January 6th, 2008

The Laird files

Laird's products

Drinkboston.com reader Adam Machanic emailed me recently with the results of some exhaustive mixological studies of apple-based spirits from Laird’s & Co., the oldest producer of America’s oldest native distilled spirit, applejack. In addition to applejack (a blend of 35 percent apple brandy and 65 percent grain neutral spirits that puts the “jack” in a Jack Rose), Laird’s produces Old Apple Brandy, aged in oak for 7 1/2 years, and 100-proof, bottled-in-bond apple brandy that’s also 7 1/2 years old. It takes about 20 pounds of apples to make just one of these bottles of pure apple spirits. Wow. Adam’s findings made me think, ‘Man, I’ve gotta get my hands on some of this stuff!’ and I wanted to share them:

“I ended up ‘experimenting’ my way through an entire bottle of the 7 1/2 year old brandy over the past several weeks, and I have to say, if science class experiments had been that fun I might have studied a bit more often. Seriously, though, it’s great stuff. Compared with the ‘smooth blend’ version, it hits you quite hard in the nose with apple essence the moment you remove the cap. Straight, it has a bit of sweetness, and is exceptionally drinkable neat or with an ice cube or two. Color-wise, it’s light, golden and exceptionally clear. Excellent in a Marconi Wireless with some good vermouth — but much better with Vya than with Punt e Mes; the latter overpowers it. I also thought it was wasted in a Jack Rose — the drink tasted no different to me than with the normal applejack. I really enjoyed it as an Old Fashioned, with 1/3 tsp of sugar, two dashes of Regan’s orange bitters, and a dash of Angostura.

“I enjoyed my experiments so much that I placed a follow-up order and got my hands on some of the 100 proof, bonded stuff. This is an entirely different beast — the liquid in the bottle has an almost rusty tone, and is slightly hazy compared with the brandy. And as an added bonus, there are a few floating specks of something in each bottle, visible if you shake it up a bit. Who knows what’s in there. The apple sensation is huge and overpowering both on the nose and the tongue, but thanks to the increased proof there is also quite a bit of heat — I don’t like this one neat at all. On the flip side, it stands up to the Punt e Mes just fine in a Marconi Wireless, and can even be a bit overpowering. I haven’t had a chance to do a Jack Rose yet, but that’s next on the list — I have high hopes for its success there.”

Many thanks to Adam for putting his liver to the test for the sake of experimentation. Unfortunately, he had to order the specialty Laird’s items online; I don’t know of any liquor stores in the Boston area that carry anything other than the blended applejack. Please, correct me if I’m mistaken.

Permalink | Filed under Applejack, Cocktails |

11 Responses to “The Laird files”

  1. DougP

    Nice roundup! I’m a huge fan of the 100-proof bonded Apple Brandy (I find their regular Applejack somewhat underwhelmming compared to it), so I recently picked up a bottle of the 12-year-old rare Apple Brandy ($60 in CA) which is incredibly smooth, and rich in apple flavor. I also recently discovered a delicious Jack Rose variation by simply adding a small amount (~1/4 oz) of Cinnamon syrup (recipe easily found on several cocktail blogs).

  2. Josey Packard

    What a pleasure to read Adam’s tasting notes. It’s my understanding that both the bonded Applejack and the Old Apple Brandy products are not distributed in New York or Massachusetts. In fact, I once heard David Wondrich say that the only place to get the stuff was to make a trip to New Jersey. I’m sure I misheard Wondrich: Adam got it shipped to him. When I landed here in California I was surprised to see the bonded product on liquor store shelves; it’s the one applejack served at Alembic. I’ve also seen the blended stuff for sale, but have not seen Old Apple Brandy here on the West Coast. In my personal experience, I was quite happy to mix with and drink the blended product, but once I’d had a chance to sample the straight product I felt a bit sheepish having been so gung-ho about the blend. I agree with Adam completely that they’re wildly different from each other — on the “packed with flavor” scale, the bonded stuff is off the charts, and side-by-side with the blend one is faced with that too-smooth, watery quality provided by the presence of so much neutral grain.

  3. Adam

    “Had it shipped,” yes. “To me,” no. I actually had it shipped to family in Rhode Island, where the laws aren’t quite as arcane as those here in the Commonwealth. We aren’t allowed to receive or send ANY kind of alcoholic beverage here. Apparently, the stated goal of this idiocy is to dissuade minors from attempting to mailorder spirits. Something tells me that the truth is much closer to tax dollars and/or other ways for the state to pad its coffers…

    And, by the way, I had it shipped from a liquor store in NJ :-)

    DougP: The cinnamon syrup sounds great! Another variation I’ve been doing — for both Marconi Wirelesses and Manhattans — is adding a very small amount of Yellow Chartreuse. I find that it makes the drink almost creamy tasting. Give it a try if you’re in the mood for something a little different.

  4. ljclark

    Wow, I love when the comments out-inform the post. Adam, thanks for clarifying the whole shipping thing. That’s ridiculous. I need to add this from my friend Scott Holliday in Montreal (formerly bartender at Chez Henri in Cambridge): “On the subject of your Laird’s column, I’ve been mixing a tasty (if I might be so bold) cocktail of 3 parts Laird’s (bottled in bond) to one part St. Germain stirred with ice and a dash each of Peychaud’s and orange bitters. The working name is a Boutonnière but who knows if that will stick. The drink, however, is a keeper and will stay in heavy rotation at least until the St. Germain runs out. In fact, neither ingredient and many essentials more are unavailable in Quebec.”

  5. Mike S.

    Cheers Lauren for posting Mr. Holliday’s recipe for the Boutonniere (I like the name fine). It’s outstanding!

  6. craig

    I’ve got some Laird’s bonded that I picked up on a trip home to my parents in NJ. Shopper’s Vineyard in Clifton, NJ, an amazing store in its own right, carries the bonded and 7.5 yr. old. One cool drink you can make with it is called the Jersey Lightening – a cocktail of applejack, some lime juice, and sweet vermouth. Very “tangy”

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    [...] historic Applejack”, or the older still 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy (which you can read up on here.) My mother is traveling in the region as we speak, and was perfectly happy to be my mule. As we [...]

  8. Penelope

    I am in Boston and want to try this bonded Applejack!

    Any ideas about finding it closer, like New Hampshire or Rhode Island??

  9. ljclark

    Penelope, one reader told me that the Laird’s Bonded was available recently at Blanchard’s in Allston. I have never seen it in a NH liquor store, although they do usually carry the standard Applejack. As for RI, I would ask Michael Dietsch of the blog A Dash of Bitters (http://www.adashofbitters.com/). He lives in RI.

  10. Michael Dietsch

    I’m sorry I’m only now seeing this.

    I haven’t found bonded Laird’s in RI yet, and I haven’t asked anyone whether they can special-order it. I should get on that, though, because I really miss the bonded Laird’s.

  11. Eric Witz

    I’m aware that this is a rather old post and it’s possible that Laird’s Bonded has since become more widely available, but until this evening I had never seen it in any liquor store in the Boston area (and I’ve been to many). Tonight I happened into Downtown Wine & Liquors in Davis Square, Somerville, and was shocked to find a number of bottles on the shelf. So of course I snapped one up, and stumbled here in search of recipes. I’m about to go make myself a Boutonniere (whether or not it’s called something else now). Cheers!

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