About four years ago, Sku sent me a sample of an American brandy named Butchertown by a new Kentucky-based craft outfit named Copper & Kings. The distillery was being hyped at the time by David Driscoll at the K&L blog (remember him? I wonder if he’s helped cure cancer yet) and that was good enough reason for many to be skeptical. Then Sku gave it a very strong review, which led me to open and taste my sample. I remember finding it interesting but nothing so very special but as I was not reviewing brandy at the time, I didn’t bother taking notes. I did, however, mention in the comments on Sku’s blog that I had found a strong anise note in the brandy and this led to the proprietor of Copper & Kings becoming very excited. Not very surprising behaviour perhaps from one who apparently plays loud rock music to his casks. Speaking of “his casks”, Butchertown is sourced brandy, not distilled by Copper & Kings. They only started distilling their own brandy in 2014—I assume some of it will come online soon.
The Butchertown is comprised of 75% brandy aged in bourbon barrels and 25% brandy aged in new American oak. It’s released at the kind of eye-watering strength that too many American bourbon aficionados are too enamoured of. On the plus side it has no additives and is not chill-filtered. On the minus side there’s no mention of age. While I didn’t think very much of this when I tasted it back in 2015, I purchased a bottle earlier this year while putting together a brandy tasting for some friends in town. It was the one American brandy in the lineup and was nobody’s favourite. I did like it more than I had that first sample and have been planning for a while on formally reviewing it. And now I’ve finally done it.
Copper & Kings, Butchertown Brandy (62%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Rather closed at first; there’s some oak spice and some indistinct fruit and some salted nuts. But not much beyond that. The fruit expands a bit with time but this needs water. Yes, with a few drops of water there’s some caramel, some vanilla and a herbal note as well (sage, mint).
Palate: Though it’s very hot here too there’s more happening on the palate: more oak, some cherry mixed with a bit of orange peel and then as I swallow there’s some anise. The fruit gets richer with the second and third sips but the alcohol is holding it back. Much more approachable with water: more citrus now, more of the anise and more of the oak and also a floral note; all in nice balance.
Finish: Long. Mostly spicy here with the anise dying away after a bit. As on the palate with water, with the fruit expanding into the finish.
Comments: I didn’t find the anise as pronounced here as I had back in 2015 (maybe a batch issue?). On the whole, this is pleasant stuff though I wish it was bottled at a lower proof. Other than a kind of craft spirits machismo and/or purism there is really no reason to put this out at 62%. Do what distilleries like Springbank do: figure out what a good drinking strength is for your spirit and bottle it closer to that. Then again many people buying craft spirits—especially men—are drawn to high octane strengths for their own sake. Well, pleasant as this is, it doesn’t really do very much for me. I don’t really drink enough brandy to want something like this as a changeup from the French brandies I prefer; bourbon drinkers will probably like it a lot more. I suspect most of the rest of this bottle will go into cocktails that otherwise call for bourbon.
Rating: 84 points.