Joe Heron of Copper & Kings Talks About Making a 15th-Century Gin

Copper & Kings in Louisville is known for striking a balance between traditional and new-age techniques in producing American brandy, absinthe and gin. Whether aging brandy in former bourbon or craft beer casks, or pulsating their barrels at rest with sound waves from sub-woofers, this distillery is on the forefront of creativity.

So it’s no surprise that when Copper & Kings co-founder Joe Heron stumbled upon a gin recipe from 1495 — perhaps the oldest recorded in the world — his response was: ‘Let’s make this’. Heron and his team worked to recreate the 15th-century recipe using modern equipment. The result is their new 1495 Guelders Gin.

We recently spoke with Heron about the process:

Joe and Les Heron, founders of Copper & Kings in Louisville, Kentucky.

Beverage Dynamics: What was the motivation behind resurrecting this vintage recipe?
Joe Heron: We like doing cool stuff. We’re explorers and adventures. There’s a lot of joy in pushing the boundaries of the unknown, and distilling is a very creative art – this is part of that. We also feel that our copper-pot distillation process is very adept and flavor retention and concentration – and that it seems more in tune with antique distillation than a column still process.

BD: Who is the target market?
JH: Bartenders, gin enthusiasts, cocktail enthusiasts and adventurous drinkers.

BD:What cocktails would you recommend with it?
JH: It is hefty and savory. The savory aspects are unusual and unique. The Ampersand cocktail is perfect, along with a gin hot toddy.

BD: What did you learn about ancient distillation methods when producing it?
JH: Our blog post details this, but there was a lot of learning and exploring. We did two pilots before final distillation.

BD: What was the hardest part about reviving this recipe?
JH: The recipe is pretty broad, so scaling it up in terms of modern day distillation was a challenge. The ber style was another investigative adventure. The viscosity is unusual – a very oily spirit.

BD: Do you have plans for reviving other old recipes?
JH: We would love to. If we find them, we will distill them for sure.

Kyle Swartz is managing editor of Beverage Dynamics magazine. Reach him at or on Twitter @kswartzz. Read his recent piece Ted Danson Talks Mixology, Favorite Cocktails.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here