Some time ago, I posted on how to make your own peach brandy. Linked to that post was a series of pictures showing the step-by-step process. Since that original batch, I’ve created several others, including one made from plums, and I even tried my hand at making limoncello.
Early last fall I was feeling particularly adventurous and decided to see how apples would fare against Barbara Holland’s brandy recipe, the instructions I used for my previous batches. Apples were in season and I had recently purchased a new and larger gallon glass canning jar – twice as large as my others.
That gallon jar sat atop the refrigerator since last September. It was marked to be opened on March 26 of this year, but I’ve been neglectful and let it sit for an extra six weeks. I finally got around to pulling it down and bottling it Tuesday.
I sat down with a taste, my notepad and a pen, as well as my small square bottle of Yahara Bay Apple Brandy*, which I received as a Christmas present last year. How would my naturally fermented, non-distilled brandy taste compared to distilled, professionally created brandy, and how would it compare to my prior attempts at brandy-making?
Clearly distillation makes all the difference when it comes to alcohol content: unlike Yahara Bay’s strong boozy smell and taste, my brandy only hinted at having any alcohol in it (although, quite a bit more than my earlier batches of peach and plum brandy). My brandy was also much less viscous than my previous batches; this, I theorized, was due to the different consistencies of the fruits’ flesh – apples are less spongy, more crisp, and less soft than peaches or plums. The low alcohol content of the homemade brandy also makes it much easier to drink than properly distilled brandy: it doesn’t take your breath away when you sip it.
Each is different and unique for individual reasons. Yahara Bay’s brandy is certainly tasty, but far too potent for my taste. I don’t prefer, generally speaking, sweet drinks with high alcohol content. Wine is acceptable because it contains only about 10% alcohol, give or take. So when it comes to distilled spirits, I tend to choose savory – malty, peaty scotches with flavors such as oak, leather, and tobacco.
For me, sweet beverages are appealing only when a hint of booze is present – aperitifs, a glass or two of wine, or any of my three homemade brandies: peach, plum, and now apple. Which fruit should I choose next?
* Yahara Bay Distillers, Madison, Wisconsin. They make their brandy with “Wisconsin-grown Honeycrisp apples picked at their peak… Made in the Calvados style, this deep amber-colored spirit has the body of brandies ten years its senior. With a delicate apple scent and a powerful punch of heat upon delivery, it’s sure to warm you from head to toe.”
Yahara Bay sells many of its products, including their apple brandy, at Vom Fass, a unique store in Madison offering “the finest and most flavorful products from around the globe.”