Laird’s: U.S. Federal Distillery License #1

laird's apple brandy

I’ve ALWAYS had Laird’s Applejack in my bar. A classic Jack Rose was one of the 1st cocktails my husband learned to make over a quarter century ago. Sound like a long time?

In 1698 Alexander Laird emigrated from Scotland & settled in New Jersey. His descendent Robert’s cyder spirits were so well known that Washington asked him to supply the Continental Army. In 1780 Laird’s Distillery was issued Federal Distillery license #1.

50% of U.S. GNP comes from family businesses & 90% of U.S. businesses are family owned. Yet only a 3rd of family businesses make it to the 2nd generation. Less than 1/2 those make it to the 3rd, 3% to the 4th.

I recently spent the day at Laird’s in New Jersey, where generations 8, 9 & 10 of the Laird family still operate the family owned Laird & Co where they blend, age & bottle their apple brandies & apple whiskey, as well as process other product lines including Bourbon & imports such as Proseco & Scotch. Distilling shifted in 1941 to their site in Virginia, nearer to where their apples are grown.

the family

In the group photo, are father, daughter & grandson Larrie Laird, Lisa Laird Dunn, & Gerard Dunn III, who all work hand & heart in the family owned company started by their ancestor. I had to snap it quick because Larrie was working in the warehouse while Lisa & Gerard & Thomas Alvarico showed me around, explaining  things.

I’ve been drinking Laird’s a long time, but it wasn’t until visiting that I really tasted it. Thomas, Lisa & Gerard led me through a tasting of Laird’s expressions starting with the Jersey Lighting, essentially Laird’s newmake spirit. It was eye opening & gave a sense of what apple brandy is all about & how it differs from Calvados. I’m a huge proponent of tasting newmake to get a sense of what’s going on with a whisk(e)y. Laird’s Jersey Lightning is the company in a bottle: all right there to see, straightforward, clear, nothing hidden. It doesn’t try to be a crowd-pleaser, thankfully. Instead, it’s the foundation of a staple. Final fun fact: Laird’s applejack has ALWAYS been distilled never “jacked,” or freeze distilled, as I once thought.

in the warehouse