You might not know it, but former presidents George Washington and Barack Obama have more in common than just being trailblazing presidents. They both really like knock-knock jokes. Kidding. The truth is, they both liked applejack. Not only did they like applejack, but they liked a specific brand, one that’s been around now for 237 years—Laird’s Applejack.
For Washington, he loved the stuff so much that he asked for the recipe so that he could reproduce it at home. Former President Obama didn’t distill the stuff himself, but he did serve Laird’s at cocktail parties he hosted during his presidency.
The company’s distilling roots, which has been run consistently by nine different generations of the Laird family since 1780, actually stretch back almost a century more to 1698 when William Laird landed in Monmouth County, New Jersey, from Scotland and began distilling apples. It was William’s grandson, Robert, who opened the first commercial distillery and helped the Revolutionary War efforts by supplying the troops with applejack. Currently, ninth generation Lisa Laird Dunn sits at Vice President and World Ambassador of the company.
In between Washington and Obama, many other presidents have enjoyed the applejack—from Abraham Lincoln who served it in a saloon he ran before becoming president to Lyndon Johnson who gave Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin a bottle at a summit in Glassboro, N.J. in 1967 to Bill Clinton, who served Laird’s at various events during his presidency.
In total, the company currently produces five apple spirits at their Virginia facility: Laird’s Blended Applejack (40% ABV, $21.99), Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy (50% ABV, $29.99), Laird’s 7 ½ Years Old Apple Brandy (40% ABV, $31.99), Laird’s 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy (44% ABV, $65), and their latest release Laird’s Jersey Lightning Unaged Apple Brandy (50% ABV, $27.99) which came out around two years ago.
While the product is distilled in Virginia (and has been since the 1970s), Laird’s is headquartered in New Jersey, just down the road from where William Laird originally set up shop. Last year, the company produced around 60,000 proof gallons of apple brandy. For each barrel of apple brandy produced, 7,000 pounds of apples—a mix Red Delicious, Gala, Golden Delicious, Winesap and Granny Smith sourced from the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains—are used.
So, next time you’re feeling like you could run the country, remember, you aren’t going to do it right if you don’t have a bottle of Laird’s Applejack (or two) handy.