Who knew at the time they started the company that the ‘&’ would be their ongoing mantra – connecting and never ending. It turns out the often glossed over Ampers&nd may have been the most important element from the day Joe and Lesley Heron created Copper & Kings American Brandy Company. The pair started the brandy distillery in the Butchertown neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky back in 2014.
The idea of creating a brandy company in the heart of bourbon country may seem counter intuitive but for the Heron’s it was the perfect location with a concentration of experienced distillation experts that no other location in the country could offer. No exaggeration here when it comes to location, location, location. The brandy distillery is home to four copper pot stills each made right in the neighborhood by Vendome Copper & Brass Works. The distillery helped to put the burgeoning neighborhood on the map.
In late 2017 Constellation Brands announced its venture capital arm had made a minority investment in Copper & Kings. As of today’s announcement Constellation Brands Ventures division has now acquired all of Copper & Kings a cutting-edge distillery that produces highly differentiated American Brandy, absinthe, gin, and Destillaré liqueurs, with a tasting room and. This move aligns with Constellation’s wine and spirits vision to be a bold and innovative, high-end portfolio of distinctive brands and products that deliver exceptional consumer experiences.
“Every small company has an opportunity to bring something special to market, to bring something unique market,” said Copper & Kings American Brandy Company co-founder Joe Heron. “Our skill is being a small company. A small company brings a lot of heart, a lot of passion, a lot of innovation, a lot of creativity and a lot of speed.” If you have been fortunate enough to visit the distillery you’ve felt the heart and soul of this distillery as you walk up and see the butterfly garden, bike racks and recycled box cars where visitor purchase their tour tickets. As you walk inside the gates you see the welcoming fire pit with the patinated stills shimmering in the reflection pond. It’s a place with lots of heart.
Heron went on to say that in today’s world, “…what’s needed now is more scale, scale needs a lot of resources in terms of distributor management, retail management, ecommerce and direct to consumer capability. Those things are becoming a much more tour de force, as almost a cost of doing business.” And Constellation Brands is a partner that can take the distillery to that next level.
”As an innovative distillery regarded for its experimental attitude and highly rated craft spirits, Copper & Kings American Brandy represents a significant growth opportunity for us and reinforces our continued commitment to premium spirits,” said Bill Newlands, president and chief executive officer, Constellation Brands.
“American Craft Brandy is a fast-growing category that resonates with consumers, specifically among whiskey drinkers, and provides an excellent bridge between fine wine and craft bourbon. Copper & Kings’ prime location in Bourbon Country also presents an opportunity for Constellation to drive brand awareness and further expand the brand’s direct-to-consumer and retail routes to market.”
“With entrepreneurship and quality being part of Constellation’s core values, it’s gratifying to see those values come to life through our first full Ventures acquisition in Copper & Kings,” said Jennifer Evans, vice president of Constellation Ventures. “When making a Ventures investment, we look for brands that want to push boundaries, grow with consumers, and expand their current markets. Copper & Kings checks all those boxes, and we look forward to integrating them into our wine and spirits portfolio.”
“As Copper & Kings moves into this next phase, we feel immense pride in what we’ve accomplished together with Constellation Brands,” said founder and CEO Joe Heron. “Copper & Kings and Constellation have had a symbiotic relationship right from the start. Because of that shared culture of innovation, entrepreneurship, and respect for the environment, as well as a good personal relationship, Lesley and I know we are leaving Copper & Kings in good hands. The stars are beautifully aligned.”
What’s Next for Joe & Lesley Heron? Trees & Bees.
We reached out to Joe Heron to talk about the big news and to find out what’s next for this serial entrepreneur.
“I really hope we’ve made a contribution to Butchertown and Louisville. We are proud of everything that we’ve stood for from diversity and inclusiveness to environmental responsibility to all of those things. That value system is very important to us. There have been a lot of bartenders trained in the Ideal Bartender School (a 15 week training course offered free of charge) with lots of people of color. That is important to us. Having the butterfly garden and beehives in the front, shipping containers in the front and solar power. We’ve always done what we’ve said we are going to do. We’ve always lived the values that are on the front door. ‘All people welcome.’ That’s us.
“The ampersand is our symbol of inclusion. And it’s also our philosophy, & means what’s next, & means together, & was the perfect symbol for this company.
To us the ampersand represents inclusion. The word and, at its simplest, represents inclusion. And = +. Importantly for us, it represents non-discrimination. As children of apartheid, we abhor discrimination – any discrimination – race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. We are an immigrant family. And proud Americans. And that America has included us and welcomed us is a treasure, and this represents all that is good with America. Lest we forget, almost everyone in America is descended in some way from immigrants. This is something to be proud of. To cherish. And we are proud to stand by these values.~ Joe & Lesley Heron – Co-Founders of Copper & Kings American Brandy Company
“We are children of apartheid (Joe and Lesley from South Africa.) so we’ve learned that lesson, we grew up in that lesson. We had to choose whether we were racist or not. And we are not, we are violently anti-discrimination of any kind based on religion, race, gender identity. Lesley and I feel that those are human traits and all humans are born equal. We feel very strongly about that. I’m proud of what we did in Butchertown.
“Trees and bees. We are interested in more environmentally sustainable environments and world,” said Heron. “We have some land our in the Appalachian Foothills of Eastern Kentucky and we are going to hunker down there for a little bit and let the world turn a little more slowly. It’s about 530 acres. It’s covered with a lot of trees, there’s nothing fancy about this. We have an off grid cabin with solar power and spring water gravity fed down the mountain and beehives. That’s kind of what we’re doing.”
Terms of the agreement between Constellation Brands and Copper & Kings American Brandy Company were not disclosed.
Constellation Brands, founded in 1945 and a Fortune 500 Company, has grown to become a significant player in the beverage alcohol industry with more than 100 brands in its portfolio; about 40 wineries, breweries and distilleries; and approximately 10,000 employees. The company’s premium spirits brands include SVEDKA Vodka, Casa Noble Tequila and High West Whiskey.