Distilled: Applejack is back

By Columbus Alive
From the October 10, 2013 edition
  • Photo by Tim Johnson

Much to the chagrin of purists (or those with taste), it was only a matter of time before flavored whiskey became a thing. Flavored vodka sells like blue meth in the Southwest, and the variety of flavors now spans everything from fruits to bacon and even bubblegum. Whiskey was the inevitable next step.

While I was never a fan of flavored vodka, I didn’t really care that it existed. With whiskey, I’m downright angry — no, not from the whiskey itself — that distilleries have begun flavoring their products. Whiskey is already perfectly flavored and doesn’t need the likes of honey, cinnamon, apple, etc.

But for those who feel the same about spoiling perfectly good whiskey with flavoring, applejack might be worth a try. See applejack isn’t whiskey — it’s actually closer to an apple brandy — and its whiskey-twist flavor isn’t egregious.

Applejack has a history as old as America with colonists partaking in the beverage liberally because fruit-based spirits were easier to produce than grain ones. Applejack production has dwindled since the era of tri-cornered hats, but a Northeast Ohio distillery has resurrected the product.

Tom’s Foolery in Chagrin Falls currently produces a couple products, but the applejack is the one receiving acclaim. The original, colonial method for making applejack was basically freezing hard cider to spike the alcohol percentage. Tom’s Foolery obviously uses a more modern approach; twice distilling in copper pots its fermented cider and aging it in cognac, bourbon and whiskey barrels.

The result is a mixed bag. Tom’s Foolery Applejack ($40 at Weiland’s Market) has some interesting and subtle flavors — the apple taste is muted and mostly pleasant, blending well with the barrel notes — many of which will please traditional whiskey drinkers. It’s a far cry from the likes of Fireball or such junk.

Unfortunately Tom Foolery’s Applejack carries a heavy booze flavor that quickly washes out the initial subtlety. And at 90 proof, this applejack comes with a sizable bite as well.

Tom’s Foolery Applejack does excel as a base for cocktails (or just heating up a hot cider). Its booziness produces a strong libation, something a coal miner might drink.

Photo by Tim Johnson