Apple Brandy Essential Info

  • Color: Clear to light amber
  • Region: Varies
  • ABV: Varies, 35%-60%
  • Aged: Yes, varies depending on style
  • Made from: Apples
  • Commercial Examples: Laird’s Applejack, St. George, Santa Fe Spirits, Koval, Clear Creek
  • Popular Cocktails: Jack Rose, Jersey Lightning, Applejack Sour

Calvados and Applejack may seem like they belong at opposite sides of the lunch table, and maybe in some pre-teen after school special they would. But we know better nowadays, which is to say that both Applejack (the New Jersey-born apple-based spirit) and Calvados (the slow fermented French apple brandy) both celebrate the same thing: the glory of the apple.

To be technical, Applejack isn’t a brandy (any fruit wine that’s been distilled), it’s an apple brandy that’s mixed with a fairly hefty proportion of neutral spirit. Laird’s Applejack has a 35% apple brandy content that’s boosted with 65% neutral grain spirit. Calvados, on the other hand, comes from double distilled cider (following after Cognac). It’s distilled first to 60 proof, and then distilled again—with the distiller looking mainly for the heart of the distillate—to around 60 to 80% ABV (or 120 to 160 proof).

Calvados is aged briefly (about 3 months) in lightly charred oak before it’s sent to older oak casks (which won’t impart as much tannin, the way an exhausted marathon dancer might not have as many leg kicks to give). And while many distillers shake their beefy fists (we assume) at the angels who took their share of the spirit, Calvados distillers often depend on it to lend their apple brandy even more depth. Applejack, on the other hand, will have a more spirituous flavor, apple (and oaky) flavors dancing around on some high proof booze—less of an apple profundity than a feisty apple expletive.