When you think of brandy, you might visualize a gentleman with a mustache wearing a smoking jacket and swirling amber liquid around a snifter. While Old World brandies such as French Cognac and Armagnac will always have a place on the shelf, bartenders are making room for more approachable American apple brandies, along with other types of fruit brandies. Made from the fermented mash or juice of apples, apricots, cherries, pears, plums and more, fruit brandies enjoyed a pre-Prohibition popularity that rivaled whiskey, and these Missouri distillers are bringing the trend back in full force.
Edelbrand Pure Distilling
Swiss-style vinars – unaged, dry fruit brandies – are the focus at Edelbrand Pure Distilling in Marthasville, Missouri. Founder and distiller Martin Weber and his wife, Lynn DeLean-Weber, offer an artisan apple brandy infused with plum, alongside five other varieties: apricot, cherry, pear, plum and grape infused with dill. The key to their success is whole-fruit mash and long fermentation times. Depending on the fruit, a brandy can be fermented anywhere from five weeks to a year, and it takes between eight and 15 pounds of fruit to make a single bottle. You’ll find Edelbrand vinars in retail shops across the state as well as online. edelbrandpuredistilling.com
Of The Earth Farm + Distillery
Co-owner Jim Pierce grows 24 varieties of heritage and disease-resistant apples at Of The Earth Farm + Distillery in Richmond, Missouri, and he favors a blend for the distillery’s apple brandy. Pierce uses fresh, whole fruit, which means the processes of making the mash and distilling the brandy are more labor-intensive, but the result is worth it. When enjoyed over ice, Pierce says the apple brandy captures the essence of the orchard – the aromas, the flavors, the gentle warmth. Bottles are available at boutique liquor stores in the Kansas City area as well as online. Of The Earth also has a stall at the City Market in Kansas City on Saturdays and Sundays. oftheearthfarm.com
St. Louis-based StilL 630 offers two apple brandies, both made with apples from nearby orchards. Knowledge of Good is aged for more than three years in new charred American oak barrels, while Knowledge of Evil is aged for more than three years in the brand’s 5-year-old rye whiskey barrels. The barrel-aging processes create two richly layered – and very different – spirits. The former has a light, sweet profile with hints of lush caramel and oak, and the latter is reminiscent of a decadent apple pie with whispers of spiced rye. Pick up StilL 630 products at the distillery or local retailers, or order them online. still630.com
Nick Colombo, co-owner and operations manager of Switchgrass Spirits, learned how to make brandy from master distiller Hubert Germain-Robin in New York and then brought his knowledge home to St. Louis. Switchgrass Spirits has a hyper-local focus: Its brandy is made from Jonathan apples grown by Happy Apples in Union, Missouri, and after being double-distilled in an alembic pot still, it’s packaged in glass bottles produced just an hour from the distillery. Curious customers can stop by the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market on Saturdays for a free sample and a chat with the staff. switchgrassspirits.com