All photos by Sara Havens.
Most bourbon aficionados were in Bardstown, Ky., last Friday for the annual Kentucky Bourbon Festival, a seven-day affair that attracts visitors from near and far during Bourbon Heritage Month. But a select few of us were standing smack dab in the middle of a corn field in Bardstown, at the newly opened Bardstown Bourbon Company, anxiously awaiting the first sips of two new products.
Collabor&tion is a rare release whose name says it all — it’s a joint effort between the BBCo. distillery and Louisville’s Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery. The two products mark the first of many releases from one of the largest bourbon distilleries in the world.
We’ll get to the delicious products, but first a little history on both. BBCo. was founded in 2014 by Peter Loftin, David Mandell, Daniel Linde and Garnett Black, and construction was finished in 2016. The $25 million complex sits in the middle of 100 acres of farmland. The distillery has a unique Collaborative Distilling Program, which allows it to create and age bourbons and whiskeys for other brands and interested parties.
(L-R) Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s president and CEO David Mandell, BBCo. master distiller Steve Nally, Copper & Kings co-founder Joe Heron and C&K’s head distiller Brandon O’Daniel
Within one year, the distillery went from a 1.5 million-proof-gallon capacity to 3 million, and just last week they announced their expansion to allow for a 6 million-proof-gallon capacity. That’s about 100,000 barrels a year.
Meanwhile, Louisville’s Copper & Kings opened in 2014 by entrepreneurs Joe and Leslie Heron. The state-of-the-art distillery dabbles with innovation, and while coming out with some solid pot-distilled American apple and grape brandies, they’ve also released absinthe and gin.
At the press conference on Friday, C&K’s Joe Heron said the partnership with BBCo. came after a conversation between him and Mandell a few Kentucky Bourbon Festivals ago.
“I met David a few years ago and we started talking about working together — that’s what it’s about: Doing stuff together with friends and having fun with it,” Heron said. “If you’re not having fun in the business of whiskey, then you’re totally in the wrong business.”
Mandell added that the two new products are exactly what people can expect from his distillery.
“It’s a spirit that really embraces the spirit of working together,” he said. “It’s the embodiment of what we stand for at the Bardstown Bourbon Company.”
The two Collabor&tion products were created by BBCo. master distiller Steve Nally and C&K’s head distiller Brandon O’Daniel. The distillers used 10-year-old straight bourbon sourced from MGP in Lawrenceburg, Ind., and finished one in used C&K American Brandy barrels and the other in used Muscat Mistelle barrels for 18 months each.
Mistelle is basically unfermented grape juice mixed with un-aged brandy, so the barrels added some interesting sugary and fruit essences to the bourbon. And the bourbon that was finished in the brandy barrels gives off accentuated dark fruit notes (think: figs, raisins and dates) as well as notes of honey and spice.
The brandy-finished Collabor&tion will be sold at 113 proof, while the Mistelle-finished bourbon is at 94 proof. Both are available in limited quantities in Kentucky as well as across the country.