One of the latest collaborations in the spirit world followed a pretty surreptitious path. Two Kentucky-based distillers—Bardstown Bourbon Company and Copper and Kings—got together back in 2015, looking to marry the former’s knowledge of brown spirits with Copper and Kings’ successes with brandy. But rather than working off Bardstown’s own arsenal of brown spirits, they took bourbon distilled back in 2006 by Indiana’s Lawrenceburg Distillers, and aged it for 18 months in the barrels used for Copper and Kings’ American brandy barrels, as well as Copper and Kings’ Mistelle barrels, which is an unfermented Muscat grape juice that’s commonly fortified with un-aged brandy.
All told, the resulting spirits have been trapped in some sort of aging for more than a decade. Thankfully, the two partners are familiar with waiting—and the results are largely worth the effort.
Each bottle is a singular experience, collectively dubbed the Collabor&tion Series. Of the two, the Bardstown Bourbon Company Collabor&tion Brandy Barrel Finish tastes as you might expect—a smooth, refined bourbon with distinct sweet notes from the brandy. For those who like a bit of bite with their brown spirit, this isn’t the flavor profile you’d desire, but the trace of wood and slight layers of apricot add a degree of complexity that present themselves as the flavor fades. It’s great on the rocks, but would likely perform especially well as part of a bourbon cocktail that carries more bitter notes like an Old Fashioned—especially given the spirit is bottled at a cask strength of 113 proof.
The Collabor&tion Mistelle Finish brings a whole new conversation to the table—sweetness, for sure, but less so than the brandy-aged bourbon. Fruit is present, but with a more interesting funky element that evokes a bit of Brett barnyard-i-ness (yes…that’s now a word) found in certain on-trend craft beer styles. At 98 proof, it’s a big, boozy sip, full of leather and tobacco notes, so it can stand on its own in cocktails with other bold ingredients. But the flavors on this bourbon—deep, rich whiskey notes, partnered with a slightly fruity, mellow woodiness—linger on the palate for a long time, making it a choice slow-sipping nightcap, that you should pour neat.
Both retail for $125, and they’re both worth the hunt.