Transcribed by Rich Wagner Pennsylvania Brewery Historian Posted 09-13-2022

The Western Brewer November 15, 1883 p. 2006

The Home of Applejack

Our correspondent writes from Newton, N.J. as follows: Just now the manufacture of applejack is in full blast all through this part of New Jersey. Sussex County produces more apple whisky to the square mile than any one county in the United States. Although this is what is called an off year, the amount of this fiery beverage produced in Sussex County will not fall short of 25,000 gallons. It is a singular fact that those years which are divisible by the figure 2 are the best years for making apple whisky. Last year being a good season, the crop of Sussex County was nearly or quite 85,000 gallons; in 1880 it was 103,000 gallons. The liquor originated in Montaque, Sussex County, where the first barrel of applejack was manufactured by Squire Saunder Ennis.

The process of distilling the liquor is extremely primitive at various convenient points all through the county; generally in the neighborhood of the largest orchards are erected large sheds containing the mill and the press. These buildings are usually located on a hill-side. The apples are ground up fine between two huge wooden wheels, which are turned around in a big trough by two horses fastened to a long wooden pole. The pomace or pulp of the apples, is shoveled into a trough and taken to the press, where it is placed between layers of clean straw and put under heavy pressure.

The juice thus extracted runs through a wooden pipe into huge vats, where it is left undisturbed until it reaches a stage of fermentation which is called ripening. It requires great skill and experience to judge when the cider is ripe, for any delay in removing the alcohol by distillation after it is ripe would be fatal to the yield of applejack, and the distiller would have nothing but a lot of vinegar after all his labor.

The still is an immense copper boiler, perfectly air tight, surmounted by a coil of pipe that passes through a tank of cold water. A hot fire is constantly kept under the kettle; an even temperature is necessary in order to get a fine liquor. The cider runs through a siphon into the kettle, where the heat turns it into a vapor, which, passing through the cool coil of pipe, again condenses it and it emerges pure applejack.

The whisky is so strong, however, when first made that it defies even the iron-clad stomach of a Sussex County granger. It is pure white but mellow, with age taking on after a few years a pale yellow hue. Of course, dealers and distillers have all kinds of tricks for palming off new applejack for a superior old whiskey. Burned peach pits added to the liquor fresh from the still will give the appearance of a 20-year old brandy, while brown sugar, skillfully burned has the same effect.

The cost of the whisky to the distiller is small, and the price at the still is $2 a gallon, which includes the tax of 90 cents a gallon. The older the liquor is the more valuable it is. There are many barrels of applejack stored away in these Jersey cellars that are worth from $10 to $30 a gallon. The apples bring from 15 to 40 cents a bushel, according to the season and size of the crops, and each bushel will make a gallon of the whisky.

The revenue to the United States from apple whisky is given at about $50,000 per annum, and two-thirds of it comes from Sussex County.