Could applejack be the new whiskey? Barking Irons Distilling & Imports Company thinks so. They just bottled their first spirit, distilled from 100 percent New York apples and barrel-aged in the heart of Brooklyn. Although the drink eschews grain in favor of the Empire State’s number one fruit, it still goes down surprisingly similarly to a bourbon. Yet it remains far less understood than its corn- and malt-based counterparts. Enjoy a brief history of applejack before seeking out a bottle of Barking Irons, now on shelves across the city.
“Applejack is America’s original liquor,” says Elliott Phear, co-founder of Barking Irons. “Our ancestors used to take plentiful resources of apples and freeze-distill them in their backyards.” The process was known as “jacking,” which is where the spirit derives its name.
Barking Irons begins its life as a hard cider, made with jonagold, macoun, and gala apples. The juice is distilled at Black Dirt in Warwick, New York, before it is received at the Van Brunt Stillhouse in Red Hook, where it’s aged for several months in heavily charred oak barrels, taking on the wooded, vanilla-rich characteristics familiar to whiskey. A sip of the 100-proof applejack is subdued in its sweetness, revealing notes of pepper, caramel, and cocoa in the finish. It’s sensational neat, or as a substitute for bourbon or rye in a manhattan cocktail.
Bottles now retail for around $45. The drink is also behind the bar at Mother’s Ruin, Rochelle’s, and Bonnie Vee on the Lower East Side. In Williamsburg it’s pouring at Huckleberry Bar, Dram, and the Shanty. It’s the sweetest way to sip your way through New York’s proud agricultural heritage.