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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spirit Review: St. George California Reserve Lot No. 2014 Apple Brandy

St. George California Reserve 2014 Apple Brandy

Late one night I was studying the brandy section of the Society of Wine Educator's Certified Specialist of Spirits Study Guide. When my hand needed a break from taking my overly detailed notes, I picked up my iPad, went to the YouTube app and searched for simply "how brandy is made".

This is what I found...

And that was it. I had to try it. So the next day at work I put in a special order for a bottle so I could have it for myself... and, of course, to review. I didn't forget about you.

Sixteen types of local apples were used for this Californian apple brandy, each and every one of them brutally harmed in the making. They were fermented with champagne yeast, distilled in a pot and column still, and the resulting spirit spent two and half years in French and American oak. It has an ABV of 43%.

St. George California Reserve Lot No. 2014 Apple Brandy
The package is all class. It's a fat bottle with steep shoulders and a skinny neck, and contained by a synthetic cork with a wooden top. The label is like it's from an old newspaper ad saying this booze will cure your syphilis. I like that. The drawing of the still and a barrel of apples is cool, too.

It's funny how, even though the spirit was clear after distillation and the final product got its color from aging in oak, the color of the brandy is strikingly similar to apple juice.

Helpful tip: One thing I learned from a quick liquor class I once took is that you shouldn't smell spirits through your nose. All you do is burn your nostrils that way and render yourself useless. You smell it by inhaling the vapors through your mouth. The aromas are much, much better with no alcohol burn.

So this is going to be quick: It has aromas of fresh apples, honey and pumpkin spice. In the mouth, flavors include cooked apple, vanilla and cinnamon. Basically it tastes just like freshly baked apple crisp. The cinnamon intensifies and takes over the entire palate the more you swish it around. The finish is ridiculously long with (surprise!) apple and hot cinnamon.

It's harsh. But when you take a sip of ice water and swallow, coating your mouth for a second, and then sip the brandy it's much smoother and more juicy-appley. Even the finish has less heat and acquires a lip-smacking sweetness. I didn't dare to actually add water to the brandy, though.

Even though it cost me more than I would have liked, I'm glad I went for it. It's a great experience to see how the apple flavor carries over to the spirit and how the oak imparts the spices you want to pair with apple. I'm going to tuck this bottle away and make it last for a very long time. Special occasion booze! Small pour! No sharing!

I LOVE this brandy. But I give it a 3.5 out of 5 on my price vs quality rating scale. When I'm dropping $60 on a 750 ml bottle of spirits, which is never until now, I expect it to be smoother or more refined. Or from some famous old world region capitalizing on the name.

If it was $40 it would have gotten 5 out of 5, no question. This is good stuff and a new product from a great American distiller.

Price: $60
Rating: 3.5/5 = Satisfying/Recommended.
(what does that mean?)

The bottle used was purchased by myself.
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