Category Archives: Brandy

Kuchan Peach Brandy

I’ve written about a few apple brandies on this blog and firmly believe that it is the most American of spirits, but there’s another brandy that belongs right up there with bourbon and apple brandy for its domestic history, and that’s peach brandy. Apparently peach brandies were once quite common, which is no surprise given the pride with which certain areas of the US regard this crop. However, I’ve only ever been able to find one brand of peach brandy, and that was yesterday.

Kuchan O’Henry Peach Brandy is made by Old World Spirits, based in California, and aged in French oak for some amount of time (probably not too long based on the coloring).

Stats:

- $40ish

- 80 proof

- Made by Old World Spirits

Presentation:

The bottle is nothing remarkable to look at. It reminds me of a lot of the non-grape brandy bottles we see around these days. Tall, slim, prominent label. There isn’t much going on with the design either, with the name in script backed by some flourishes. The picture of the peaches is a nice touch to the extent that it conveys a sense of freshness. The back label has a charming an genuine story that traces the routes of this brandy to the eastern European fruit eau de vie tradition, which tends to be practiced by families in garages and sheds in the countryside. It does serve to indirectly highlight just how limited this country is with is spirits culture.

Tasting:

On the nose the brandy carries a rich, buttery quality that envelops a core of sweetness and ripe fruit. There’s a burnt quality around the edges, like someone’s taken a match to a teaspoon of sugar. These qualities carry through on the tongue. It is very smooth throughout, with a silky texture delivering that buttery sweet sensation. The finish is surprisingly peachy and long-lasting, yet gentle.

Over all:

I’m impressed, if this is aged for as little time as its color implies, this is an incredibly smooth brandy. What I like best about it, though, is that it does a fantastic job of conveying the fruit. Whereas apple brandy takes on qualities beyond — yet still rooted in — its base fruit when it spends time in oak, if Kuchan’s aging seems to have boosted the essential peach aspects. This is great on its own, but I’m looking forward to trying a few cocktails with it.


Laird’s Old Apple Brandy

Nope, American Hooch is not dead yet.  It’ll take more than a move out of NYC and graduate school to get in the way (at least, I hope that’s true).  So to celebrate my first post since June when I wrote about my case of the dreaded and whiskey-ruining Pine Mouth, I’m opening up a bottle of Laird’s Old Apple Brandy.

I’m a fan of American apple brandies, and I try new ones whenever possible, but Laird’s is easily the best-known maker.  Their younger variety (not to be confused with the Applejack) was one of my mainstays back in New York – where it was more readily available than here in Massachusetts.  I haven’t had the opportunity to try the Old Apple Brandy before today however, so I’m looking forward to it.

Aged 7 1/2 years in charred oak and bottled at 80 proof, and apparently made in pot stills, this should be interesting.

Presentation:

I have to admit that the  bottle doesn’t have much going for it style-wise.  The label’s text is in an uninspired script and the background consists mostly of awkward whitespace with some tepid gold flourishes in the corners.  I do, however, enjoy their logo of the brandy snifter wrapped with a starred banner.  The message on the back is earnest in its no-nonsense font, but tries to convince us just how special the bottle’s contents are.

It would have been nice to use something other than the standard plastic-capped bottle for this, but it probably does keep the cost down.

Tasting:

The nose is a lot subtler than the younger Laird’s Apple Brandy, but it comes through with orange peel, soft caramel, and a hint of burning sap-filled tree bark that sneaks through.  It is very soft on the tongue with a well blended mix of flavors: starting of sweet with notes of strawberry, then shifting to a prominent apple flavor and a bit of char pushing forward.  It settles down into a medium-to-long finish of dry grass and a dose of pepper.

Over all:

Laird’s Old Apple Brandy is definitely more refined than their regular Apple Brandy, the age has done it well in that respect.  This is something that you can and should sip slowly.  The flavors are well blended without disappearing.  That said, I think I still prefer their younger, bolder variety.  Still, this is a very nice apple brandy.


Harvest Spirits’ Pear Brandy

pearbrandyBack on the brandy train I guess.  This time, however, will be the first non-apple brandy I’ll have written about.  This time, I gone with pears.  Pears don’t have quite the same aura of Americana that apples do – no Johnny Pearseed, for instance.  In fact, according to this map of the pear harvest from Wikipedia, the only place where pears are grown in the US is the Northeast.  Fortunately – that is where both I and Harvest Spirits are based.

Harvest Spirits also seems like and interesting operation.  First of all, if their distiller’s notes are at all accurate, they’re quite new – about as old as this blog is, in fact.  Secondly, their main product is an apple-derived vodka, a spirit I’ve only tasted once when Ralph Erenzo from Tuthilltown Spirits ran a tasting at a nearby liquor store.  Finally, they actually have a decent website.

Stats:

- $25ish

- Made by Harvest Spirits

- 80 proof

Presentation:

There’s not much to their bottle.  It’s tall and slim with a textured label that almost completely wraps around the bottle.  The name “PEAR” falls vertically down the front and is topped with the eponymous fruit.  The back of the label has a small block of text that begins with the over-dramatic statement: “Pear.” before going on the describe the brandy in sparse terms and suggesting that you serve it chilled.

