Commercial Division Only
Spirits encompass distilled apple and/or pear products. Unaged spirits are typically known as eau de vie and aged spirits are typically known as brandy.
Cider that is concentrated by freezing after fermentation (often known as applejack) includes concentrated heads and tails and is excluded from this competition due to adverse effects related to toxicity.
Eau de vie
Eau de vie (EDV) is white, non-oak-aged brandy. It usually ranges from 60 to about 100 proof, though products under 80 proof are uncommon in the US. Imported examples bear special labels. Eaux de vie are often drunk as a digestif, like grappa. For either apple or pear, the spirit should be round in the mouth and free of heads (acetates and aldehydes – nail polish remover) or tails (fusel oils, often stemmy or fuel-like, they bead in an empty glass, and are most evident as smell in an emptied glass).
Apple EDV are usually subtle on the fruit and may carry a hint of spice. Varietal character may be difficult to discern, and could be a feature. Overt apple character should raise concerns. Pear EDV, on the other hand may be heavily aromatic to the point of perfume. Pear spirits often bear a subtle spicy aftertaste which should linger a long time. Bartlett pear is readily identifiable.
In general, oak aged brandies follow the same guidelines as eau de vie. Head and tail characters are faults. Apple is subtle, pear more overt. Barrel character may range from toasted wine barrel (toast and coconut, light yellow color) to charred whisky barrel (smoke, spice, dark amber color) – but you should be able to taste the barrel.
Apple brandies fall into two main camps – Calvados (France) and Applejack (Mid-Atlantic United States). Entry must declare whether it is a calvados or an applejack style brandy. (Applejack brandy is not to be confused with cider that has been concentrated by freezing, as mentioned above.)
Calvados is fermented from a French style cider and is dominated by the wild fermentation flavors. These accent the heads. They can give a green apple impression to some tasters, but commercial samples are often excellent candidates to illustrate acetaldehyde, ethyl acetate and (rarely) diacetyl. A calvados-style apple brandy should be heady, and should have muted barrel character.
American apple brandies / applejacks should not evidence heads, but rounded, generic apple or apple blossom flavors and aroma, varietal character being a plus, some spiciness is acceptable, partnered with smooth barrel character that shouldn’t overwhelm.