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s s a r G Blue nicals a t o B &

Gin begins to assert itself in bourbon country.

WRITTEN BY JEFF CIOLETTI ILLUSTRATED BY LANETTE FAULKINBERRY

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or Joe Heron, sometimes the best parts of the spirits-making journey are the ones that aren’t completely planned. “Suddenly, we became the accidental gin company,” says Heron, founder of Louisville, Kentucky’s Copper & Kings Distillery. When Copper & Kings launched in 2014, the company was already going against the grain— pun intended—by opening a brandy distillery in the heart of bourbon country. It always intended to make gin in small quantities to sell mostly at the distillery in Louisville’s Butchertown neighborhood and maybe at a few other local accounts. “We weren’t that excited about getting into gin because [the category] is so fragmented,” Heron recalls, “but we were very excited because we knew we could make a very distinctive gin with a brandy base that’s double-distilled. And then it exploded and it’s now sold across our footprint, in as many as 30 states.” And, just as Copper & Kings discovered when it produced the first of its flagship fruit-based spirits in a very grain-minded region, the Blue Grass State is very fertile ground for innovation beyond the obvious distillates. The rise of Kentucky-produced gin reflects a greater renaissance that began in Europe and has started to make its way to the opposite side of the Atlantic. On the surface, the U.S. gin rebound seems modest. The Distilled Spirits Council reported total category growth of 0.7 percent last year. But it’s the first time in many years that the change in volume versus the prior 12-month period was in positive territory, however modest. And, if you drill deeper beyond the category-wide figure, you’ll see the real, premiumization-driven narrative: gin’s high-end and super-premium price tiers—the sweet spots for craft spirits—were up a respective 9.8 percent and 11.8 percent. The surge in interest in above-premium gins has enabled distillers to innovate quite a bit within the space. In addition to its aged and “Immature” grape brandies and its aged and unaged apple brandies, Copper & King produces American Dry Gin and American Old Tom Gin, as well as a WWW.ARTISANSPIRITMAG.COM  

growing roster of limited releases like the Frenchoak-finished L’Inspecteur, the Serbian-juniperbarrel-aged Stray Cat and the bourbon-barrelfinished Alley Cat. “Distillers love making gins,” says Heron. “There’s quite a creative palette, you can paint quite wildly as a distiller if you do

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Artisan Spirit: Winter 2017  
Artisan Spirit: Winter 2017  

The magazine for craft distillers and their fans.