Applejack is a pure, native American spirit produced in New Jersey, USA. Historically, applejack would have been produced as a straight apple brandy, however in recent times apple brandy has been mixed with neutral spirit to produce a smoother applejack, more suited to modern tastes.
Applejack is a spirit that will be full of fresh and floral apple flavours and aromas. Aged apple brandy will increasingly take on deeper and richer flavours introduced by the wood, such as dried apricots, butterscotch, nuts and cacao, making them more closely resemble other aged brandies.
Younger applejack is an ideal base for blended brandy based drinks such as a Jack Rose, Manhattan or Old Fashioned, or as a mixer with sodas or juice. Aged apple brandy is best appreciated drunk straight at room temperature as you would a cognac, armagnac or calvados.
When the first settlers arrived in America, they brought apple seeds with them and began creating America’s apple farming settlements. The early colonists were cautious of drinking water, as they believed it to carry disease. They thought that strong drink, on the other hand, prevented ill health. Therefore taking the plentiful apple stock and distilling the cider produced was seen as wise, although the product would have been quite rough initially. Production of applejack (apple brandy) in the form we recognize today began in America in the late 1600s.
Only carefully selected, whole, tree-ripened apples can be used in the making of Laird's applejack. Many varieties of apples are used, including Jonathans, Winesaps, Stamens, Pippens, and Delicious apples. Applejack is made at the peak of the apple harvest, in early September to mid-November, and this insures that the quality and sweetness of the apples are at their peak. The apples are carefully inspected, washed, and pressed into pure, sweet apple juice. This juice is then transferred to 20,000 gallon oak fermenter tanks outside the still site, where the juice is allowed to ferment naturally (no yeast cultures or starters are employed). The fermentation process converts the natural sugars into alcohol, and can require from seven to thirty days, depending on temperature and weather conditions. This process is monitored constantly, night and day, until all of the sugar has been converted into alcohol. The fermented juice is then sent to the still and distillation proceeds, boosting the proof by vaporization and re-condensation to approximately 160º. This proof level also insures that maximum flavor and aroma is maintained in the distilled brandy. Currently, all apple distillation is done at the plant in North Garden, Virginia. The orchards of the fertile Shenandoah Valley amply supply our apple needs each harvest season. The fresh distillate, or apple brandy, is then cut with pure water to approximately 130º proof and transferred to 50 gallon charred oak barrels for ageing. All brandy is aged for four to eight years. This unusually long ageing process enhances the natural apple flavor and aroma. During this process, the brandy is periodically checked for taste and aroma to insure that high quality standards are maintained.
When bottling requirements are determined, the apple brandy barrels are selected for dumping. All straight apple brandy and "Apple Bond" (100º proof brandy) is made from the older brandy inventory, and can range from six to ten years or more in age. The straight apple brandy and apple bond are truly "sippin' whiskey", and are especially smooth and mellow in flavor and aroma. Laird's applejack is a blend of apple brandy and neutral spirits, and although the brandy selected may be slightly "younger" (only four to six years old), the blend also carries a distinctive fruity flavor and aroma.
Applejack production utilizes a huge volume of fresh apples each autumn. It takes 7,000 pounds of apples to produce one 50-gallon barrel of apple brandy. In a normal distillation season, approximately 500 to 800 barrels are produced, which represents three and one half to five and one half MILLION POUNDS of apples! Translated into "consumer size" packaging, a 750ml bottle of Laird's blended applejack contains six pounds of apples, a 750ml bottle of Laird's straight old apple brandy contains sixteen pounds of apples, and a 750ml bottle of Laird's bond 100 proof brandy contains twenty pounds of apples!
Since the first production of applejack in the late 1600s, the time-honored procedures and standards have been maintained, and applejack is a pure, native American spirit. This is an especially significant factor in today's trend toward natural, additive-free foods and beverages.
Although the recipe for the production of applejack has remained unchanged for over 300 years, the packaging has evolved over time. The oldest bottles were hand-blown and sealed with corks and hot wax, and the labels were hand written. Applejack has been bottled in apple shaped glass bottles and ceramic crocks, in a variety of sizes. To commemorate the New Jersey Militia of Revolutionary War days, Laird & Company bottled Laird's applejack in a Minuteman replica bottle.