A distillery is a place where the distillation of alcoholic spirits takes place. Spirits are also called distilled spirits or hard liquor. Laird & Company located in Scobeyville, New Jersey is the oldest distillery in America dating back to the 1700s.
Distiller recognizes Laird & Company as the oldest family-owned distillery in the United States. The Old Farmer’s Almanac describes it as America’s first commercial distillery. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority defines it as America's oldest family distillers. The American Distilling Institute (ADI) notes it as the oldest distillery in America.
Laird & Company's story goes all the way back to 1698 when William Laird starting distilling apples to make apple brandy, a drink called applejack. The distillery received License No. 1 from the U.S. Department of the Treasury in 1780. Laird has a rectifier and blender license from the New Jersey Division of Alcoholic Beverage Contro.
The original Laird family distillery was located behind the Colts Neck Inn. The inn served as a stopping point for stage coaches. Prior to 1760, George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their Applejack recipe. Entries appear in Washington’s diary in the 1760’s referring to the production of “cyder spirits”. As a Revolutionary soldier serving under George Washington, Robert Laird and his family provided the troops with Applejack.
In 1780, Robert Laird recorded the first commercial transaction at the distillery in the tiny community of Scobeyville, NJ. The Applejack distillery flourished at the Colts Neck Inn site until 1849, when a fire burned the distillery to the ground. Robert Laird, a fifth generation Laird, re-built the distillery at its current Scobeyville site.
In 1851 expanded commercial production of Applejack began. In the early 1900’s, sixth generation Joseph T. Laird, Jr. faced Prohibition. He kept the company in operation by producing other apple products, such as sweet cyder and applesauce. Joseph’s son’s John Evans and Joseph T. Laird, III continued to produce non-alcoholic products until 1933, when Laird & Company was granted a federal license under the Prohibition Act to produce Apple Brandy for “medicinal purposes”. This allowed the Laird brothers to re-open the distillery.
For almost 300 years, the art of producing Applejack has been passed down through succeeding generations of the Laird Family. Eighth generation Larrie W. Laird is now president of Laird & Company and heads America’s oldest family of distillers.
Note: Some claim Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky is the oldest distillery in America. However that is not quite accurate. The present-day Buffalo Trace Distillery building wasn't built until 1858, nine years after the present-day Laird & Company distillery building which was built in 1849. In addition, Buffalo Trace first began distilling at its original site in 1775 whereas Laird & Company first began distilling at its original site in 1717. Using either benchmark, Laird & Company comes out on top as America's oldest distillery.
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