Tasting:

This definitely smells like fresh distillate.  It’s sweet, with pear, and something almost oily to the scent.  On tasting, there’s an immediate and very full mouth feel.  To its credit, it is not nearly as harsh as the aroma, but at the same time there isn’t as much of the fruit to it as I’d hoped, or as much as you might expect after tasting so many apple brandies.

Over all:

This is a pretty descent brandy.  I would really like to see this after a bit of aging to smooth some of the rougher edges.  That said, impressive mouth feel and solid pear-essence comes through.  I would recommend chilling it though.


Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy

Well!  It’s been nearly a month since my last post – far too long.  I’ve been busy with things like organizing my bourbon collection (finally) and being sick with a pesky summer flu – still have it in fact, so today’s post will be structured a little differently than usual since I’m not drinking at the moment.  However, I haven’t neglected my brown spirits all together, in fact along with some help I’ve made some headway with a bottle of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy.

lairds_full lairds_empty

I’ve had Laird’s before this, but only their Applejack, which is merely their brandy diulted with neutral spirit – really a disappointing venture in all.  So I was looking forward to sampling their good stuff.  Before going any deeper into this post though, I have to note that the logo for this particular brandy is wonderful, the kind of thing apple brandy distillers should get tattooed on their forearms.

lairds_logo

I’ve written a couple times about apple brandies before, with American Fruits and Clear Creek, and the two seemed to represent a range from young & bright to more mature & mellow – as we’d expect comparing any liquor aged a few months to on aged a few years – but each also represented different approaches to the craft: Clear Creek is openly drawing inspiration from the French traditions around Calvados, while American Fruits seemed to be in more of an experimental mode and at the beginning of crafting what may or may not be a lasting line.

Laird’s is perhaps the standard when it comes to American apple brandies and it employs a process very different from those other two products.  Instead of aging in limousin oak as Clear Creek does, they use charred American oak and age it six to eight years before bottling.  In other words, they follow the same aging process as bourbon.

The result is a brandy that is, at times, more bourbon-like.  It’s a little brighter than Clear Creek’s, but far more apply.  Since I’m not drinking it at the moment (much to my dismay), I can’t go into finer-tuned notes, but I can say that at its full 100 proof, it can be a bit much to take.  I’ve found adding a bit of water brings out the cider qualities, and adding an ice cube or two makes it into a fine casual dram.

All in all, I would recommend giving this a try – just avoid their Applejack.


Clear Creek’s Eau de Vie de Pomme

eaudeviedepommeI’m off to France for the next week, so that means two things for this blog: first, it means there won’t be an entry next week – unless I’m able to find a worthy American liquor over there and get into the blogging spirit, I suppose; and second, it means that in my anticipatory mood I’ve picked up a bottle of Clear Creek’s Calvados-inspired apple brandy to write about.

I first found out about Clear Creek’s apple brandy in the (perhaps not defunct?) New York Times blog Proof, where CC’s Steve McCarthy contributed a few pieces.  I was never able to really get into that blog, which seemed to at once celebrate, nostalgize, and demonize alcohol – a confused premise at best.  However, Steve’s pieces gave me a glimpse into the motivations and processes behind a respected American distiller, especially his emphasis on leveraging a region’s local produce in production.

Now let’s get down to some tasting.

Stats:

- $30-40

- Made by Clear Creek

- 80 proof

Presentation:

Clear Creek’s Eau de Vie de Pomme makes no apologies for its Francophilia.  Everything from the shape of the bottle, to the label coloring, to the script imitates the Calvados style.  With that in mind, I enjoy the crisp lines and simple alignment of the text and border on the label, allowing the flowing script of the French title to stand out without cluttering.

There is not too much information on the bottle itself except the age statement (8 years) and that it has been aged in French oak.

Tasting:

EdVdP is light brown in color – a testament to its eight year aging – but is not as dark as what you might expect from some brandies (though certainly darker than the last apple brandy I wrote about here).  The scent is strongly of cider and quite sweet.  There might be a touch of the wood to the nose as well, but it was hard to pick out from the cidery notes.

On tasting, EdVdP is bright and apply and lingers on the tongue with a tingling citrus and a bit of that French oak.  Despite the apple and citrus, this was not as sweet as the scent would have you believe.

Over all:

Perhaps I’m not as adept at navigating the complexities of brandies just yet, or perhaps I simply shouldn’t expect as much from them in that manner as I should from bourbon.  Either way, while Clear Creek’s Eau de Vie de Pomme is thoroughly enjoyable and I will visit the bottle again, I wasn’t able to draw as much character out of it as I would normally look for.

What I can say, however, is that through the lens of my admittedly limited experience with brandy and Calvados in particular, Clear Creek seems to have done a good job in imitating the qualities of the French liquor.  In the end, it could cetainly stand on its own legs without the comparison.


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.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.