I like pear brandy. When I was out in California in 2015 I tasted pear brandy from Clear Creek Distillery and loved it. Last year Ted Huber let me sample to pear brandy he has aging in his Starlight Distillery warehouses and it was very good. Huber hopes to bottle this when it reaches peak maturity so that could be a few years. I thought it quite good then but Ted says it keeps improving so why rush it. I recently decided to start looking for pear brandies to taste.
I was looking for the Clear Creek pear brandy but I could not find it in Louisville or the Party Source in northern Kentucky. What I came up with are four pear brandies from a variety of places. The first is from Germany called Williams-Birne from the Kammer-Kirsch Distillery, Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany. This bottle was produced with a pear in the bottle. It is unaged and 80 proof. The next one I found was the St. George Pear Brandy from the St. George Distillery, Alameda, California. It is an unaged brandy at 80 proof. The third brandy is the Jack and Jenny pear Brandy from the Peach Street Distillers, Palisade, Colorado. The last one is Honesty Pear Brandy from the Aeppeltreow Distillery of Burlington, Wisconsin. It is unaged and 95 proof.
I took these products to Copper & Kings Distillery where Brandon O’Daniel, the Master Distiller, helped me go through the tasting. O’Daniel has a great palate and since he is distilling brandies at Copper & Kings, he has a better understanding of what is happening in the bottle than I do. Here are the notes I came up with from the pear brandy tasting at Copper & Kings.
Williams-Birne Pear Brandy
Nose: I found this to be a very rich pear aroma. Brandon noted that it was a bit more pear skin than meat. After we let it set for a while it became a bit buttery on the nose as well as the rich pear fruit.
Taste: There was a rich pear flavor like biting into a pear with a hint of spice – something more savory than sweet like cardamom. Brandon was thinking the pear skin flavor probably comes from the pear grown into the bottle. After it sat for a while it gained a buttery note and maybe a bit of pear blossom floral notes.
Finish: Very nice dry and crisp pear flavor that lingered for some time.
St. George Pear Brandy
Nose: This nose had pear aromas but also notes of alcohol. As it sat it released more pear fruit aromas and less alcohol. It was not a complex aroma but a nice one.
Taste: Rich pear flavor. Brandon was noting that it was the flavor closer to the stem and core of the pear, but there was still a little of the ‘grittiness” in flavor of the pear skin. As it sat the flavors got richer and better.
Finish: This was simply pear fruit and lots of it. A very nice finish.
Jack and Jenny Pear Brandy
Nose: It was a sweet pear preserves aroma. Reminded me of my grandmother’s kitchen as she was making her pear preserves. As it opened up the sweetness became more pronounced. Brandon was unsure how they achieved this sweetness. He thought either they cut the fermentation short and carried through some of the pear sugars, or they simply added sugars to the cider before distillation. Both are legitimate practices and this was a good brandy.
Taste: Light pear flavor and alcohol. The pear is a candied pear flavor instead of the ripe pear we tasted in the other brandies. As it sat the flavor got even sweeter. I could see this product being popular with bartenders for mixing cocktails.
Finish: Very sweet and fruity with that candied pear flavor. A nice finish but a little sweeter than I prefer.
Honesty Pear Brandy
Nose: Very soft nose – softest nose of the four. Pear fruit and floral notes. Brandon stated it reminded him of being in a barn full of bins filled with pears harvested that day. I agree.
Taste: Ripe pear and baking spices in the back of the palate. After it opens it gains a little buttery flavor as well. A pear tart in a glass for me.
Finish: A long lingering finish of pear fruit with a hint of spice.
When we finished the tasting both of us thought these products were all good quality brandies. I wish I had purchased the St. George Pear Brandy with the pear in the bottle for comparison, but I didn’t. How much that pear influences the flavor is the question. We both thought the German Pear Brandy was the best, but that could be that pear in the bottle. Next I flip back and forth between the Honesty and the St. George Pear Brandy. Both are excellent brandies on their own and would make a fun cocktail. Last was Jack and Jenny but mostly because I like the drier flavors of the other brandies. I am sure those with a sweet tooth would disagree with me. It is a fine brandy, but a little too sweet for my taste.
Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach