New Jersey can boast of having the very first spirit and hard liquor produced in America. William Laird a Scottish immigrant settled in Colts Neck in Monmouth County in 1698 surrounded by a large number of apple orchards. Laird was a distiller back in Scotland where he produced applejack from the plentiful apples that the surrounding orchards produced. While his original intent was for personal consumption and to share with his neighbors he ramped up his production since Colts Neck was a stage coach stopping place.

Laird’s has a rich famous history including George Washington the night before the Battle of Monmouth dining with Uncle Moses Laird. In 1760, documents confirm that Washington wrote to the Laird’s for their applejack recipe as he was also living on an apple orchard.

Abraham Lincoln owned a tavern in Springfield, IL and a bill of fare shows that Lincoln served Laird’s applejack at 12 cents a pint which was very expensive at the time.

Great history from a family owned and operated business with over 10 generations of the Laird family at the helm.

Mike Brant - Townsquare Media
Mike Brant - Townsquare Media

The question has come up if apples are still used in applejack. Up until the 1970’s applejack was made from apple juice that was fermented and then it was distilled. By law applejack is made of a blend of 35% apple brandy and 65% neutral grain alcohol and must be aged 4 years and aged in used bourbon barrels.

Laird’s experienced the disappearance of apple orchards around Colts Neck which transformed into horse farms and large mansions that started to sprinkle the township. With the ever changing landscape the Laird’s packed up and built a distillery in Virginia with apples coming from the Shenandoah Valley.

Back in the day sixteen pounds of small wine sap apples yielded about 25 ounces of applejack. Currently apples are used in making the apple brandy which is then distilled with the grain alcohol to make applejack. The apples are fresh and make a fine cider before turning the cider into brandy. While the applejack is distilled in Virginia it is stored in used bourbon casks in Scobeyville, New Jersey where it’s housed in warehouses next to the Lairds headquarters. We are proud of Laird’s and their commitment to New Jersey and constantly putting out a great product shared around the world. Cheers!

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 weekend host Big Joe Henry. Any opinions expressed are Big Joe’s own.

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