Obstler / fruit brandy / schnaps in the United States???
I am talking about the clear beverage which is made from 100% fruit must. e.g. apple, pear, apricot, plum. Similar to grapa which is made from grape must. 80 proof or thereabouts.
Short of booking a flight to Germany, how do I get ahold of this stuff?
I live in NYC but would happily buy from any online store shipping to NYC.
You are looking for eau-de-vie -- a (generally unaged, clear) distillate of fruit juice. A must is typically from grapes, and contains the whole fruit, including seeds and skin. I'm not sure that the pits from stone fruit are included, except for kirsch (cherry). The term fruit brandy is ambiguous in this country. It sometimes means a flavored liqueur, for which I prefer the term XXX liqueur. A true dry brandy would be distilled from juice and aged in wood. Schnapps alas is also ambiguous. In this country, its generally low-end flavored liqueur, but in Germany, it is clear high-proof eau-de-vie. Price is a good indicator of which is which.
Pear is easy to find. Look for Poire William (William being another name for a Bartlett pear). Take care not to by Marie Brizard Poire William, which is not an eau-de-vie. Clear Creek makes a good domestic pear eau-de-vie, which I think they call a brandy.
For apricot, try Blume Marillen Apricot Eau-de-Vie. Excellent.
For plum, look for Mirabelle Plum Eau de vie. Clear Creek makes one (plus another plum eau), and I see Massenez around. Or Slivovitz.
I have not seen an unaged apple eau-de-vie. Clear Creek makes one aged for only 2 years, although I've only seen the older 7yo on the shelf. Calvados would be the gold standard of aged apple brandy. For a younger one, look for Lairds Bottled In Bond Apple Brandy (not their Applejack or their older 7.5 year old). Excellent for mixing, although I prefer an older one for sipping.
And kirschwasser (kirsch), perhaps the classic German eau. My family sipped it neat from a kirsch set -- a ceramic decanter and tiny ceramic glasses.
Astor wines has lots of these, and DrinkUpNY will deliver free to the city for orders over $100. I haven't checked their inventory, but its pretty broad. Should be no problem to find these in NYC
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Thank you for all of this info!
I had heard of eau-de-vie before, but I knew that the literal meaning is the same as aqua vitae, so I never investigated it or gave it any thought. I guess I assumed it was similar to akvavit or vodka. I remembered having "schnaps" in Germany many, many years ago and just couldn't understand why I couldn't find anything similar in the US.
We will definitely check out the eau-de-vies you suggested!
I was doing a quick search a few minutes ago and found this unaged apple brandy listed: "Core Hudson Valley Apple Brandy". Is this an eau-de-vie or is it something different?
I didn't find much about the Hudson Valley product. I'm guessing it is distributed either only or mostly in NY State.
It does appear to be an unaged eau-de-vie of apple. That said, wood does wonderful things to apple. I would not shy away from a good apple brandy. The Laird 7.5 is nice. Dupont makes very nice Calvados expressions. But then I prefer Cognac to grappa.
ED: I finally found a Calvados I like (you might recall our prior thread on the topic) -- Chauffe Coeur. It is everything that Daron (for me) is not -- smooth, warm, baked apple notes, deep and comforting like a well aged Cognac. Delicious stuff.
Speaking of Cognac vs. grappa, I like them both, but the grappa needs to be a good one. Have you tried Nonino UE? It's a bit pricey (~$70/bottle in our area) but unbelievably good. The only grape brandy I've ever had that tastes, really, just like fresh grapes (minus the sweetness, of course). Impeccably well made.
Just happened across this thread, and couldn't agree more with your assessment of Daron -- the only note that I consistently picked up from that one was 'olive brine'. Thankfully, I only bought the 375ml of that disappointing example!
I've enjoyed the Dupont 5 year ("Fine Reserve"), and look forward to finding Chauffe Coeur (looks like K&L is the only player in my neck of the woods)...
re: Joe Blowe
Domaine Familial Louis Dupont is my favorite producer from the appellation "Calvados de Pays d'Auge" contrôlée. I have their Hors d'Age, which I purchased here in California, as well as their "Plus de 15 and" (bottled at 42% abv in 2006), and their "Plus de 24 ans" (bottled at 46.6% abv, also in 2006). These last two I brought back from the domaine when I visited there in . . . 2006.
This is VERY easy to find . . . even in an obscure, out-of-the-way place like NYC.
Domestic? Top producers include:
* the previously mentioned St. George Spirits in Alameda, California -- http://www.stgeorgespirits.com/ -- I'm partial to their pear/poire myself.
* Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, Oregon -- http://clearcreekdistillery.com/index... -- kirsch and framboise are my favorites.
* There's even one in the Hudson Valley called "American Fruits" -- http://wvwinery.com/american-fruits/ -- but I've not tried any.
* . . . and there are more.
re: Joe Blowe
I confess I haven't had the Mirabelle -- at least, not that I recall. I'm more of a "Poire" guy, I guess. I really like the Poire from Etter in Switzerland, but both St. George and Clear Creek are really very, very good! (IMHO) I remember really enjoying the Trimbach Mirabelle at a restaurant in Alsace, but . . . well, obviously I have to taste more Mirabelle!
I'm a huge fan of eau de vie -they can be painfully hard to find in the US. My goal with the stuff is to find flavors other than the stuff on the label - elderberry that smells like chocolate, quince that smells like marzipan, ginger that smells like lemony soap, rowanberry that smells like parsnips and roses. It's much more difficult to make an eau de vie that gets to the core of what it means to be a particular raw material versus just smelling and tasting like that raw material.
My favorite producers of the stuff are Austrian: Rochelt, which is sadly not imported into the US and Hans Reisetbauer, who is brought in by Terry Theise/Skurnik. Reisetbauer does all the usual suspects, but also carrot, ginger, and other bizarre things, some of which are only available at the distillery. As a friendly warning, prices here are often around $100/375 ml. A lot of producers of other things in Austria also make some eau de vie, but almost none of it is exported - Nikolaihof makes a Marillenbrand which will take the top of your head off, and Nigl makes some things that are stunningly good, but you'll have to visit to find out.
Then there's the Alsace producers. These are easier to find, and usually less expensive, but can be of high quality. F.E. Trimbach is one of the greats, especially their raspberry, but also look at Massenez.
In the US, other posters have got it right... St. George and Clear Creek make good, solid eau de vie that is clean and fruit forward, and usually reasonably priced.
Using Winesearcher to do a cursory search, it seems like Saratoga Wine Exchange has a decent selection of Reisetbauer stuff, but I'd also look at Crush Wines and Spirits.