1200 kilos of five varieties of English apples go into every 45 litres of our Apple Brandy. Not to be confused with Calvados, as we use no pears, because this would make it nigh impossible to cut super smooth spirit. Distilled five times to grab as much apple as possible. Big notes of apple pie on the nose, and crisp, refreshing light caramelised apple juice on the palate.
Serve neat, or one to one with apple juice in the style of an old fashioned pommeau.
Like Calvados, but better.
WHAT MAKES THIS APPLE BRANDY SO SPECIAL?
Our Apple Brandy is distilled five times to concentrate an incredible amount of rich apple flavour into a gorgeous cider brandy. We’ve gone to great lengths to produce a delicious spirit straight off the still, that only needs a short while in oak barrels before it’s ready for sipping: a very different way of producing this much loved classic. Whether you’re an Apple Brandy newcomer or connoisseur, we recommend you give this a try.
When people think of apple brandy, they usually think of Calvados, a traditional French apple based spirit. However, Calvados is not made solely from apples: it’s usually made with between 10 and 35% pears, depending on which part of Normandy it hails from. Part of the reason for using pears is because it’s very hard to grow acidic culinary apples in that region of France: Bramley apples have a narrow band of geographical preference: thus they substitute acidic pears. Dr John says:
“This, I think, is an unfortunate choice. A lot of those great pear flavours do distil at the boundary between the heads and the heart of the spirit and can easily mask ideal times to make the cut between heads and hearts. Cut too soon and you have a harsh fiery spirit; too late and you have lost your pear notes. I’ll leave your personal experience guide you with regard to how the timing has gone on calvados you have tried in the past. Whatever your take on calvados - and there are some lovely ones - it is an essential place in a map of the world’s great spirits.”
“I am not telepathic, but I think you might be thinking does he mean calvados? Oddly, I don’t. Whilst calvados is probably the best known apple brandy-ish thing in the world, it is not solely made with apples and requires 10-35% pears to be called calvados."
- Dr John Walters,
'The Drinker's Guide to Distilling, Part 1'
Which leads us back to our English version. Dr John loves good apples and good cider; two things historically done very well in England. Fortunately for us, we have some lovely friends in cideries up and down the UK, and so the idea and process of making a lovely Apple Brandy is simply a complete pleasure for us.
1200 kilos (or about ten trees worth) of English apples, fermented and turned into cider.
We like to use five different ciders at any one time, each made from a different apple variety. We tend to source from Norfolk and Somerset, but as with all the fruit we use, the apples will come from around the country if the batch is good. The mix of apple varieties helps us to balance between apples with acidity, sweetness and tannins: all of which we need to make a fine Apple Brandy.
HOW IS IT MADE?
We take the cider of our five apple varieties, and distil it five times in our small 200 litre copper pot stills, into an apple eau de vie. Distilling five times is an uncompromising process; it takes a lot of skill, a lot of time and a lot is thrown away; but it is necessary for our quality standard for two reasons.
The first is that this process allows us to slowly trim and refine the heads and tails fractions of the distillate, to expose the exact cut of the heart of the spirit we need. Or put simply, to ensure we skilfully remove the fiery and undesirable parts of the spirit without compromising any of the flavour or quality.
The second reason for quintuple distilling is to intensify the flavours, aromas and complexity of our spirit. We want to lock in as much fresh apple-y goodness into the spirit as possible: for the amount of flavour we want to capture, one distillation just doesn’t cut it.
We take our lovely apple eau de vie and rest it in English oak barrels for a minimum of six months. Six months is the minimum requirement for any kind of brandy. Keen apple brandy fans will note that, like all dark spirits, the quality of the spirit is usually tied to the length of time spent in the barrel: which is why most other apple brandies are aged for 3, 5, 10 or more years. What a shame to leave it in the barrel for so long! This lengthy process is necessary to allow for a naturally slow evaporation of fiery heads from the spirit, and for the wood to intensify flavour in the spirit. Two elements that, with a true master distiller’s skill, we have addressed before our spirit sees any wood at all. And so, you have an apple brandy that is quite simply unlike any other available.
Finally, it’s worth noting that seeing as we distil from cider, this is technically known as a cider brandy, or cider spirit. We like to call it apple brandy as it’s 100% apples that we turn into a brandy; doing what it says on the tin!
A complex sip with multiple layers of delicious apple flavour and aroma: everything that’s good about apples in a bottle.
Fresh apple skin with some mild zing; then into caramelised cider notes, intertwined with deep cooked apple tart. The time in the oak barrels adds vanilla and light tobacco notes.
The intensity of apple is profound. The concentration of apple flavour through five distillations is unmistakable; and without compare.
Our Apple Brandy is great for sipping neat. However, a lovely use of it is as an aperitif, or with a cheese course, is to mix it one to one with your favourite fresh apple juice. As an aperitif, we usually serve over ice. With cheese, keep it at room temperature and use chilled apple juice. The mix is called pommeau and it is a thing of beauty. With cheeses like comte and gruyere it is a hip-coupling partner. A refreshing swap for dessert wine or a white port.
A recipe from Dr John on a great apple sauce for chicken or pork:
"Take a pint of cider - Thatcher’s Katy is lovely. Reduce to a syrup. Add a pint of fresh apple juice - cox is good here. Again reduce to a syrup. A drizzle of stock or pork juices next with a teaspoon of dijon mustard and 100ml of double cream. Stir until even. Two tablespoons of apple brandy and half a handful of freshly chopped sage. Thicken as you like by reduction and serve over your meat. Oh my gosh.”