DSR – VA – 013: Laird’s Old Apple Brandy
Company/Distillery: Laird & Company
Location: Distilled in North Garden, Virginia; Aged and Bottled in Scobeyville, NJ
Mash Bill: 100% Sweet Apple Cider
Age Statement: 7 1/2 Years Old
Proof/ABV: 80 Proof/40% ABV
Color & Viscosity: The color of Laird’s Old Apple Brandy is burnished gold to light chestnut in color. This brandy produces a medium bodied viscous line with thick oily legs that run the full vertical length of the tasting vessel.
Purchase Price: $37.08 from the VA ABC Stores – March 2021; 750 ml
Bottle Label Information:
“Laird’s Old Apple Brandy”
“Bottled by Laird & Co., Distilleries”
“Scobeyville, N.J. – North Garden, Va.”
“7 1/2 Years Old”
“This rare old apple brandy is part of a very limited quantity that was especially distilled and carefully aged under my personal supervision to reach its peak of perfection. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the delicate, smooth flavor and bouquet of this most unusual apple brandy.”
“Larrie Laird: President, Laird & Company”
“Savor It Slowly: Of course, the true test of any brandy is in the tasting. Distilled from pure, sweet cider, Laird”s Old Apple Brandy is uniquely different, with a delicate flavor and aroma redolent of fresh, tree-ripened apples.”
“As President Larrie Laird says, ‘Sipping from a brandy snifter is my favorite way to fully enjoy the delightful, smooth flavor and bouquet of our Old Apple Brandy.'”
“You’ll also find Laird’s Old Apple Brandy adds a delicious depth of flavor to many of your favorite recipes. It marries beautifully with poultry, or adds dash to many desserts. Just use as you would ordinary brandy. For extraordinary results!”
“Now Relax and Enjoy: We thank you for choosing Laird’s Old Apple Brandy and hope you are pleased with this fine product.”
“Because this special select apple brandy is available in limited amounts, true connoisseurs will want to protect themselves against future deprivation. So why not purchase several bottles – or even a case – today!”
Laird & Company
One of the oldest distilled spirits in America’s young history is apple brandy. In fact, apple brandy can be traced back to the colonial era, dating back as far as the mid to late 1600’s. The Laird Family, owners of the country’s oldest licensed distillery, traces their roots in distilling apple spirits all the way back to the year 1698. It is in 1698 that Alexander Laird, also known as William, emigrated to the area of New Jersey in the American Colonies from County Fife in Scotland. It is believed that William Laird brought with him experience and knowledge regarding the distillation process. Not having some of the ingredients he was used to in Scotland, William would use his most readily available resource, apples, to produce Applejack in his new home.
The first Laird Family Distillery dates back to 1717 and was located in Monmouth County, New Jersey behind the Colt’s Neck Inn. Over time, Laird’s Apple Brandy developed a well known reputation amongst colonists – so much so that eventually George Washington would write the family asking if they would be willing to share their Applejack recipe with him for his use. It is believed that the Laird’s obliged and that General Washington possibly used the recipe for making cyder (cider, in today’s vernacular) based spirits around the year 1760, as noted in his journal.
Robert Laird, a Revolutionary War veteran, was known for providing his fellow soldiers with Applejack from the family distillery during the war. Mr. Laird would lead the distillery into its first commercial sale of spirits in 1780 and would operate the distillery at its Colt’s Neck location until 1849 when a fire destroyed the operation. Robert Laird would oversee the reconstruction of the distillery, this time in Scobeyville, and would provide the needed space for expansion into commercial distillation of Applejack.
Business would move forward until Prohibition was ushered in, causing the production of apple brandy to cease at the Scobeyville distillery. It was during Prohibition that Joseph T. Laird would be forced to transition the distillation business to producing apple cider and applesauce. This would continue up until 1933 when John and Joseph T. Laird, III would be granted a license from the government allowing the distillery to begin distillation of apple brandy once again, this time for the medicinal purposes only.
Shortly after being granted permission to continue the distillation process, Laird & Company would purchase two distilleries located in Virginia – a location known for its close proximity to orchards with a bountiful apple harvest. One of those distilleries, known then as the Virginia Fruit Distilling Company, located in New Garden just outside of Charlottesville, already had a significant distribution footprint in the south and was well known for its production of fruit wines and spirits. This made it a natural fit for Laird & Company to purchase. Laird & Company would move all of its brandy distillation to the New Garden, Virginia location around 1970 due to the reduction of apple farms in New Jersey. The New Garden location remains the home of Laird & Company’s distillation operations to this day.
