Tuesday, February 10, 2015

For brown spirits, things are tough all over

I've decided my backup spirit -- for when the whiskey boom finally prices me out of the market for Old Grand Dad, Pikesville Supreme, and Islay Mist 8 y.o. -- is going to be apple brandy. In part because apple brandy goes so well with whiskey, but mostly because I'm already a recognized expert.1

So it was with no small alarm that I read a tweet this past Sunday by Bernie Lubbers (@BernieLubbers), Heaven Hill brand ambassador and Bottled-in-Bond whiskey evangelist, about the disappearance of Laird's Bottled-in-Bond apple brandy. In its place, Laird is now selling Laird's Straight Apple Brandy 100 Proof, "100% apple brandy aged a minimum of 3 years in charred oak barrels and bottled at 100 proof."
No "BOTTLED IN BOND." (No age statement either.)

The label was approved last March. I'm not sure when they started shipping it.

A bullet dodged.
It's sad to see a 4 year-old expression quietly become a 3 year-old, though I suppose this is a better response to depleted stocks than "Laird's No. 11," an 80 proof NAS apple brandy (significantly not a straight apple brandy), for which they got a label approved in 2012 (I don't know that this was ever produced).

Just four months ago, Laird came out with the unaged "Jersey Lightning Apple Brandy." On the one hand, that seems a sensible response to the current unaged-friendly market. On the other hand, that doesn't seem to answer the problem of not having enough aged stuff. (Granted, the initial run is reportedly less than 500 cases.)

The good news is that a response to an email inquiry (in addition to telling me where I could score a bottle of Jersey Lightning) says Laid does hope to get back to selling BIB apple brandy when their inventories increase.

1.Who, you ask, recognizes me as an apple brandy expert? I didn't catch the fellow's name, but he was behind the bar at a microbrewery down South that I stopped in one evening last month. I was staggered to see a small sign, below the large board of on-tap offerings, that stated "House Distilled Spirits." In addition to a flight of beers, I ordered an apple brandy, which smelled like six week old apple brandy distilled at a microbrewery but actually tasted like three or four month old apple brandy. The bartender asked if I had had apple brandy before, and when I said yes, he really opened up. "There aren't a lot of people around here who are familiar with it," he said, and he seemed genuinely interested in my opinion.

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