Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon review
Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon
Distillery: Bardstown Bourbon Company
Type & Region: Bourbon, USA
Composition: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% barley
Aged: 11 years virgin American white oak + 20 months in Copper and Kings Apple Brandy barrels
From the Bardstown Bourbon Company website:
“A perfect pairing of fruit and vanilla.An indulgent array of apple, caramel and baking spices completes this rich, lightlydry, crisply complex, one-of-a-kind pour.”
Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon overview
Bardstown Bourbon Company is doing a lot of interesting experimentation with finished bourbons. This Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon, the focus of this review, was one of the first finished bourbons they ever released, more or less at the same time as the Chateau de Laubade, Prisoner Wine, and Phifer Pavitt Cabernet finish among others. At this point, this review is a little late given that this bourbon was released in late 2019 / early 2020 with a limited bottle count, so nearly every bottle is probably taken by now…whoops. Still, 11 year old MGP bourbon finished for 20 months in American apple brandy casks is worth writing about.
Let’s talk about the finish. Copper and Kings is a Kentucky-based distillery that focuses on brandy (distilled from fruit). I believe that the apple brandy for this finish was distilled from Michigan apples, although I have no idea how long the brandy was oak aged. American apple brandy finishes are still uncommon in American Whiskey, but I have had some apple finished whiskeys such as One Eight Untitled No. 9 finished for 20 months in Calvados barrels, Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release 3 finished in American malt whiskey barrels that first aged apple cider, and Sagamore Spirit Calvados Finish. There’s a lot of uniqueness to be found, so let’s find out if it translates to something special in this Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon review.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon smell
Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon has a lot of caramel and vanilla from the 11 year old MGP bourbon, then spiced apples with cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg like apple cider, dried citrus peel, licorice, mint, roasted, oak and chocolate. The long apple brandy finish is less overpowering and more subtle, amplifying the notes that are already in the base bourbon but with an extra splash of apple, cinnamon, clove, citrus, and roasted notes that come together like a freshly baked apple crumble. The nose is rich, dense, and dark, but it doesn’t reach Bardstown Bourbon Company Chateau de Laubade finish-level, which is the comparison that always comes to mind because they came out around the same time. Since this has aired out for 40 minutes and had 2-3 months of sitting in a ¾ full bottle, the heat is quite tame. I can already say that this smells better than Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release 3, finished in American single malt whiskey barrels that initially aged apple cider.
After swirling, the nose continues to be round and rich from caramel, fire roasted vanilla, maple syrup, ginger, dark baked apples with the peel left on it, ripe citrus, candied strawberries and peaches, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, licorice, and background oakiness. To no one’s surprise, the nose is fruity, but it’s not solely apple-y. The oak is there, inline for an 11 year old bourbon, but there’s also so much in front of it to draw -away my attention. For me at least, the apple brandy finish adds just as much citrus, vanilla, and licorice as it does apple, although I’ve found that some apple brandies can be very licorice-y, such as Bowman Apple Brandy. All in all, this nose is wonderfully fragrant, so the finish worked well.
Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon taste & aftertaste
That first sip of Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Finish Bourbon is intensely sweet with caramel, citrus, red apple (surprise I know), vanilla, cinnamon, and licorice. Even with 11 year old bourbon + finishing, this isn’t all that oaky, although it does provide a roasted oak canvas for everything else. The apple finish isn’t nearly as apple-y as you might expect from a 20 month finish, with the base bourbon still commanding the flavors. While there is some bite from the 60.4% ABV, it’s not too bad and primarily contributes to the richness.
After chewing, it becomes more flavorful with tons of caramel, honey, roasted vanilla, citrus, licorice, roasted apples, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, oak, and some 80% dark chocolate. That’s really it, and for better or worse the flavors narrowly focus on those areas, but does it all very well. The 11 year MGP and apple brandy complement each other, but the apple continues to take a backseat as the caramel and vanilla lead the way. Overall, the flavors are round and rich with a lot of dark roasted sugars and dark fruitiness, characteristic of the underlying bourbon, and all accented with apples. It’s very appropriate for fall. As unfair as it is to say, the Copper and Kings finish doesn’t live up to my experience with the Chateau de Laubade finish, but it’s still a delicious bourbon on its own.
All the richness in the flavors ease into caramel covered apple with some roasted oak, tannins, licorice, mint, and apple peel. The finish definitely has the lingering aftertaste after biting into a red apple. After “chewing”, it becomes more apple-y with apple peel, cinnamon, honey, licorice, roasted oak tannins, and lightly bitter dark chocolate. This isn’t an apple-bomb, more of an apple glaze, but it’s still great.
Place on the Whiskey Shelf
Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Apple Brandy Finish Bourbon overall is a rich, well-developed, and memorable bourbon, but I’m conflicted because it sometimes feels kind of shallow and too straightforward. The apple brandy finish for the most part pairs well with the base 11 year old MGP bourbon, amplifying the caramel, honey, and vanilla sweetness, baked apple fruitiness, and licorice herbalness, but I wish that it also could have added something more surprising or unique. Then again, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was all intentionally designed given the brandy they used. In the realm of apple-related finished whiskey though, I definitely prefer this Copper and Kings Finish to the Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release 3.
In the broader context, the Copper and Kings Finish is not quite as mind blowing as I had hoped, especially when their Chateau de Laubade Finish Bourbon blew my mind and is in the running for 2020 bourbon of the year. It’s also not a fair comparison because they are two completely different types of finishes – the Chateau de Laubade barrels probably held 20+ year old Armagnac, and Copper and Kings probably aged relatively young (maybe 4-5 year old) apple brandy. For me, there’s no contest. Having drank a bottle of the Copper and Kings Single Barrel Apple Brandy selected by Jack Rose, I know that it’s good but not particularly memorable, and in some ways that carries over into the bourbon finish. To sum it all up, I think that Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings Apple Brandy Finish Bourbon is excellent, although it still has some shortcomings and is far from my favorite finished bourbon from them.