heard of this sonic aging technique being used at other producers like Blackened. I think it’s even a key aspect of the TerrePURE aging process utilized by O.Z. Tyler/Green River Distillery. I personally don’t believe in its purported maturation benefits, but it might have better luck in releasing the liquid stored inside of the staves of a finishing barrel and agitating the liquid in the barrel. So who am I to question it?

Once the finishing process was done, Copper and Kings then bottled it up at a very respectable 111 proof. And while many stores in Kentucky (the only state where this bottle is sold to my knowledge) sell this bottle for around $60-65, it has been available at almost all Kroger liquor stores for below $50 during the last 6 months.

For a bourbon that is finished for that long, at that proof and has an average age of around 7 1/2 years old, it’s possibly one of the best deals in bourbon right now. But do those stats equate to a bottle that tastes as good as it should? Let’s find out. I sampled this neat in a glencairn.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Tannins are the scents that hit early on. I’m finding toasted oak and leather (likely a culprit of the Barton bourbon in the blend) and both are a treat. Of course there are fruits like baked orchard fruits (apples and pears) which are complimented with a sweet caramel aroma. Spicier notes like cinnamon and nutmeg tickle my nose and buttery pie crust adds a richness to the whole experience. There are moments where the nose shows you that it’s primarily composed of 5-year-old bourbon, but for the most part, each sniff is well put together and seems to give off vibes of being older than it actually is.

Palate: The apple flavors are immediately recognizable on the palate, yet I don’t feel like they’re smothering the other flavors. This seems much more balanced than I gave it credit for. The baking spices are out in full force, which is welcome here so that the fruit flavors don’t dominate. I am tasting cinnamon, clove and nutmeg. There’s also a bit of black pepper spice that contributes to the heat. Speaking of heat, this tastes well below its proof. I’d guess this bottle was 100 proof if the label didn’t tell me otherwise.

Surprisingly, I do find a healthy amount of rye flavors within. It contributes to an herbal, almost earthy flavor. This isn’t a flaw because it contributes another complimentary layer to the bourbon and apple brandy notes. But if you were expecting to find only boozy apples, it may surprise you. And while this may sound odd to say, I think the Heaven Hill bourbon is the most recognizable component in this dram, despite making up only 12% of the overall blend.

Finish: A bit more tannic and bitter on the finish, but not by much. It’s still very pleasant to take in. Cinnamon powder becomes the dominant spice and the oak shows itself much more than I was thinking it would. This is a good thing! There is a “buttery baked goods” mouthfeel and taste that also lingers. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it makes this one of the more delicious finishes I’ve encountered recently.

Score: 8/10

Wow, I’m actually really impressed. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect and figured that David might’ve been over-selling how good it was. But I’m a believer now that I’ve experienced it and I’ll surely be on my way back to Kentucky to scoop a couple more of these up.

Speaking of the Bluegrass State, I think this is one of the top bottles to take back home with you if you’re visiting and looking for some “Kentucky exclusives” that you can’t get anywhere else. It shouldn’t be too hard to find (unless a lot more people see this review), so keep your eyes open and remember what I said about Kroger having the best price.

Final Thoughts

With so many new labels being released every month, it’s hard to make a decision on what to buy and what to skip. Trust me, I feel the same way too. But allow me to cut to the chase by telling you that this is absolutely one of those bottles you need to buy. The specs had me leaning in that direction already, but the taste definitely sold me.

The quality of this bottle is on par with a lot of the Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaboration Series releases that have been coming out lately – except that it’s half the price. But that doesn’t mean you’re getting a product that tastes half as good. This is full-bodied, packed with flavor and – best of all – doesn’t allow the finishing cask to overwhelm the bourbon underneath. That’s all I ask for in a finished whiskey and now I’ve found a new favorite. I hope Copper & Kings keeps making this, because I’m a fan.

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