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Making the cut

When it comes to award-winning products, Copperfish Distillery is developing a track record in gold-standard spirits. Words by Rosie Cattrell.

No conversation about the South West’s foodie landscape would be complete without a nod to the incredible beverage offering here in the Duchy, and one brand that has well and truly made its mark on the surface of Cornwall’s distillation scene is Copperfish Distillery. Six years on from its initial inception back in 2018, the Cornish brand is now home to a range of award-winning spirits, from gins and rums to moonshine and the most recent addition, Kerbon®, each developed by Bill Martin, Jemma Hackett, Rob Johnston and Andy Walton. 

While I had the privilege to delve into the Copperfish collection in the last edition of DRIFT Epicure, there has been one product in particular that has since caught my attention, and a conversation with one of the brand’s co-founders, Andy Walton, allowed me a glimpse into the wonderful world of the team’s latest release: Kerbon®. 

“The idea for Kerbon® began way back when we started in 2018,” Andy explains when I wondered how it all came about for the innovative spirit. “We just loved the idea of creating a Bourbon-style spirit. Our first product was an original Moonshine (known in America as White Dog or White Whiskey). This was a clear spirit made from corn, barley and wheat, and therefore an unaged clear spirit that makes up the base of a Bourbon. We were thrilled when this spirit won a Taste Of The West Gold in 2022, so we knew we were doing the right thing in ageing the spirit in oak barrels to create Kerbon®.” Made right here in Cornwall, it seemed only natural to the team to combine Bourbon with Kernow to create the unique name, and once trademarked and sealed with a label fit to join the other stunning designs in the Copperfish collection, Kerbon® was entered into the Taste Of The West 2024 awards. It comes as no surprise that the team were delighted to receive yet another gold. 

The brand’s success leads me ponder the process that goes into a winning spirit, and Andy is only too happy to share the team’s discoveries with me: “We start with a selection of corn, barley and wheat, which is mashed in a large vessel to start extracting the carbohydrate sugars from the cereals. To this we add yeast which really brings the magic, turning the sugars into an alcohol (very similar to a beer) which can take around two to three weeks to complete. This alcohol is then run through the still where it extracts the alcohol from the mass and distils it into a fine clear spirit. Our Distiller, Rob, is very particular with his cut of the spirit run at this stage, so it’s no surprise that we’ve won numerous awards for our drinks. This spirit is then filled into craft oak barrels – we source ours from specialist cask agents who provide specialist­ pre-used casks including Bourbon, whiskey and brandy. Then, we wait…

“It takes many months for the colour and flavour to develop in the cask, but the wait is always worth it. We like to make sure that the drink is ready for cutting and bottling by carefully tasting the spirit. After all, if it’s not ready, it’s not ready. Our ethos is ‘proper spirits, made proper’, and we stick to it. Finally, we cut the spirit with spring water to 43% ABV, before filtering, bottling and adorning with our eye-catching labels. This is a genuine Cornish craft spirit, made from scratch by our team, so we know exactly what’s in the bottle.”

It’s clear to me that, as with the rest of their collection so far, this is a product that the team at Copperfish are immensely proud of, and rightly so. For those who like to appreciate the spirit in its finer form, either neat or with a single ice cube, you can expect a smooth delivery with each sip, and a subtle nose of spiced wood and buttered malted bloomer toast with hints of grass and hay. The palate has a full yet smooth balance, paired with notes of sweet toffee, rich spiced fruits, toasty oak and light vanilla. If you’re looking for a little twist, Kerbon® goes nicely with a quality cola or ginger ale, and makes a great base for classic cocktails like an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan or a Kerbon® (whiskey) sour. 

With another addition to the already impressive Copperfish collection now complete and on the shelves, you may find yourself wandering the small coastal town of Looe in search of the brand’s craft distillery and retail outlet on Buller Quay, which I can highly recommend a visit to.


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