Apple brandy is a spirit distilled from apples, and made in many parts of the world. Apple brandy is dry, around 80 proof, and smells and tastes strongly of apples. Apple brandy can be unaged and clear, or aged in wooden barrels for a period of time, gaining color and wood flavor, and smoothing rough edges. The best known examples of apple brandy are Calvados, from Normandy in France, and Applejack, from the United States. In Germany and Austria, eau de vie are produced from apples that are clear and dry, with some of those undergoing aging in barrel - these are brown in color and are usually labeled Alte Apfel.
Apple brandies began as a way of preserving the harvest, as brandy made from cider was much more stable and transportable than the fresh fruit or the cider itself. The apples used are not the typical eating apples found in the grocery store. Instead, hundreds of varieties are divided into sweet, tart, and bitter types, and a blend of sometimes hundreds of different varieties are used to provide a balanced spirit with complexity and aromatics.
The process for making apple brandy is simple. Apples are picked, crushed and fermented into cider with around 8-12 degrees of alcohol. This cider is then put through a still, where it comes out at 160 proof. This raw distillate is cut back with water to a more drinkable level, then aged in barrel until it’s ready to be bottled. Extended aging in wood concentrates fruit flavors, and adds a layer of woody, rounded notes.