Laird & Company currently offer an array of apple products including Laird’s 10th Generation Apple Brandy Bottled-In-Bond, Laird’s Apple Brandy – Single Cask Selection, Laird’s 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy, Laird’s Jersey Lightning Apple Brandy, Laird’s Old Apple Brandy 7 1/2 Year Old, Straight Applejack 86, Laird Straight Apple Brandy Bottled-In-Bond, and Laird’s Blended Applejack. Additionally, the company also offers a vast diversification of wines, vodkas, liqueurs, and more.
Laird’s Old Apple Brandy 7 1/2 Year Old
This apple brandy was introduced by Laird in 1964 and uses a 100% apple recipe for distillation. After distillation, the spirit is then aged in charred oak barrels for 7 1/2 years before being hand selected and then bottled at 80 proof. Many different varieties of Virginia apples can be used including Jonathans, Gala, Winesaps, Staymans, Pippins, and Red or Golden Delicious apples.
Rickhouse Ramblings welcomes guest reviewer, John Bandle, along for this review. John is the one responsible for introducing us to Laird’s Apple Brandy when he requested that Christian bring him back a bottle from Virginia. He is an avid fan and advocate for AppleJack and Apple Brandy, which made him a perfect fit to join us on this review!
Tasting Date/Vessel: June 9, 2021 – Neat in Glencairn Glass; Then with a few drops of distilled water.
Christian: Before we begin, I take a quick sniff of the spirit in the bottle. Surprisingly, it is not a punch of apple that jumps out to me first, instead I get a nice aromatic burst of oak. This nose is really surprising and pleasant. In my Glencairn glass, there is a nice sweetness that permeates above the rim. There is definitely apple present, however, it is nowhere near as bold and pronounced as I had anticipated. Instead, I am getting a touch of apple accompanied by a dash of bubble gum and canned pears in sweet syrup. A quick swirl really allows a touch of vanilla and caramel to sneak through. The nose is much different than I expected, but in a pleasant manner. I did add a bit of distilled water to this pour and it seems to allow the apple essence to still remain delicate, however, take more of a prominent position in the nose than without the water.
Mike: As I lift the glass to my nose, I’m met with soft notes of warmed honey and cinnamon. There is a light oak presence that develops late. A swirl of the glass releases some wine-like qualities, perhaps a Pinot Grigio or other white wine. Letting the glass settle and nosing in again, I begin to pick up an aroma of fresh diced pears. Another gentle swirl of the glass as I continue nosing, the pears transition to sliced apples with a delicate caramel drizzle.
John: The nose of this 7 1/2 Year Old Apple Brandy by Laird’s is very delicate in both the bottle and in my Glencairn glass. It’s surprising to me that there is almost no fruit smell in this nose, despite being an apple brandy. One would expect to be hit squarely in the nose with apple, but that is not the case with this fruit brandy. As I nose into my glass a little further, I notice subtle hints of wood and what I would consider mulling spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, clove).
Christian: Laird’s 7 1/2 Year Old Apple Brandy really has a soft delicate mouth feel on the tongue. I was expecting a sweetness to this brandy that surprisingly, wasn’t there. Instead, what I noticed was a touch of apple accompanied by mulling spices similar to cinnamon, clove, or allspice. In addition, there is a slight touch of clover honey, light leather, and vanilla pudding. I was pleasantly surprised by the variations in flavors in this pour. The distilled water makes an already delicate mouth feel, become airy and light. Honey, vanilla, and crisp fresh apples take center stage. There is a touch of cinnamon or mulling spice still present, however, it is really light and balanced.
Mike: My first sip of this aged apple brandy offers a muted apple sweetness. Baking spices like cinnamon and clove arrive mid-palate, then I detect hints of unsweetened apple puree. This brandy is not dry nor crisp on the tongue, but, more medium bodied and balanced. A second sip reveals a subtle sweetness towards the back of the tongue, perhaps honeysuckle or small bite from a Fuji apple.
John: This brandy presents with a very mild and nuanced flavor. There is no overwhelming taste of sugar, leaving the brandy without the sweetness I expected coming into this tasting. It is hard to describe the subtly of the apple flavor from this apple brandy. The closest comparison I can think of would be that of fruit enhanced waters – think Fruit2O, Propel, or Aha Sparkling Waters. The flavor of the apple (red, not green) is present, but stripped down to its essence. I still get a faint taste of clove and cinnamon on the palate that was present on the nose.
