Alan Bishop is the distiller at The Spirits of French Lick Distillery and Winery. He makes excellent whiskey, but one of his first loves is distilling brandy. Southern Indiana has a rich history of making apple brandy dating back to the 19th century. Farmers in the region had orchards growing apples, pears and peaches. The surplus would be made into cider and distilled into brandy. Alan is trying to bring back this tradition. He is not alone. Ted Huber at the Starlight Distillery also is making apple brandy and it is Alan’s hope that other distilleries in the region will also help bring back the fruit brandy tradition to Indiana.
Alan has obtained Michigan apples and pressed the cider at the distillery and double-distilled this brandy in a pot still to 135 proof and aged it in once used red wine 63-gallon barrels at 135 proof. The barrels are American white oak with a number 2 char and toasted heads. It was aged two years and he took several weeks to proof it down. Brandy takes time to proof down properly. Adding water over weeks gives the spirit time to merge with the water. It helps to keep the fruit flavors true and keep the mouth-feel of the brandy. Adding the water in one step will make the brandy taste thin and watery. This brandy has a great mouth-feel and a true apple flavor because Alan took the time to do it right.
Old Clifty Hoosier Apple Brandy
Age: Two Years Old
Nose: Caramel apples with a little baking spices and oak. The apple is the star of the show.
Taste: Apples – start with sweet apples but then a little tart, green apple kicks in. The caramel and baking spices give the brandy an apple pie note. Tasted with a cranberry changes the caramel to more of a French vanilla and the apple remains a sweet apple. Tasted with a pecan and it becomes a caramel apple covered with peanuts, like the kind you get at a fall festival.
Finish: Starts sweet with lots of apple but then the oak finally kicks in adding some dryness to the drink. The cranberry takes the oak away and makes for a very sweet apple finish. The pecan brings out the spice and oak with a hint of the tart apple in the finish.
I am pairing this brandy with a Nat Sherman Schrader cigar. The cigar was designed to pair with wine and should go well with the apple brandy. The smoke is a rich, sweet tobacco with notes of vanilla and chocolate with a hint of cedar spice. The brandy makes the smoke very sweet with milk chocolate and vanilla with very little spice. The smoke makes the brandy taste of apple pie with hints of vanilla ice cream. It is an excellent pairing.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller