Monthly Archives: February 2009

American Fruits Apple Brandy

Just when you thought you were reading a blog devoted to whiskey, I pull out a brandy: an American spirit to no lesser degree however.  In fact, brandies – specifically apple brandies – have probably been in production in the US longer than grain whiskey of any type has.  Colonists in New England distilled hard cider into applejack using the freeze distillation method, resulting in a harsh beverage full of fusel alcohols.

Fortunately Warwick Valley Wine Company (NY) does not rely on freeze distillation to make their apple brandy.  Rather they use a copper pot still to refine their spirit, much to the drinkers’ advantage.  They also age it for one year in New York oak.  I’m a little doubtful that such a young bottling will be very interesting, but I am glad to see another product come out of the Northeast.

Stats:

- apx $25

- Made by Warwick Valley Wine Co.

- 80 proof

Presentation:

American Fruits Apple Brandy comes in a tall, thin bottle with a lon neck and a bright red plastic cork-handle on the top.  Instead of a paper label WVWC frosts the the clear glass, with the exception of the outline of an apple in the center.  The front is sparsely decorated with this apple serving as the central adornment.  Other than that and the product information, it shows only the name in two simple fonts.

The back sports the image of Warwick Valley itself and a paragraph relating the friendships at the core of the WVWC.  It comes across as overly sentimental in the way that American wineries can be, but it does get the point across that these guys are a little new to the field of distilled spirits.

Also important to note is that nowhere on the bottle do they put an age statement.  Sure, one year is nothing to trumpet, but youth affects liquor to a gret degree and it would probably be helpful to many prospective buyers to see the age right on the bottle.

Tasting:

American Fruits Apple Brandy smells an awful lot like you’d expect  young apple brandy to smell like: recently distilled alcohol and apples, cider specifically.  It hasn’t spent enough time in the barrel to come into its own or pick up anything significant from the wood.

On tasting the impression is much the same.  As with any spirit so young, the immediate impression is that of the alcohol.  That said, it is not overly harsh and rather smooth compared to something like Georgia Moon.  Perhaps those 12 months did some good after all.  Following this initial sensation, it settles into a pleasant, clean, apply finish that is surprisingly long.

Over all:

This is a good start for the WVWC, but clearly their apple brandy is too young to have anything approaching complexity or depth.  It will be interesting to watch as they come out with an older variety – perhaps a six or four year?  These might begin to reveal their full potential.


Baker’s (mini-bottle)

bakersMy little brother was thoughtful enough to give me a sampler for Jim Beam’s Small Batch Bourbon Collection over the holidays, so I saw this as a perfect time to complete my reviews of this line by tasting Baker’s.  (You can find the other’s here: Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Booker’s)

What does it mean that I’m reviewing something in its mini-bottle form?  Honestly, I’m not too certain either.  Sure, this didn’t make it into the full-bottle batch and this can’t be experienced in the same way that the full bottle could; on the other hand, its the same stuff inside and it seems that Beam has taken great care with the miniature versions of their Small Batch Collection.

Stats:

- Probably a few dollars by itself

- Made by the folks a Jim Beam

- 107 proof

Presentation:

While it’s difficult to judge a bourbon’s bottling when in mini-bottle form, the small batch collection minis do seem to hold largely true to their bigger-bottle form.  Knob Creek mini has its distinctive angular form and Basil Hayden mini has its tall, distinguished proportions.  Baker’s and Booker’s bottles are given a tear-drop form that is only mildly reminiscent of their actual shape, but represent a valiant effort in miniaturization, regardless.

I do remember liking the Baker’s distinctive capital B and use of type during visits to the bar and the mini-bottle uses this same motif to only slightly more confusing effect (the capital ‘B’ is right next to the ‘B’ in “Baker’s” making it look like “BBaker’s”.)

Lines and fills are ever so slightly rough and overly bold in order to mimic an old letter press and come in varying typefaces.  One edge of the label is serrated while the others are smooth.  All in all, this comes across as the older brother of Knob Creek.  Not afraid to stray from the yarns of long-dead grandfathers that adorn other bourbons, but not dispatching with a sense of history over all.

Tasting:

Very upfront nose.  Citrus, grass, roasted almond, fresh cherry.  There is very little subtlety about this aroma, but it is pleasant and un-astringent for a 100+ proofer.

On tasting it’s sweet, with some notes of oats and citrus, finishing with a nice lingering warmth and some tanginess, this settles into a vanilla-and-smoke after a while.

Over all:

Baker’s is not shy.  It is bright for the most part and settles into something a little more subdued over time.  I actually like this one quite a bit – and it may even be my favorite of the small batch collection from Beam.  That said, it also is the one that reminds me the most of Jim Beam black – and that’s not a bad thing in my book.

I’ll have to pick up a full-sized edition when I get a chance.


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