Christian: Laird’s Old Apple Brandy has a smooth, light finish that is short in nature. It is at this point in the experience that I clearly notice a touch of the barrel’s influence. There is a slight bitterness and dryness to the pour that quickly transitions to apples as the spirits leaves my palate. In many ways, this finish reminds me of a fresh Dutch apple pie. A pie that is simply fresh from the homemade pie crust to the sliced apples with cinnamon – none of the super sweet pie filling added. I notice a very late hint of mint and other herbs slowly rise up on the palate, long after the brandy is gone from my lips. The distilled water nullifies any bitterness that was previously present. Apples, crème, and caramel remain strong on my palate long after the spirit has disappeared. A warm apple dumpling or turnover with a dollop of vanilla ice cream pleasantly comes to mind.
Mike: This brandy has a delicate finish. Minimal or no burn in the mouth or throat as it is imbibed. There is an apple sweetness that lingers on the palate with just a soft cinder in the chest that is barely detectable. An understated hint of lightly baked pastry dough, with a dusting of sugar, is barely measurable late.
John: There is zero burn or heat from the alcohol in this brandy – a truly smooth drinking spirit. Laird’s 7 1/2 Year Old Apple Brandy is clean and crisp. Long after the spirit has left my palate, I notice a subtle flavor of mint. I’m not quite sure where the mint is coming from, but it lingers there shortly after enjoying my last sip Laird’s apple brandy.
3.30/5.0 Rickhouses – “Make it Neat!”
Christian: Laird’s Old 7 1/2 Year Brandy is my first introduction to brandy. This pour was unbelievable smooth, vibrant, and tasty. I was very impressed at the level of complexity in the pour and the fact that the experience is much more than just an overabundance of apple flavors. There was just enough flavors similar to that of a traditional whiskey that would make this pour suitable for someone like me, to ease their way over from the bourbon/whiskey and rum world into apple brandy. I love the history of Laird & Company and I believe that this brandy is a really nice option to enjoy on a warm summer evening. I am glad Rickhouse Ramblings took a step out of our comfort zone and gave this product a shot. I find it hard to grade this brandy as it is so much different than a traditional whiskey, however, this is one whiskey/bourbon spirit that I could see my self enjoying more often as it is an enjoyable and easy drinking offering! If you want to branch out and try something new, give this apple brandy from Laird & Company a try! Cheers!
Rating: 2.65 Rickhouses
Mike: I’m not experienced with brandy, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this offering. I have sampled two other, much younger, offerings of Laird’s apple brandy and suffice to say this 7 1/2 year apple brandy leads the pack. It is not as sweet as the others I’ve tried, but that is actually more agreeable to my palate. You can definitely detect apple, but I do not recommend coming to this pour expecting an apple bomb. Overall, it is delicate and well-balanced. Based on the age and color, I assume this is aged in used barrels, similar to Mellow Corn. With that said, I’d be very intrigued to try this aged in new charred oak barrels, to see how the flavors develop compared to bourbon. If you are a bourbon enthusiast and are interested in branching out, I definitely think this is a nice gateway brandy to help you accomplish that goal.
Rating: 2.50 Rickhouses
John: Let me start by saying that I’m thankful for the opportunity to help my Rickhouse Ramblings brothers branch out of the world of bourbon/whiskey. With that being said, I am a big fan and regular drinker of Laird & Company Applejack brands. I most often have their Captain Applejack offering over ice as an after-dinner aperitif or a nightcap. My expectations for what Laird’s would taste like is dramatically different from the actual product. Many times, you hear the name “Applejack” and expect a heavily spiced and sugary overtone with a strong alcohol finish. Applejack is also synonymous with apple brandy, and again, the name may conjure tastes of much stronger fruit-based alcohol like grappa or straight brandy. Laird & Company Applejack defies these expectations and delivers a very drinkable, yet subtle spirit with a long American lineage.
I would strongly recommend Laird & Company’s 7 1/2 Year Applejack. I am going to give this offering 4 ¾ stars. I’ll reserve my 5 star rating for the Captain Applejack, another Laird & Company product, which is one my favorite spirits in their rather large portfolio of products.
Rating: 4.75 Rickhouses