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Monday, November 10, 2014

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Coppercraft Distillery

I’ve traveled U.S. 31 all my life.  It runs along the shore of Lake Michigan through my hometown of Muskegon, north to Traverse City, and south through Grand Haven and more beach towns.  It also connects the West Michigan Lakeshore to my current hometown of Louisville, where it splits into two parallel routes, one of which (U.S. 31E), connects Louisville to Bardstown.  Now U.S. 31 has led me north again, to Holland, Michigan and Coppercraft Distillery (http://www.coppercraftdistillery.com/), where Bourbon and other American Whiskies are taking root.

Coppercraft would belong on the Bourbon Trail’s Craft Tour if Indiana didn’t separate us.  Walter Catton and Mark Fellwock at Coppercraft started in 2012 with a 350 gallon Vendome copper still, but they soon knew that they needed something bigger.  

This past June, they put a second Vendome still into operation – this time a 750 gallon still they named “Serendipity” because of the good fortune that landed this larger still from a distillery in Washington State. 


The term “craft” has been ruined by some of the large distilleries, but Coppercraft clearly knows what it means.  They source grain from local farmers, their batches are necessarily small, and they’re experimenting with many different mash bills.

Because of the time needed to age whiskey, Coppercraft started with rum, gin, vodka and citrus vodka (none of which I tried).  While those spirits could hit the shelves, Coppercraft was aging whiskeys with a variety of mash bills – a 95% rye whiskey, a 95% wheat whiskey, a 100% corn whiskey, and … thankfully … Bourbon (70% corn, 25% rye and 5% malted barley).  The non-Bourbon whiskies were barreled about one year ago and the initial run of Bourbon was barreled in May 2013.  Late this past summer, the first batches of the rye, wheat whiskey and corn whiskey from the first distillate run were released, while other barrels were reserved for more aging, and while the Bourbon continues to age (until at least May 2015).

Tasting Notes

Disclaimer: Coppercraft kindly gave me sample bottles of its corn whiskey and wheat whiskey for this review, without any strings attached.  Mark Fellwock also spent some time with me to discuss the past two years of Coppercraft and their plans for the future. 
Thank you.


Corn Whiskey
Wheat Whiskey
Proof:

90
90
Mash Bill:
100% corn
95% red wheat; 5% malted barley

Age:

9 months
9 months
Cooperage:

Used Bourbon barrels
Kelvin Cooperage New Oak; Char Level 3

Cost:
$35.00 / 375ml
$35.00 / 375ml


Both the corn whiskey and the wheat whiskey had essentially the same color – amber that looked more gold in the light.  The nose of the corn whiskey was (predictably) heavy on corn – strong like a bubbling mash tub – along with pine nuts and just a bit of vanilla, while the nose of the wheat whiskey was remarkably similar, but with just a hint of cereal and fresh bread.  Also, as expected, both of these had the unmistakable nose of young whiskey – a high-pitched blast of corn and pine nuts without the mellowed balance that comes with years of interaction with the barrel.  I recently tried Smooth Ambler’s 1.5 year-old Yearling wheated Bourbon, and its nose was extremely similar to Coppercraft’s wheat whiskey nose.  In fact, if you’ve had the 1.5 year-old Yearling, it has a lot of similarities to Coppercraft’s wheat whiskey all the way around.

The corn whiskey had a distinct taste of raw grain along with moonshine qualities.  The wheat whiskey was more flavorful in comparison, with some sugary sweetness (maybe pink Smarties?) and a softer grain.  Both finished warm and short.  I know some people who love these raw, lightly-aged whiskies, but for my personal preference, I treat it more as being able to follow the progression of a whiskey (and not as an everyday sipper).

I’m glad that Coppercraft is giving these whiskies some age instead of selling unaged whiskey, and I’ll be really interested in these whiskies – and especially the Bourbon – after additional aging.  There isn’t any substitute for real, no-gimmick aging, and thankfully Coppercraft isn’t trying any of those supposed shortcuts.  It takes time and patience for aged whiskies, so stay tuned for more from Coppercraft. 

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