Taste Test: American Apple Brandy - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Before bourbon, there was American apple brandy. In fact, early Americans’ thirst for cider (and its harder cousin, apple brandy) was partly what pushed Johnny Appleseed out the door when embarking on his tree-planting quest. Despite the spirit’s century-spanning lineage, Prohibition disrupted much of the knowledge around producing and aging it, but today’s American apple brandies return to the spirit’s heritage for inspiration.

Watershed Distillery Apple Brandy Prominent aromas of forest and pine interlaced with clove set this bottling from Watershed Distillery apart. The operation, based in Columbus, Ohio, sources state-grown apples for its apple brandy. It’s dry on the palate with tart notes and vanilla undertones cinched with a rich, toddy-like spice on the finish. $43.99, woodswholesalewine.com

Denning’s Point Distillery Beacon Apple Brandy An apple brandy for bourbon lovers, Denning’s Point Distillery‘s take on the spirit is made from New York apples and aged two years in the distillery’s used bourbon casks. Golden Delicious mingles with oak on the nose, while in the glass this Hudson Valley-made brandy exhibits rich notes of toffee and cocoa. $51.99, mashandgrape.com

Clear Creek Apple Brandy Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery combines Pacific Northwest fruit with European brandy practices. The apple brandy is barrel-aged for a minimum of two years in French Limousin oak and is as fresh as a knife slice into a Granny Smith. Clean, crisp, and tart, the brandy bears a hint of caramel layered in its essence of pure apple. $24.99, totalwine.com

Rhine Hall Reserve Apple Brandy Pronounced for its soft, floral nature, Rhine Hall‘s Reserve Apple Brandy captures a spring orchard stroll. A flagship bottling for the Chicago eau de vie distillery, the brandy features up to eight apple varieties from Michigan farms per batch, and it uses the entirety of the fruit, honoring German and Austrian production styles. Aged for 12 months in new American oak, the spirit carries gentle, complementary notes of flint. $56.96, astorwines.com

St. George California Reserve Apple Brandy St. George Spirits uses a field blend of apple varieties sourced locally as the base of its Reserve Apple Brandy. After pressing the apples then cold-fermenting the cider, St. George blends the cider with fresh apples in copper pot stills. The spirit rests in used wine and whiskey casks, and emerges ripe with provenance. Sweet, fragrant apple blossom, warming clove, and caramel buzz harmoniously in the bottle. $55.99, internationalwineshop.com

Copper & Kings American Apple Brandy Founded in 2014, Louisville’s Copper & Kings champions distinctly American brandy. Copper & Kings uses alembic copper pot stills to distill their signature brandies, which are aged “sonically” using subwoofers in the maturation cellar. Their American Apple Brandy begins with Michigan-sourced apple wine and is matured in Kentucky bourbon barrels and new oak after distillation, creating heavy vanilla and butterscotch characteristics. $39.99, passionvines.com

Laird’s 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy This year marks the return of Laird & Company’s 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy following a market absence since 2018. The most polished expression from the brand synonymous with American apple brandy, the 12-year-old is buttery and rich, with flavors exquisitely balanced between juice, baked fruit, and spice notes. See lairdandcompany.com for distribution.

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend