Laird’s Is Going Strong After Two Centuries

The country’s oldest licensed distillery sells applejack and apple brandies.

Founded in 1780 with roots dating back even earlier, Laird & Co. is the oldest licensed distillery in the United States. The Scobeyville, New Jersey–based company is the country’s leading producer of the colonial-era spirit applejack. Laird’s applejack and apple brandy range depleted 20,000 nine-liter cases in 2015, according to vice president and ninth-generation family member Lisa Laird Dunn. “Both the applejack and the apple brandies are growing tremendously,” Laird Dunn says. “We’ve had to allocate our straight brandies for the last three years.” The brand’s pre-Prohibition legacy appeals to modern mixologists, and Laird’s is often featured in cocktails like the Jack Rose. “Craft bartenders crave authenticity, and our heritage provides that,” Laird Dunn adds. The core Laird’s range includes a blended applejack ($21.99 a 750-ml. bottle)—made with 35-percent apple brandy and 65-percent neutral grain spirits—along with a 50-percent abv apple brandy ($29.99), a 7½-year-old apple brandy ($31.99) and a 12-year-old apple brandy ($65). The applejack is the volume leader and skews toward the off-premise, while the 50-percent abv straight brandy leans toward the on-premise. Approximately 60 percent of the brand’s sales occur from September to December, and top markets include New York, Texas, California, Illinois and Florida. Last year, Laird & Co. introduced Jersey Lightning ($27.99), an unaged apple brandy intended for craft cocktails and for use in warmer weather. The company plans to take the straight brandy and the 7½-year-old brandy off allocation in 2017 and will reintroduce its bottled-in-bond apple brandy in 2018.