A Visit to Black Star Farms

I’m feeling like crap  today but I’m going to get this written up, dammit.

On Saturday, Jun 19, 2011 Frind of the Blog Amy and I and our spouses and my baby visited Black Star Farms Old Mission tasting room in Traverse City, Michigan. Black Star Farms is one of the best (if not the best) wineries in Michigan. They are well known for their exceptional late-harvest Rieslings, sur lie Chards and many other excellent wines and even cider. Their website is http://www.blackstarfarms.com/ Look for a review of the 2008 Late Harvest Riesling in the near future!

Anyway we had been there before but, what we were most interested in this time was their spirits program. They produce a number of them.

Red Grape Grappa
White Grape Grappa (I had this and it was excellent)

Spirit of…(eaux de vie)
Plum (also very good)
Pear (also a version with the pear inside the bottle)

Apple Brandies
Spirit of Apple (NAS but about 12 mos. old)
10 y/o Apple Brandy (spectacular)

For the sake of full discosure, I had been communicating with their Twitterer Coryn and she waived the tasting fees for my party and me, a $25 value.

She also showed Amy and I around behind the scenes. Here are some photos Amy took:

Their press

Their Still

According to Coryn:

The still is run 3-4 times a week

–          The clear fruit eau de vie brandies come off the still at approx. 75-80% (150-160 proof). They rest in the glass carboys and are then blended in the stainless steel tanks where they sit for approx. a month. They cut the brandy to be 40% (80 proof) and then bottle it.
–          The apple brandy comes off the still at 75% (150 proof) and goes into the barrel at 65% (130 proof) where it ages for approx 12 months. When it is bottled it is cut down to 40% (80 proof).

The carboys

Their Barrels with aging Apple Brandy

Again, from Coryn:

The barrels are a combination of French and American Oak. They were new when we purchased them and they are used for one rotation of aging for the apple brandy and then they get used to age the Sirius Maple Dessert wine. They are relatively low toasted oak barrels – this style was chosen b/c the idea is to accentuate the fruit of the apple.

Finally, their bottler:

The apple brandy is a very different beast from Laird’s which has so many fans among my fellow bourbon-fanciers. It is a much more delicate spirit than that or even Tom’s Foolery. Spirit of Apple was reviewed few months ago on this blog. When I first opened it I got a weird celery aroma in the nose, but that has calmed down now.

The 10 y/o is just great, great stuff. So complex and elegant, I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it. You all know what a cheap bastard I am, but I have not regreted paying $75 for it yet. A review of that will be forthcoming, hopefully a video review.

Anyway, it’s definately worth the trip if you ever make it “Up North” to Traverse City!

5 thoughts on “A Visit to Black Star Farms

  1. Great notes, Josh, thanks for getting it down.

    I’m pretty interested in apple brandies, and I’d love to try this. But $75 for a 10yr old spirit does seem steep (Laird’s 12yr Old Apple Brandy is around $50). Do you think the high price is just a matter of a smaller operation having higher costs?

    One more thing: on the Black Star Farms site, they say their Spirit of Apple is 3-5 yrs old. You said it was about 12 mos. Is it the same stuff?

  2. That’s the same thing. Unless I misunderstood her, Coryn told me “about 12 mos.” on the tour, but I had not checked the website. That’s odd.

    I think the price is indeed a function of their size. It IS expensive and I rarely ever spend that much even on Scotch, but it really is that good, and it’s a totally different product from the Laird’s stuff.

    I haven’t had the 12 y/o Laird’s, but the BiB and the 7 1/2 y/o (and the Applejack with GNS) are available in Michigan. The last time I was at Binny’s in Chicago they had the 12 y/o but I was already busting my budget so I had pass on it. How does it compare to the other expressions?

    My man Scott aka callmeox hooked me up with a bottle of this micro-distilled Apple Brandy called Tom’s Fooley. It’s very young but pretty good.

    BTW, if you want some samples, shoot me a pm on SB with your address and I’ll hook you up!

  3. Tom and Josh –

    It’s Coryn from Black Star Farms, sorry for the delay in the response. The regular Apple Brandy is aged 3-5 years, most of the time 5 years. I believe I mispoke when you were here Josh. A 12 month program would not impart the flavors and aging our distiller is aiming for. I aplogize for the misinformation.

    Our 10 year is a small batch, only 300 produced and it is truly an artisan product. There are many factors that come into play regarding the price. A few include the final yield v what we started with b/c as you know evaporation does occur in the aging process, the labor involved in production, the use of French oak, and the unique package this brandy is bottled in.

    Josh, thanks for the post and for sharing your pictures. Please note that picture of the bottler is the bottler we use for our Hard Ciders, we have another larger bottling line we use for our main line of products.

    Coryn Briggs

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