I’m always intrigued by no-name brands, especially from regions that aren’t widely known as whiskey-producing areas of the United States. Whiskey is an insanely crowded market where brand identity is a huge part of the strategy for any distillery, so to put out something with a generic label and a forgettable name is an odd gamble. But it’s a gamble that sort of paid off this time, since the lack of memorable branding and off-the-beaten-path region (Indiana) caught my attention.
Copper Still is a sub-brand created by the Copper Mountain Beverage Company of Indianapolis, Indiana. Founded in 2004 by a team of people who had experience selling products in the alcoholic beverage industry, Copper Mountain specializes in wholesale distribution and private labeling of spirits for third parties. Copper Mountain does not appear to own any distillation facilities, and instead sources the spirits for their brands.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
As a sourced whiskey, we know that this probably came from a larger distillation facility and was sold to Copper Still as an already finished product. Since this is coming from Indiana, I’d say there’s a very good chance that this was sourced from MGP, one of the biggest in the business and a typically reliable source for good whiskey — and which is also located in Indiana. Unfortunately, that means we don’t have many of the details, but we can make some educated guesses based on the bottle.
Given that this is labeled as a bourbon, we know that this whiskey needed to start out as a mixture of grains, at least 51% of which was corn. According to the label, another 21% was rye… but whether there’s anything else in here other than those two components is undisclosed. Whatever the final ratio may be, those grains are then milled, cooked, and fermented to create a mildly alcoholic liquid that is then distilled to create the newly made whiskey.
As with all straight bourbons, that newly-made whiskey is then placed into charred new oak barrels for a period of at least two years. According to the label, the spirit actually sits in that barrel for no less than three years before being packaged for sale. As a “single barrel” expression, the expectation is that 100% of the whiskey in this bottle came from a single distillation run and was matured in the same barrel.
This is, quite possibly, the least attractive bottle I’ve ever seen.
Let’s start with the actual bottle itself. The shape is a standard liquor bottle setup: cylindrical body, rounded shoulder, medium length neck with a bulge, yada yada yada. We’ve seen this pattern time and again with distilleries, especially newer ones, and usually those facilities try to make the best of the situation with the bottling and labeling. But that isn’t very good either.
Starting from the top, I have a structural complaint with the labeling: it literally gets in the way of your drinking.
The upper foil wrap surrounding and keeping the cork in place seems designed to be torn away right through the middle of the stopper, but doing so leaves this lip of plastic around the mouth of the bottle. Every time you pour your spirit, it will pass directly over this bit of plastic, tarnishing the flavor and potentially getting whiskey everywhere. Really bad design on the label there — I would have preferred a design where that entire piece of plastic is torn away.
Moving to the label, this looks like a Rorschach test. There’s a massive blob of black ink in the center that I think is supposed to be a copper pot still, but it is so jumbled and abstract in design that I can’t tell for sure. It makes the label feel cluttered and disorganized, despite the otherwise clean presentation — which makes me even more annoyed, as the label takes up the entire front of the whiskey bottle. If that were for a good purpose, like some good artwork, I might forgive it. But this is just a complete waste.
I do like that each of the spirits in their product line has a different colored label… but I really don’t like the label itself.
This smells quite nice. There are some caramel and brown sugar tones, supported by a bit of vanilla and crisp apple — all of which are common and familiar components for a good high-rye bourbon whiskey.
Taking a sip, you can really see that rye content come into play. There’s an initial hit of caramel and vanilla that you’d expect from the corn content and barrel aging of the whiskey, but almost immediately the black pepper spice of the rye takes control and overpowers everything else. From there, it’s a thick and spicy ride: a hint of apple shining through in the middle, and culminating in a slightly bitter finish with a lip-numbing level of black pepper.
The flavors in this whiskey when taken neat are a bit… much. There’s a lot of thick, oily, pepper flavors from the rye content that seems to overpower everything else. But the good news is that (for the most part) all of this seems to improve with a bit of ice.
As you’d expect, a bit of chilly dilution tones down the worst of those elements. The bitterness on the finish is almost completely eliminated, and there’s more room for the apple and caramel components to shine through in the flavor profile. There’s even a good bit of depth and character to the flavors, which probably means good things for the cocktails to come.
I’m still a touch annoyed by the remaining slight bitterness on the finish, but this is shaping up quite nicely.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
Generally speaking, darker, richer, more flavorful bourbons do well in an Old Fashioned. It gives the aromatic bitters something to work with, providing a balance to what’s going on in the glass. This version of an old fashioned definitely supports that theory… but with one important caveat.
Up front, there are some great flavors. The bourbon brings rich caramel and vanilla flavors to the table, with a touch of apple for character. That, combined with the herbs in the bitters, makes for something rich and delicious in the glass. It feels like something you could serve at a dark and smoke filled bar without breaking the vibe, which is perfect for me.
What I’m not super jazzed about is that bitterness on the finish. There was some residual bitterness we saw from the spirit itself, but when combined with the bitterness from the bitters it creates a bit of a positive feedback loop that ends in annoyance. It isn’t terrible, but you might notice yourself wanting to add a bit more simple syrup or sugar to your cocktail to cover it up.
This works very well as a Kentucky Mule, and I think that’s mainly due to the ginger beer and lime juice doing a fantastic job covering up the bitterness from the spirit.
What I’m looking for in a good mule is a good balance with the flavors, and that there’s something interesting on the finish. On the first test, this does a great job balancing out the ginger beer with some of the darker and richer tones we’ve been seeing throughout, and the end result here is a delicious cocktail. Add in some black pepper spice for texture on the finish and you’ve got a pretty darn good mule.
If I could recommend one thing to spruce this up a bit, I might actually recommend an orange garnish. Call me off the wall here, but I feel like that splash of extra citrus would really make this a winner.
There’s some good stuff going on here. I like the darker and more saturated flavors, and the added components from that high-rye content make for some interesting cocktails. But there’s a bitterness on the finish (probably thanks to that rye) which keeps me from giving this higher marks.
As a mixer for cocktails, this seems like a great option. But on its own as a sipping whiskey… you might want to opt for something else.
|Copper Still Single Barrel Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Produced By: Copper StillProduction Location: Indiana, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 45% ABV
Price: $26.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 3/5
A good, flavorful option for cocktails. But probably something to avoid for sipping neat.