Last fall Sean Smiley, founder of State 38 Distilling in Golden, put out a call to friends and neighbors to bring in their unwanted backyard apples so that he could distill a batch of local fruit brandy. In return for a minimum of ten pounds of fruit, Smiley promised a $5 voucher for a bottle of one of the distillery's other products, plus an invitation to the brandy bottle-release party. And now that day has come: The brandy has been distilled, barrel-aged and bottled, and will be available for sale at the distillery's tasting room from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, October 29.
The community responded to Smiley's call in a big way, dropping off about two tons of apples, which he ground, pressed, fermented and distilled over the course of about seventeen days last fall. "I ended up having to build my own apple masher and press...out of a new Home Depot garbage disposal and a car jack," he explains.
Once thoroughly pulped and pressed, the juice fermented on its own due to naturally occurring yeast on the fruit skins. After two weeks, it was then transferred to a pot still for distillation. "It came out superbly as a white brandy," Smiley adds. "But I thought, 'Why not let it age on oak?'"
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So the brandy then spent another ten months in a new French oak barrel before it was bottled. "There's a tremendous amount of apple sweetness and flavor that comes through," the distiller notes. The brandy also picked up hints of vanilla, caramel and subtle spices from the oak.
Only 300 bottles of the 40 percent ABV spirit, called Whippletree apple brandy, were produced; they will sell for $35 a bottle until supplies run out. Smiley says he named the brandy Whippletree after a nickname he and his wife chose in jest for their firstborn, who is due in four weeks. The couple plans to set aside four bottles for their son to open throughout his life's major milestones.
In addition to Whippletree, State 38 also produces a range of agave spirits as well as gin and vodka. Smiley also says that his first commercial bourbon has been distilled and put into barrels for aging; it will be ready to bottle in the spring of 2016. To taste any of State 38's products, head to the tasting room at 400 Corporate Circle in Golden Tuesday through Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. For more information, check the State 38 website.