Spirits Nerd Alert! The characters over at Copper & Kings are distilling gin based on the oldest known recipe for the spirit, the famed 1495 Guilders formula. Unlike many projects of this sort, the bottles will commercially available; the first 80 cases are shipping out to stores in 31 states over the next few days with a reasonable $45 per 750ml bottle price tag.
“This may be the greatest job in the world,” said Copper & Kings head distiller, Brandon O’Daniel. “How many people do what I do? Exploring, experimenting, making booze from the 15th century? How cool is that?”
Copper & Kings founder, Joe Heron found his inspiration in a passage from The Curious Bartender’s Gin Palace by Tristan Stephenson. Stephenson describes finding what is believed to be the world’s oldest gin recipe in a 1495 household guide commissioned by a wealthy merchant in the Duchy of Guelders (now part of the Netherlands). “Included was a brandy recipe made from ‘10 quarts of wine thinned with clear Hamburg beer,’” detailed the guide. “After distillation, the liquid would be redistilled with ‘two handfuls of dried sage, 1Lb of cloves, 12 whole nutmegs, cardamom, cinnamon, galangal, ginger, grains of paradise’ and – crucially – ‘juniper berries.’”
After a little more reading, Heron was hooked on the project. “We like to do cool shit. We are inveterate explorers, with curious hearts and wandering minds (maybe too much of the latter),” he explained in a blog post. “We love distilling. We like distilling gin. We make great double-distilled gins with a brandy base, using no neutral spirits, chill-filtration or post-distillation addition of flavors or essences. Conceptually this was well within our wheelhouse.”
Monnik Beer Company of Louisville, Kentucky was commissioned to create an authentically medieval Mumme style beer for the base. (For those unfamiliar with the brewing style of the Dark Ages, Mumme is “a malty wheat beer aromatized with herbs.”) The rest of the base is a Muscat/Colombard/Chenin Blanc blend brandy low-wine distilled in-house by C&K.
C&K then distilled a couple pilot batches. After some tweaking, they settled upon a final recipe and started cooking up full batches on their 740 gallon potstill. After muddling through all of the necessary paperwork and red tape, bottling began at the end of October. The bottles are shipping out now.
Heron also noted that he is not the first to take a stab at historical gin. In 2015, Phillip Duff, Dave Wondrich, Dave Broom and Gaz Regan successfully distilled a different 1495 recipe for gin. However, that endeavor focused on Marc/Pomace instead of beer in the base. (Likewise, only 100 bottles were offered for sale at a significantly higher price.)
Heron also offers extremely detailed descriptions and specs for each of the batches on his blog. You can find all the info here.