Laird’s Applejack

Laird's ApplejackFor their 225th anniversary, Laird and Company have re-branded their flagship product, and not a moment too soon. According to press releases, the packaging was introduced in February of 2005, but it’s only now that the new bottles are appearing on Portland-area shelves. That it took nine months for the old stock to turn over suggests that either the OLCC buys its applejack in considerable bulk, or — more likely — that applejack’s popularity is at a very low ebb.

Lairds’ packaging was terribly overdue for a refresh … for as long as I can remember, their trade dress has been stuck in a sort of mid-’70’s American Bicentennial mode of faux woodblock type on a greenish-brown coated paper label, adhered to dark brown glass. To my eye it was the product of a company whose marketing department had fallen into a thirty-year slumber. This didn’t prevent me from buying it — a man must have his Jack Roses — but it certainly wasn’t enticing new consumers to the only commercially-produced applejack left in America. As can be seen, the new packaging is clear glass, to better display the liquor, and takes advantage of pressure-sensitive adhesive films for the “label-less look,” front and back. It’s clean and updated, but historically informed — really a remarkably executed redesign, considering the torpor the brand had fallen into. I hope it bodes well for the spirit.

Is it frivolous to offer a disquisition on a package design? Not, I think, in this case … a wretched looking bottle can only hurt sales, and since as goes the Laird’s brand, so goes the spirit, it’s important that the brand thrive. I very much want the Lairds, now in their 9th generation of distilling, to continue producing applejack for generations to come. If someday I can walk into a random barroom and order a Jack Rose without fear of failure, the world will have become a marginally better place.

Related: The Jack Rose

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32 Responses to “Laird’s Applejack”

  1. c says:

    Gosh, I seem to be part of an unintentional trend. The Washington Post chose to address the Lairds’ updated brand and diminishing sales just a few days ago: Applejack Distiller Aims For a More Hip Crowd.

  2. Kim Stahler says:

    Hello! Loved the posting on Laird’s. After seeing it in many vintage cocktail recipes, I’d been meaning to get some for years. I finally did and am well pleased. I’m a bourbon drinkier, and this is a nice diversion in that category. Now I am getting out my recipes books. I’ve only had it on the rocks so far and must try a Jack Rose. I love the updated bottle. I cannot believe i initially thought it to be a sort of apple schnapps type of liqueur. It is completely its own animal. Thanks for the pointer to the Post article too. Regards, Kim

  3. Catherine says:

    Is there any difference between applejack and apple brandy? Why should Laird’s have switched from an applejack product that was originally one hundred percent apple brandy to one made of apple brandy and vodka, while now marketing the apple brandy as… apple brandy?

    I am told that applejack mixes well with grape juice. This is probably on par with mixing muscatel with 7UP, but the only place I’ve ever seen applejack is in John Steinbeck novels. (I’m curious enough to buy a bottle sometime this week.)

    I don’t think the old Laird’s bottle is all that bad, actually.

  4. Kim Stahler says:

    I think if you want a *pure* apple brandy, you should seek Calvados from France. I can’t find it here in PA, and Laird’s is only $12.99 a bottle. I have been sipping it on the rocks. I too would like to find out why they changed the recipe.

  5. c says:

    Is there any difference between applejack and apple brandy?

    Yes and no. Applejack, as an American farm product of the 18th and 19th centuries, was definitely a different animal. It was traditionally made through freezing — basically just setting a barrel of cider out in the cold until much of the water had frozen, leaving a liquid core of fairly high-proof applejack behind. Unlike distillation using a still, freezing offers no ability to separate out the heads and tails, so “frozen heart” applejack (aka Jersey Lightning, cider oil, &c.) was chock-full of fusel oils and congeners, and virtually guaranteed to impart a splitting headache.

    To my knowledge, Laird’s applejack has always been a fractionally distilled product, however, so until they began blending their cider distillate with grain alcohol, there wouldn’t have been a distinction between it and apple brandy. Now that it’s a blended product, however, Laird’s Applejack is no longer synonymous with apple brandy.

    Why should they have switched from a pure apple brandy to a blended recipe?

    Economics, I assume. Having made cider (and a bit of apple brandy) myself, I can tell you first-hand that you don’t get a lot of liquid from an apple. For my 2001 batch of cider, 610 lbs. of apples, professionally pressed (i.e., a monster hydraulic affair) yielded just shy of 50 gallons of cider, or ~12 lbs/gallon.

    I later piped 5 gallons of said cider (or ~60 lbs. of apples) through a friend’s column still, once, to yield about 700 ml of ~45° apple brandy. Proper Calvados is double-distilled, to around 140° and diluted to 80°- 90° (and aged in used oak barrels for several years), but I wasn’t interested in having an airplane bottle’s worth and so decided to forego a second run and content myself with les petites eaux.

