When I think of New York, one of the things that comes to mind is apples. Apple picking, apple pie, apple cider, and apple cider doughnuts (if you know, you know) — apples are one thing that the state containing the Big Apple itself might be most closely associated with. But while there’s a growing whiskey scene in the state, there surprisingly doesn’t seem to be many distillers making a good old fashioned apple brandy. Except for Denning’s Point, that is.
Denning’s Point Distillery was founded by Karl and Susan Johnson in 2014. Karl had been a chemist developing rocket fuel, and Susan was a successful designer producing corporate and product designs. Together, they decided to quit their jobs and strike out on their own, starting a distillery and making locally sourced whiskey.
They started by making vodka and “white lightning” unaged whiskey, staying true to their desire to make authentic local whiskey while waiting for their aged spirits to finish sitting in the barrels. They expanded that line to include gin, apple brandy, and (more recently) aged whiskey and bourbon as their aged barrels have ripened.
Apple brandy is something that is as American as… well… apple pie. It was one of the original liquors produced in America, and even George Washington had a favorite recipe.
For their apple brandy, Dennings Point starts with a set of heritage New York apples that are cooked, fermented, and distilled in their hybrid still. The resulting spirits are then added to oak barrels which had previously been used for their bourbon — this simultaneously reuses old barrels while also imparting some of that delicious flavor into the brandy.
The brandy stays in the barrels for a minimum of two years, stored in their warehouse across the Hudson River from their distillery in Beacon.
The bottle is simple and stunning. We’ve seen a couple other distilleries using a similar design, which is a mostly traditional shaped bottle with a large body, quickly tapering shoulder, and medium length neck. The biggest difference here is that the corners are all rounded off, almost like a stone that’s been polished in the surf. It’s slick and modern and I like it.
The label changes between different expressions from the distillery, and their brandy sports a purplish-pink color as the background. Just like the other labels, the ink is a shiny metallic gold color, but thanks to the lighter background (compared to the jet black on their bourbon, for example) the words tend to get a little lost in the mix. It’s generally a good design, but I think this is one of the weaker editions in their line.
The whole thing is topped off with a cork stopper dipped in teal wax, which is a great accent color for the primary colors on the label.
This is 100% something I would keep on my shelf.
The brandy here is a beautiful clear golden color, and the aroma coming off of it is instantly recognizable as apples. It smells like a crisp version of apple cider, almost like a green Jolly Rancher without the sour component.
Taking a sip, the liquid has a lighter weight to it than other brandies — there’s no sugar added here, unlike some other versions of brandy, so that lighter weight makes sense. The flavor takes a minute to develop, starting first with some clear vanilla notes, then with some of the expected apple fruit notes coming in to support. As the flavor intensifies, there are notes of caramel leftover from the bourbon barrels, but that only stays a short period of time. The drink finishes cleanly without any unpleasantness or bitterness, leaving behind just the faint shadow of apple on your tongue.
Usually, when you add some ice to a liquor, the lighter flavors drop out of the running. Naturally, I was a little worried for this spirit, since this is pretty much all light flavors. The good news, though, is that not much seems to have changed when we added ice.
The broad strokes are still there: the vanilla, the apple, and the caramel. There’s just a bit of rearranging of priorities. The apple flavor is more of a secondary consideration instead of being the star of the show, and the vanilla and caramel notes are taking center stage. It’s still pretty good, just a different flavor profile compared to before.
There’s a great balance here.
For my sidecars, I go with Cointreau and lime juice as the mixers. The Cointreau has a tendency to be a bit overpowering at times, especially with less expressive spirits. In this case, though, I think the apple brandy actually has just enough apple flavor to balance out the other components without overpowering them.
Something else that this avoids is being too sweet. Brandy producers have a tendency to add some sugar or sweetness to their products to make it more appealing, and that added sugar plus the sweetness of the Cointreau is just way too much. But here, because this brandy doesn’t have any added sugar, it’s nicely balanced and delicious.
Brandy probably isn’t something you normally look for on the liquor store shelves. I know I myself usually march straight past it on the way to the bourbons. But as we start getting into late summer and early autumn, a good apple brandy like this might be something that gives you exactly what you need. Light and delicious, with the flavors of fall.
Dennings Point did a great job with this brandy. I appreciate them using heritage apples that are locally grown in the New York area, which makes this local distillery feel all that more connected to the community. It’s a touch on the high side of the price tag, and the label feels like a flattened version of Barney the Dinosaur, but the contents are fantastic.
|Dennings Point Distillery Beacon Apple Brandy|
Produced By: Dennings Point DistilleryProduction Location: New York, United States
Aging: 2 Years
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $57 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
Big Apple (brandy), indeed.