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Coppercraft’s Holland roots anchor its distribution plans

Distillery finds success with aged spirits and association with Tulip Time Festival.

April 22, 2016
| By Pat Evans |
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Copper Blossom
The Copper Blossom, a specialty rum cocktail, will be Coppercraft’s official offering during this year’s Tulip Time Festival in Holland. Photo by Pat Evans

After nearly three years of production, Coppercraft Distillery is truly feeling it’s an integral part of the Holland community.

For the third year in a row, Coppercraft will be the official spirit of the iconic Tulip Time Festival, complete with an 11-restaurant tour that will include a specialty rum cocktail: the Copper Blossom.

Becoming involved in community events, using local ingredients in its products and educating the public about spirits and cocktails are all part of the journey owners Walter and Kim Catton began in 2012, when the company was founded.

Coppercraft has continued to grow its production capabilities and recently secured more outside investment.

Making sure they would be seen as part of the local community was important to the Cattons.

“The reality is, Walter is from the East Coast and I’m from the Midwest, and we chose Holland to be the community where we raise our family and to be involved in, which makes the stakes even higher for us,” Kim Catton said. “This is where we chose to live, so giving back and being involved in an area that, so much of it is heritage and community, is something we cannot and don’t want to ignore.”

The pair is confident Holland was the right choice as the place to build the Coppercraft brand, but to ensure the brand is strong in all of the regions where it is offered, how it is perceived by its home community is very important. Many consumers base their consumption decisions on brands and products that have a strong identity with the place they come from and how they’re produced.

“It becomes the epicenter for which to grow your business,” Walter Catton said of Holland. “As those concentric circles migrate farther out, the strength they have at the center dictates the longevity as those circles keep moving from home.”

When Coppercraft began production, the craft spirit industry was still in its infancy, and since it’s a capital-intensive industry with some of its products on “a produce and hold” cycle for at least three years, distillery owners often can’t be sure it will be a viable business venture.

Most distilleries, especially in the whiskey sector, have been operational for generations and have a backlog of product. Even so, those multi-generational distilleries are feeling the pressure from a growing market for aged spirits.

Walter Catton first put spirits in barrels to age nearly three years ago, and the resulting products are finally beginning to reaffirm his beliefs. Coppercraft’s Cask Strength Bourbon won Best of Category in the Straight Bourbon Aged 2-5 Years category earlier this month at the American Distilling Institute's annual conference in San Diego.

The distillery also produces “non-aged” rum and gin and vodka to help fuel its growth, but consumers want the “romance” of a barrel-aged product, Catton said.

Coppercraft doesn’t yet have enough aged spirits to satisfy demand. Now it’s a guessing game to predict whether the demand will hold up in the future. Currently, Catton is making upward of 10 barrels of spirits a week — a far cry from the one barrel every other week when he began. He said the current pace equates to 25,000 to 30,000 gallons a year.

“With the affirmation, we’re seeing even more focus and attention on the bourbon; it’s starting to see the dividends coming forward as it hits its maturation point,” Catton said. “We’re running as fast as we can, from a production standpoint. We’re adding resources and capital as we’ve continued to make more product.”

The community has to wait at least three years for the best of the bourbon made today to be ready to consume.

Catton said Coppercraft Distillery hasn’t fully committed yet to producing only aged product, but it’s moving in that direction. The growth of the distillery and community support continue to drive Catton each day.

“The early indications are that we did it right, and those sacrifices that were made in the beginning are paying longer-term dividends for us,” he said. “This isn’t a get-rich-quick business. It’s nice to see now, three years down the road, recognition for the little details you sweated in the beginning.”

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