Whiskey Review: American Born Apple Whiskey

I like apples. I like whiskey. And I like America. So.. based on the fact that today’s subject is called American Born Apple Whiskey, this should be a home run. Right?

History

Founded in 2013 by Patrick Dillingham and Sean Koffel, Windy Hill Spirits started producing a brand of un-aged whiskey called American Born Moonshine that gained some traction and limited distribution. In 2017, the American Born brand was purchased by Milestone Brands, an Austin, Texas based company that was founded by Eric Dopkins and Chad Auler, former CEO and co-founder of Deep Eddy Vodka, respectively.

Product

There isn’t much detail on the bottle that can tell us what’s really inside and how it was made, so we’re going to have to do some detective work.

The packaging says that this was “produced and bottled by” the company in Nashville, Tennessee. The TTB allows companies to play pretty fast and loose with this information, so while the word “produced” might seem to indicate that the spirit was distilled at American Born’s facility, the reality is that it could simply have been mixed with additives and “finished” there instead, having been distilled elsewhere. We don’t have a definitive answer there and we can only speculate.

This does appear to be a distilled spirit of some sort, but the category of “whiskey” can mean a great number of things. There’s no identification of the grains that were used to make that whiskey, and the fact that the label also indicates that the caramel color was added seems to indicate that this might not have been aged in oak barrels for long (if at all).

Finally, as to the flavor. Traditionally, adding flavors into whiskey is done either directly with the fermented mash or in a doubler of some sort during the distillation process. This serves to incorporate the whiskey with the essence of the flavors and tends to make the whole thing a little more harmonious. In this case, all we know is that this whiskey was “infused with natural apple flavors,” which typically means the flavors were added after the whiskey was completely finished. The label claims that the spirit was “made with real apple” and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt there.

In the best case, this is raw whiskey that’s been colored and had some apples steeped in it for a while. In the worst case, this is grain alcohol that’s been colored and had some concentrated apple flavoring added to it. We can’t say for sure what’s really going on here because, much like the whiskey, they’re being deliberately cloudy.

Packaging

I actually really like this bottle design.

Overall it’s a typical design for a whiskey bottle. There’s a gentle flare from the base of the bottle all the way to the shoulder, which quickly tapers to a medium length neck. There’s a swell in the middle of the neck to make it easier for bartenders to pour, and the whole thing is capped off with an actual wood and cork stopper.

One interesting touch on the bottle is that the Gadsden Flag is embossed into the bottle itself, standing slightly proud of the rest of the bottle. It’s a nice touch, and lets you know that despite the “standard” appearance, this bottle was truly custom designed and produced for American Born.

The label also does a great job. The color lets you know immediately that there’s green apple flavors inside, and it provides the minimum information required in the minimum useful space. This lets the whiskey itself really take center stage and be the star of the show (which would be more appreciated if it wasn’t artificially colored).

Neat

You can smell the green apple as soon as you pop the cork. It’s sweet and crisp and very strong. Combined with the alcohol content it smells almost exactly like a sour apple Jolly Rancher. Which is my favorite kind of Jolly Rancher, but only in small quantities.

Taking a sip, the whiskey is sweet but not overpoweringly sweet like Fireball or Skrewball where it’s closer to a liqueur. In this case, it’s almost a natural sweetness — more like a corn whiskey. There might be some added sugar in there, or it’s also possible that it’s a byproduct of the apple infusion.

As for the flavor, the #1 thing you’re going to get is the sour green apple. It’s almost exactly like a green Jolly Rancher, but there’s something else in there. I get the feeling that there might have been a healthy dose of rye in the grain bill, because there’s that telltale peppery spice that comes in near the middle and lasts well into the aftertaste. There’s also a tiny bit of that medicinal alcohol flavor on the end, but it’s mostly covered up by the sugary sweetness.

Speaking of which… the aftertaste is going to stay with you for a while. That green apple flavor doesn’t fade quickly.

On Ice

Adding a bit of ice to the spirit makes me think that there might be more sugar in here than I originally thought. I get the same swirling pattern in the fluid that you see in Fireball, primarily due to the viscous sugar saturated whiskey separating from the sugar-free and colder water from the ice cubes where the sugar falls out of solution.

As for the flavor, this is pretty much just a green Jolly Rancher at this point. The peppery spice is much less prominent, and there’s no traditional oak aged flavors in the whiskey itself to support things anymore.

Cocktail (Old Fashioned)

The issue with adding bitters into this spirit is that it’s already bitter. The green apple flavor here is bitter to start, so adding some bitters is like adding another drop of water to the ocean. It just gets lost in all the noise.

There’s no reason to even try the orange zest or cherries, either. That green apple flavor, even when watered down with some ice, is so powerful that it wipes out almost anything else you put in the glass. There’s just no point — you’re just throwing away good ingredients.

Fizz (Mule)

You know, this is actually not terrible. The apple fruityness blends nicely with the ginger beer for a pretty good tasting cocktail.

That said, there’s not much depth here. The peppery spice that I saw at first is completely gone and covered up by the sweetness and the added dilution. It’s just a glass full of sugary, slightly gingery, fruit.

Overall Rating

It’s not the worst thing I’ve ever had. Which, considering the best comparison I have for it is Fireball whiskey, isn’t saying much.

Apple flavors in whiskey are as old as time itself, especially when used in an infusion. Moonshiners have been using apple flavoring in their whiskey since the first glass came off the line, and it makes sense in the way it’s used here.

The issue I have is primarily that it’s such an overpowering flavor, and there’s nothing else to it. If you want to see this concept executed well, then I’d recommend the Widow Jane Oak and Apple Wood whiskey, which has much of the same apple flavors but is significantly less “in your face” about it and which pulls the tricky feat of also featuring with a supporting cast of flavors beyond just ‘Jolly Rancher Green Apple’.

American Born Apple Whiskey
Produced By: American Born
Owned By: Milestone Brands
Production Location: Tennessee, United States
Classification: Flavored Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 35% ABV
Price: $20.99 / 750 ml
Overall Rating:

Overall Rating: 1/5
Might as well have colored it lime green instead of brown.

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