Laird & Company
New Jersey and New York
America’s oldest distillery dates back to 1698 when Alexander Laird emigrated from Scotland and settled in Monmouth County, NJ. Believed to be a distiller in his homeland, William applied his skills to apples which were the most abundant natural resource in the area. This led to the production of Applejack for his own use, as well as his friends and neighbors.
Prior to 1760, George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their Applejack recipe. Entries appear in Washington’s diary in the 1760s 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 and in 1851, expanded commercial production of Applejack began.
In the early 1900s, 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.
Post Prohibition business was booming so the Laird family acquired two additional distilleries in the early 1940s. One was the current distillery in North Garden, Virginia, near Charlottesville. The Virginia Fruit Distilling Co., as it was then called, was a large producer of fruit wines and spirits being sold in Virginia and the surrounding southern states, and it is very close to the Shenandoah Valley, a great source of apples. With the disappearance of farmland in New Jersey, as of the mid-1970s the entire production of the apple brandies is distilled in Virginia using only fresh Virginia apples.
In addition to apple spirits, Laird & Company expanded to make other products, including Bourbon from a source in Kentucky.
For almost 300 years, the art of distilling 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. This craft, authentic distillery is operating under the 8th, 9th, and soon to be 10th generation of the Laird family.