    Laird & Co. state that, using their industrial-strength equipment, 100 lbs of apples yields 1 gallon of 100° apple brandy, or 30lbs for a 750ml bottle of their finest. Much better numbers than my domestic experiment, but still … I can see how it could be a very financially attractive proposition to create a blended applejack that, at only 35% apple brandy, requires a mere 6 lbs of apples to yield 750ml. There was a time, before the temperance hoo-ha of the late 19th century, when we were a nation of orchards, and apples were literally thick on the ground. These days we’re much more of a grain producing nation, and while I don’t have numbers to hand, I’m pretty sure it’s much cheaper to make Everclear and dilute with it, than it is to make the apple brandy.

  6. c says:

    I think if you want a *pure* apple brandy, you should seek Calvados from France.

    Laird & Co. does continue to make three 100% apple brandies, of course. They’re not found in Oregon liquor stores, unfortunately, but I should think that, being New Jersey products, you might be able to find them in PA. Then again, state-run liquor stores being what they are, perhaps this is overly optimistic.

    You might also seek out a very highly-regarded eau de vie from Portland’s Clear Creek Distillery. Their Eau de Vie de Pomme is an excellent 8 year-old apple brandy, better than most Calvados I’ve had. Taken mid-meal, it handily produces an Oregonian Hole equal to any trou Normand.

  7. Jean Nutile says:

    I was introduced to Lairds Apple Brandy by Edgar Cayce’s use of it in a charded oak keg.
    I have been using his recommendation for several years.
    I knew where to find it in Conn. but I am now living in Sedona, Az and I don’t know where to begin a search. Would you be kind enough to let me know where I can find Laird’s Apple Brandy – Not Apple Jack — in the Sedona area.
    Thank you

  8. c says:

    Sorry, Jean, but I’ve no idea. Doesn’t appear that any Sedona-area liquor stores have an online presence.

    Looks like your options are to try calling:
    Sedona Liquors at (928) 282-7997 (122 Highway 179) or
    Top Shelf Liquors at (928) 282-4476 (W. Hwy 89a & Mountain Shadow Dr.)

    Unfortunately the couple of online liquor stores I checked state that they cannot ship to AZ, presumably for legal reasons. So, your best bet is probably to call the stores above and, if they don’t carry Laird’s brandy, to see if they’d be willing to special order it for you.

  9. Catherine says:

    I purchased a bottle of Laird’s Applejack and tonight mixed myself a Jack Rose. I took a gander at several recipes listed in various places and approximated something near the middle of the lot. I think next time I’d reduce the lime/lemon juice proportion to my taste. Is there a definitive recipe?

  10. Maria Clerico says:

    I would like to purchase a chared oak keg and Laird’s apple brandy. I live in Lincroft nj. Please give me price and when and where I can pick it up. It is per Edgar cayce recommendation.

  11. c says:

    Ah, Edgar Cayce, proto-New Age prognosticator. I’d almost rather not talk about him, lest this post become a Google-magnet for True Believers, but I’ll take the risk for a while and delete all references to E.C. should it get out of hand. (Those unfamiliar with the man in question should consult Wikipedia for the rundown). Bottom line is that in psychic dream-states, Cayce recommended to several customers that the thrice-daily inhalation of fumes from a keg of warm apple brandy would do wonders for their pulmonary problems. Shrivels the tubercles and instills healthful vigor, donchaknow.

    Why you think an occasional and bibulous blogger in Oregon would be well-suited to advise you in your quest, Maria, I’ve no idea. Are you laboring under the misapprehension that I am in any way affiliated with Lairds? Because good lord, woman, if you live in Lincroft, New Jersey, then you’re something like 5 miles away from Laird & Company HQ, in Scobeyville. I’d hope that there’s enough sense of pride in local products that liquor stores throughout the Greater Colts Neck Metropolitan Area stock Lairds’ products of all grades, up to and including the rarified 100 proof apple brandy which you likely seek.

    So, there’s that taken care of — there are thousands of gallons of apple brandy within a 5 mile radius of your home, both on store shelves and in massive tanks at the oldest continuously operating distillery in America. All you need now is a charred keg. Cayce seemed to think that a 1 gallon keg would do, and for that you’re going to want to talk to someone in the home winemaking supply business. You could order it online from Brewhaus.com, where it looks like a 1 gallon charred oak keg will set you back $90, plus shipping. Or, if you’d rather buy local (and I suggest that you should), try the women-owned Brewer’s Apprentice, about 10 miles up the Garden State Parkway in Freehold, NJ. While they don’t list small oak kegs in the catalog, they can probably get you one from their suppliers.

    Cayce also called for the fumes to be inhaled through a hose of some sort, and the good brewsters of The Brewer’s Apprentice can certainly provide you with that. Just ask them for some blow-off tubing … looks like $1.50 buys you 3 feet.

