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If you a fan of tough apple cider however don’t think it’s quite tough enough, consider going the brandy route. Yes sir no much better place to start than through Calvados, the centuries-old French apologize brandy, and also applejack, its American-born cousin i beg your pardon holds the impressive difference of gift George Washington’s drink that choice.

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But before we gain to the key event and also compare these two storied spirits, let’s conveniently cover the undercard and also answer the question: what’s the difference between applejack and also domestically developed plain ol’ apologize brandy? for sure nothing. Told friend it would certainly be quick.

“Apple brandy and also applejack space synonymous by your federal standard of identity,” says Lisa Laird Dunn, angry President and also World Ambassador come Laird & Company, America’s oldest federal government licensed distillery and also the nation’s foremost producer of apple-based spirits.

Just favor pop and soda or Ye and also Kanye, applejack and also apple brandy space interchangeable. Either name deserve to legally be applied to any spirit that is distilled utilizing 100 percent apples–whole fruit or merely the juice.

Which brings us to the 1960s, when Americans (foolishly) began to fall out that love through brown spirits consisting of apple brandy. According to Dunn, in an initiative to combat sagging sales, Laird & agency petitioned the U.S. Government to produce a federal conventional of identification for a lighter sports of applejack that could be distilled through neutral serial spirits. Enter “blended applejack” which received official designation in 1972.

In the ensuing years, mixed applejack came to be synonymous through applejack regardless of the reality that that is no actually applejack (or to apologize brandy).


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Another usual misconception is the applejack is exclusively created through frozen distillation. Earlier in the early colonial days, fermented cider to be left out in the cold and also subsequently focused through freezing or “jacking”–ergo, applejack. It i will not ~ be lengthy before modern-day distilling became the norm (a grasp of distillers continue to usage the timeless method), however the name applejack stuck and continues to cause confusion to this really day.

The name Calvados, however, isn’t practically as complicated. It refers to the region in Normandy wherein it is produced. Favor Champagne or Tequila, Calvados only originates from its namesake, i m sorry is residence to over 800 ranges of apples.

More specifically, production of the soul is spread throughout three different appellations (A.O.C. Calvados whereby the bulk of the spirit is produced; A.O.C. Pays d’Auge, residence to several deluxe producers; and also A.O.C. Domfrontais, i beg your pardon we’ll obtain to shortly), each through its own set of regulations. Uneven applejack, i beg your pardon isn’t required to be age a solitary day, Calvados needs to invest a minimum of two to three years in oak barrels. The spirit should contain 100 percent fruit, however pears can be substituted for a part of apples. In fact, Calvados Domfrontais has at the very least 30 percent locally-sourced pears.

When it pertains to taste, comparing Calvados come applejack can be difficult considering every the varying determinants in their particular productions. Calvados primarily takes benefit of bitter cider apples, i m sorry are significant in the region, while applejack has actually a call for being sweeter, the an outcome of using much more common, edible ranges of the fruit.

Barrel kind plays critical role in imparting certain flavor profiles. Applejack often spends time aging in used bourbon barrels, which loan notes of scorched caramel, vanilla, and spice. French oak mostly takes center stage in Normandy. A solitary batch that Calvados deserve to spend time in multiple barrels new and old to balance level of oakiness and tannins the the lumber provides.

Then there’s aging, i beg your pardon in the instance of spirits, is often a good thing. The apple qualities slowly fade, the turbulent edges begin to smooth, as a deeper, more facility spirit evolves. Enlarge vintages have to be designated as right sippers. Applejack, which tends to outweigh Calvados in the ABV department, is right for mix in standard cocktails such together an old fashioned, Manhattan, and, the course, the Jack Rose.


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While both Calvados and applejack have withstood the check of time, they continue to fight because that mainstream acceptance. A an extensive gap separates Calvados native the grape-based ‘gnacs top top the French brandy hierarchy. And despite applejack’s illustrious place in U.S. History, its name is currently much more closely linked with one of the characters from “My tiny Pony: Friendship Is Magic.”

But choose the autumn leaves, that all seems to it is in changing. Thanks to new York City hotspot Frenchette, Calvados and tonic vied for cocktail that the summer honors while production of applejack proceeds to spike throughout the U.S. With brand-new distilleries such together Arkansas Black and Harvest soul Farm creating highly regarded versions that the American classic. Even the old-timers are getting earlier in the game. Last October, Laird & company released their long-awaited straight Applejack 86, a faithful recreation that the fruits of the distillery’s job from pre- and also post-Prohibition days.

“Consumers’ tastes room cyclical,” claims Dunn. And also right now, apple brandy is having a moment–again.

Header image courtesy that Shutterstock.

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David is a food and culture writer based in Los Angeles by method of new York City. His work has showed up in the Los Angeles Times, CBS Local, Mashable, and Gawker.