$ — 50% ABV — ~5 years
South of East Brunswick is a longstanding Jersey tradition of bottling 'lightning' made from their centuries-old fields of apple orchards. The Laird distillers have been making applejack since they first opened in 1780, and are possibly the oldest still-operating distillery in the USA. Bourbon, it seems, is not the American spirit, but rather an American spirit. Sorry, Kentucky.
Nowadays, Laird grows its apples in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, which are then locally juiced, naturally fermented and distilled. Like tequila or Island scotch, this stuff positively reeks — but of apples! It's wonderfully pungent and makes you weepy for red-gold leaves and flannel shirts.
With a splash of water, Laird's is smooth and sippable, but not overly interesting or complex, but that's not the point. At a hefty 50% ABV, it's the perfect stuff for cocktails, and the linchpin of many classic cocktails like the Jack Rose and the Star, fantastic alternatives from standard fare — especially for those who prefer (excuse the phrase) apples to oranges.
The more likely product to find is Laird's Applejack, which at only 35% apple brandy is a surprisingly solid product, but not their best. If their 7½ year Old, or better yet their 12 year Rare Old, is spotted, it comes so cheap there's no reason not to snap it up and taste a bit of history.
Laird is located in Scobeyville, New Jersey in the Northeastern USA. Established in 1780 by Robert Laird, it remains an independent distiller. Laird's orchards and distilleries are located in Virginia.