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Autumn is having a tug-of-war with an Indian Summer at the mo’! Good news is it's a bumper crop for all sorts of goodies - apples everywhere, apart from in my garden as the squirrels scoffed the lot earlier in the year!

Pondering harvest and the rich delights of harvest festivals drove me to educate myself about its origins- these festivals in their modern tradition began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church in Morwenstow, Cornwall. This type of gathering spread throughout the country like wildfire thereafter.

There’s lots more interesting things on if you fancy yet another rabbit hole!

Anyway, all this meandering led me to think let’s take some apple brandy out of a barrel and enjoy its timely delights! But, how about this: apple brandy is not a thing! By that I mean has no legal definition and as such a product that we know and love as apple brandy can’t be labelled apple brandy on a bottle of it!

Bizarre you might think; the deeper you delve, the stranger it becomes! Unlike apple brandy, brandy is defined in EUand now UK Law. It means a distilled wine that’s been matured in a wooden barrel of less than 1000 L for 6 months or more and is then bottled at spirit strength, a little sugar and colouring is permitted too. OK… I hear you say, so if Ihave an apple wine I can then have an apple brandy? Seems reasonable but no! Wine can only be made from grapes! So brandy can only come from grape wine.

Throw into the mix a few more things to completely muddy the waters: apricot and cherry brandy are things, they are legal names! Apple no, so by extension apple brandy? No.

The are UK customs code for apple brandy, but not for cocaine; one is legal and one is not; kind of implies that apple brandy is legal, but apparently not!

Finally, Somerset Cyder Brandy has a Geographical Indication, which might imply that cyder brandy is a legal name? No, Somerset Cyder Brandy is a legal name not any sub-part. You can use the whole thing or none of it - and to use it you must use apples from that county, distil in a particular way in that county and mature for a minimum set periodin that county.

So what’s apple brandy’s legal name?????? Turns out it's simply fruit spirit, which given that labelling is meant to protect and inform the consumer, does neither.

That said, we have been drinking a spirit that is colloquially known as apple brandy since the 17th Century, when it originated in big cider regions such as Herefordshire and Somerset. Which brings me back to our apple brandy | fruit spirit. It's delish.

It spent two and a half years in a single use French red wine (grape) oak barrel, which is quite a while for an apple brandy | fruit spirit - as they tend to age blisteringly quickly with us - the better you distil the less barrel polishing is needed. The great thing about apples is their acidity and tannins (bitterness) really play well with barrel chemistry.

Acidity helps to preserve the brandy by preventing the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms. Second, it helps to extract flavour compounds from the oak and it balances out the sweetness of the brandy, creating more complex and nuanced flavours.

Tannins on the other hand are naturally occurring in oak. They deliver a dry, puckery mouthfeel often associated withaged brandy. When just right, they add to the brandy's complexity and structure. When too much you are just sipping a plank!

During ageing, the brandy interacts with the oak wood, extracting flavour compounds and tannins. The acidity of thebrandy helps to accelerate this process. The longer the brandy ages, the more flavour and tannins are extracted from the oak. Over time the acidity helps to soften the tannins and make them more rounded and integrated. The tannins, in turn, help to balance out the acidity and add complexity, adding notes of spice, toast and chocolate. It’s alovely partnership.

That’s making my mouth water!

I’ll wrap up quickly so we can return to the glass!

Our delight can be bought here:

I like sipping it neat after dinner.

For an Indian Summer’s afternoon, mix one to one with fresh apple juice and a torn leaf of sage - an ideal pommeau.

Or step back in time and mix one to one with Lovage cordial - a great companion to some fine cheese, figs, grapes, homemade butter and bread.

Lovage has a celery-like flavour and the cordial is here:

The origins of brandy and lovage are unknown, but it is thought to have originated in the West Country of England in the 18th or 19th centuries. The drink was particularly popular in Bristol, where it was known as "Bristol milk."

Raise a glass!

All the best,

Dr J

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