  12. joe bucco says:

    I have lived in Monmouth County (Matawan, Hazlet, and Ocean Twp) all of my life and have driven past the Laird plant on Laird Road many times. I often wondered if it was still open for business. I remember my father drinking applejack and 7up. I tried it once years ago and wasn’t too impressed. Since then, however, my tastes have changed so I think I’ll give it another try. Let you know how I make out.

  13. Jakie says:

    Have heard of Apple brandy for years but never took the time to find it…until now. We have many a family hay ride in the fall, and our spiked cider is a hit. Spiked it this year with whiskey in one barrel, and apple brandy(jack) in the other…both were awesome on a cold ride! Thanks for other recipe’s…will give em a try.

  14. Julie says:

    Hi
    I’m also searching for Laird’s-I’ve already purchased the charred oak keg from http://www.baar.com
    Hope the brandy hasn’t changed in quality and still will work as Cayce recommended
    Hope this helps -:)

  15. michael colman says:

    100 proof bottled in bond straight apple brandy is the real thing. Black label Lairds is not easy to get even in Jersey, but it’s available.
    big difference between applejack and b. in b.

  16. earle drake says:

    Hi folks,
    I am thilled to see all of the die hard Apple Jack enthusiasts!
    I am the national key account manager for Laird and Company. I hope I can answer some of the questions I have seen poseted.
    If you are looking for the original recipe try the 7 and 1/2 year old Apple Brandy from Laird’s or if you are more adventurous, the 100 proof botled in bond product. The 12 yr old Apple Brandy has recieved a 90-95 pt rating from the wine enthusiast. All of the Apple products are outstanding. They are all excellent to cook with.
    Apple Jack as we now know it was developed in the early 70’s to be more mixable in old fashion’s and other drinks. It is quite a good product.
    please visit our website at http://www.lairdandcompany.com and feel free to ask for me!

  17. marie giiardina says:

    hi earle,
    I’m having a hard time finding Laird’s straight Apple Brandy. Do you know of any stores near Columbus, NJ? zip is 08022
    Marie

  18. Kaleb says:

    Having heard lore about Applejack, recently turned 21, and seen this beautiful bottle sitting in a local store, I am now the proud owner of a 750 mL bottle. I have a taste for bourbon, but I have to say, I like this. Tastes smooth and sweet, has that nice oak barrel flavor. Heck, I just mixed up a little splash of sugar water and tossed it in, and I like that even better. Packaging may have quite a bit to do with snagging new customers, and the bottle sure didn’t scare me away. I think I’ll be asking for a special order on that 7 1/2 Year old Apple Brandy tomorrow.

  19. Hugh says:

    I originally discovered Laird’s 12 Year Old Apple Brandy at the Freehold, New Jersey, Sam’s Club. The bottle intrigued me and the price was right at $45.00. One taste and I was hooked. I would drive from my home outside of Atlantic City all the way to Freehold just to buy three or four bottles at a time. I now live 25 miles outside of Boise, Idaho, and have discovered Laird’s 100 proof Apple Brandy. Wow. I purchased an entire case and have introduced Idahoans to a taste of historic New Jersey. I’ve come to cherish my Treasure Valley sunsets near the Owyhee mountains, a good cigar and three to four of my best friends sipping Laird’s 100 Proof Apple brandy. What could be better? Maybe those same friends experiencing the same enjoyment at the Jersey Shore for a five day vacation. Laird’s has new loyal customers from the Pacific Northwest.

  20. Eugeria says:

    It is getting harder and harder to find Laird’s Applejack, leave be the brandies. I have just taken it upon myself to order two cases of Applejack through my local liquor store and it is replacing a bottle of wine as my housegift of choice until all my friends start drinking and purchasing this. It would be a great shame if this great American spirit fades away completely.

  21. Lee O'Connell says:

    Thank you for posting comments. My questions were answered regarding the difference between applejack, apple brandy and 71\2 year old apple brandy.
    I was looking for the original apple brandy. Thanks,Lee

  22. Sometimes people don’t know exactly what they want to buy, so they go into the store and have a look around. Research has shown that in these cases the more colourful bottles will attract more customers. The more modern a product, the more relevant a customer feels it is to them.

  23. Kelvin says:

    Its has some caramel, apple, a little spice. Lacks the complexity of its older unblended siblings. Finish is hot.

  24. Thanks for sharing this informative post on Laird and Company. I love its products!

  25. Emma says:

    Do people buy the product because they like the packaging or do they buy it because they like the taste and don’t care what it looks like? I guess Laird have been hanging on to the latter for so long now and didn’t think it was necessary to attract new business.

    Updating the bottle at least gets their product to be noticed a bit more.

  26. Sandy says:

    This reminds me of bacon wine I heard about a while ago. If I had to guess though I think this would taste a lot better 😉

  27. Laird and Company’s products get upgraded and changed over time. I love this company!