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2023 Coolest Things Made in the Ozarks: Small Batch Honey whiskey

Copper Run Distillery

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Copper Run Distillery in Branson West takes pride in the history that moonshine whiskey shares with the Ozarks Mountains and aims to create high-quality spirits using locally sourced ingredients and supplies. In October 2022, Copper Run released its Small Batch Honey, which has just two ingredients: small batch whiskey and locally sourced, raw honey, blended through a specific formula and stabilization/filtration process.

SBJ: What was the inspiration behind Small Batch Honey?
AJ Womack (general manager): One of our brand standards is to never use any artificial ingredients, but one of our sales reps kept telling us we needed a honey whiskey. It’s hard to use real honey, so most honey whiskeys on the market have artificial flavoring and color added. It took us about two years from inception, and then active development was about eight months of playing around with different recipes.

SBJ: What did the development process look like? Lots of taste testing?
Womack: One of the beauties of being a craft distillery is getting to pay attention to things like this. We knew we wanted to use real honey, so we got samples and started experimenting. We found a blend we liked, but it was the ugliest thing. The whiskey got cloudy and a reaction with the honey turned it black, even though it smelled and tasted fine. It took us another two to three months and experiments to naturally stabilize and purify the liquid.
Keith Hock (co-owner): We had several focus groups over a fun six weeks, compiled their info, made changes and came up with what we believe is an outstanding flavor.

SBJ: How has the market responded?
Hock: New products always get attention, but I do think our honey whiskey tastes a bit different than the other stuff out there. Because we’re using real honey, it’s got good flavor but it’s not too sweet.
Womack: We typically, on average, do 40-50 cases across all products that we sell out of the facility in a month, and 40-50 that are distributed outside. When the Small Batch Honey came out, 100 cases went out in just the first week. In stores, it’s available at Harter House and Schnucks, or at the distillery.
Hock: In northwest Arkansas, we’re getting very good distribution. We’re at almost every single liquor outlet.

SBJ: What are some favorite ways to drink it?
Womack: There are multiple ways. In the summer on a hot day, added to a glass of ice tea makes an outstanding cocktail. It’s also great served on ice with a squeeze of lemon, or if you gently warm it, you’ve got a hot toddy, and stir it with a cinnamon stick.

SBJ: What’s next for Copper Run Distillery?
Womack: We’re not sure what we’re doing next, but our eyes are set on cinnamon whiskey, with real cinnamon sticks. We’re also playing with the idea of a rye whiskey. We’ve made cinnamon whiskey at the bar for tastings, but never as a commercial product.

SBJ: What are your other top products?
Womack: Our malted barley whiskey is very unique. If it were made in Scotland, it would be Scotch. But here in America, it’s called malted barley. It’s a mash up of malted barley and corn, and we finish it with 1% port wine.


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