Now Drinking: Crispin Honey Crisp Natural Hard Cider (Artisanal Reserve Series)

Maker: Crispin Cider Co. (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

ABV: 6.5%

Despite the name, this is not a cider made from the Honey Crisp apple variety, but a dry apple cider made with organic honey.

Color: cloudy lemonade

Nose: Lightly effervescent, slighty yeasty, tangy

On the palate: light, fresh, dry, with a slight crisp apple flavor, and pleasantly bittersweet bite-o-honey which balances out the dryness.

Finish: short but fresh and crisp

Parting words: Eminently refreshing, this is a great summertime cider or mealtime cider (think Sauv Blanc), that, obviously still does the job in the winter.  It pays to read the label on these bottles, though.  I managed to follow instructions with regard to serving it over ice (counterintuitive, but it works) but I forgot to give the bottle a swirl to disperse the sediment, as recommended.  So my second glass was cloudier and yeastier but it speaks well to the quality of the beverage that it still tasted great.  Very well done and a pleasant change of pace from the very dry blue label Crispin ciders (not that they aren’t good too).

Review: Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, bottled-in-bond

Maker: Laird’s (Scobeyville, New Jersey/North Garden, Virginia)

Age:  NAS (4 y/o)

Proof: 100 (50% ABV, all spirits labeled “Bottled in Bond” are 100 proof, among other requirements, see b3 here)

Color: Bright copper

Nose: caramel, a bit of spice, sour apple, alcohol

Palate:  Sweet, creamy caramel apple on entry, then hot.  With a splash of filtered water, sweet apple pie and sour apple Now-n-Laters come to the fore, with a surprising hit of wood at the end.

Finish: hot, dry, finishing up with a big, dry tingle.  With the water, the heat abates.  There is some wood carryover, but, as on the palate, the sweetness predominates, with sweet apple (gala or honeycrisp) lingering on the tongue for a long time.

Parting words: When it comes to American Apple Brandies, for me, Laird’s BiB (Bottled-in-Bond) is the benchmark.   In addition to being delicious, it’s a classic American spirit.  In Henry J. Crowgey’s Kentucky Bourbon: The Early Years of Whiskeymaking, almost half the pages in the book contain references to the distillation of fruit brandies, especially peach and apple.  In a world filled with syrupy, fruity nonsense (and not just on the liquor shelves) or overpriced, overwrought “collector’s bottlings”, Laird’s bottled-in-bond is a charming sip of Americana.  And really, really yummy too.