Wine Importing and Marketing Services

The New Wave of Weird, Wild American Brandy

Illustation by Amber Day

Once a year, Baltimore Spirits takes an attention-grabbing approach to dispatching an abundance of Maryland apples into apple brandy. Inspired by the harvest celebration of Mexico’s pechuga mezcal, raw apples are swept with smoke, then distilled with foraged pawpaw, persimmon and black walnut. For the final distillation, a 30-pound Maryland country ham is suspended in the still above the pot, for a distinct “prosciutto-y” salinity, explains cofounder Max Lents.

“It’s a completely insane thing to do— hanging hams in your still,” Lents acknowledges, “but the spirit wouldn’t be the same without it.”

Insane? Maybe. But it’s memorable—and that’s important.

Creative distilleries are shaking up the once-sleepy world of American brandy. Many are borrowing inspiration from ingredients and distilling cultures from around the world; others are finding ways to spotlight uber-local ingredients, preserving peak seasonal flavors in liquid form.