Joe Heron, co-owner of Copper & Kings American Brandy, is tough to keep up with. Not that he’s elusive — he’s actually quite accessible. More in the sense of matching his pace when it comes to ideas, experiments and new products at the Louisville distillery.
It’s like playing a game of Whac-A-Mole that has been put on fast-forward. You bop one concept on the head, and three more pop up. But that’s exactly what you want in an entrepreneur — fresh ideas, no fear and an innate desire to innovate.
This week, Heron is focused on gin. Next week, it’ll be the opening of a brand-new rooftop bar at the distillery he’s calling Alexander.
We’re going to take his lead and also focus on gin — for two reasons. Copper & Kings will be releasing a new gin product, Moons of Jupiter, on Friday, June 1, the same day as its second annual “Supersonic: The Kentucky Craft Gin Festival.”
Heron, a South African native, tells us the Gin Fest was one of the distillery’s biggest events last year, and this year they plan on having five Kentucky distilleries participating.
Those include Castle & Key, Corsair, New Riff and Transformation Spirits. The party is held on the patio and also features Britpop music, free admission and gin samples from each of the five distilleries with the purchase of a $10 punch card.
“We like to collaborate,” Heron says about inviting the other distilleries to the party. “There’s a lot of benefit to getting like-minded spirits together, so to speak.”
The event also kicks off Negroni Week, and negronis will be available, as well as the classic gin & tonic. And if all that wasn’t enough, attendees will also have an opportunity to bottle their own barrel-aged gin — with a choice of three styles.
Agent Orange is a juniper-orange gin with fermented juniper wine that has been aged in a used orange curaçao barrel; The Smuggler is a classic apple brandy-based gin aged for two years in a small new American oak barrel; and Kenny G is an apple brandy-based gin, aged 18 months in a Sierra Nevada Cherry Chocolate Stout CR&FTWERK brandy barrel.
“Supersonic” runs from 7-11 p.m. at Copper & Kings on Friday, June 1.
Now, onto the Moons of Jupiter, which Heron explains is a grape brandy-based gin that introduces botanicals — mainly juniper — during the distilling process. Many brands of gin simply add a juniper flavoring to a neutral grain spirit, but Copper & Kings wanted to preserve the flavor of the brandy as well.
It took Heron and Master Distiller Brandon O’Daniel several batches to get the taste they wanted.
“You can’t just add juniper, it’s not that easy,” says Heron. “We crushed some juniper berries, which are very hard, and grinded others into a paste.”
The result is a very accessible, drinkable spirit that can be enjoyed on its own or in a cocktail.
“Our ambition is to be America’s most imaginative brandy producer, and also to perhaps aspire to be its most inventive gin distiller,” Heron says. “What I really like about what we do, it shows the real face of Louisville — not predictable, not ordinary and has a sense of adventure.”
Moons of Jupiter is 96 proof and will be available at the distillery and in local liquor stores starting June 1 for $40.
Before Heron comes up with another idea to put in a bottle, we asked him some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
I would dearly like to watch South Africa beat the All Blacks (rugby team of New Zealand) at the Eden Park stadium in Auckland.
This may be something more akin to a bucket with a giant hole in it, as I am not sure the Springboks could beat the All Blacks any where, any how, any day (which is a shockingly disappointing statement).
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
The Leeds United English Football team — who, in those days, were actually good, and now, for my sins, are rubbish.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
I would give it to Joe Argabrite — the owner of Headliners Music Hall — who has brought an uncountable amount of great, great music to this city and been the grease on the skids that has made this one of America’s greatest music towns.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
I am an outright Neapolitan classicist — thin crust, Margharita dressing, fresh tomato, black olives, capers, anchovies, touch of garlic.
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
I enjoyed the week after selling Crispin Cider in 2012 — that fleeting moment of wealth was really, really great. A comet-like moment. Then I lost my mind and got into the spirits business.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
The New York Times said I looked like an aging roadie.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?
Elon Musk, Robert Mueller, Bruce Springsteen. Four is perfectly comfortable, and I am sure Robert Mueller has sandwiches.