Oldest Native Distillery
1698 – Great
Great Great Great Great Grandpa Bill
In 1698 Alexander Laird, a County Fife Scotsman, emigrated
from Scotland to America aboard the ship the Caledonia,
accompanied by his sons Thomas and William. William settled
in Monmouth County, New Jersey. While in Scotland it is believed
that William was involved in the production of Scotch. Thus
upon his arrival to America, he applied his skills to the
most abundant natural resource available in this area of
the New World…apples! He began production of AppleJack
for his own use, as well as his friends and neighbors.
1717 – Colts
In 1717, a descendant of William Laird built the Colts Neck
Inn in Colts Neck, New Jersey. This inn served as a stopping
point for stagecoaches and dispatch riders traveling from
Freehold to Amboy, New Jersey. Robert Laird’s account
book of the Colts Neck Inn operations in 1780, the first
commercial records, shows that "cyder spirits" -
Applejack - was a standard item on the menu, at a price of
four shillings, six pence per gallon. This represented about
a half-day’s wages.
1760 – George
Robert Laird was a Revolutionary War soldier serving under
George Washington, and the Laird family supplied the troops
with Applejack. Historical records show that, prior to 1760,
George Washington wrote to the Laird family requesting their
recipe for producing Applejack, which the Laird family gladly
supplied. Entries appear in Washington’s diary in the
1760s regarding his production of "cyder spirits".
The first known commercial record of Applejack sale.
1849 – Fire
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.
1900 – Prohibition
In the early 1900s, sixth generation Joseph T. Laird,
Jr. faced Prohibition. He was able to keep the company in
operation by producing other apple products, such as sweet
cyder and applesauce. Seventh generation, John Evans Laird
and his brother, Joseph T. Laird, III also kept the company
in operation by producing other apple products during Prohibition.
In 1933, Laird & Company was granted a federal license
under the Prohibition Act to produce Apple Brandy for "medicinal
purposes", allowing the company to re-open the distillery.
This also allowed the company to have aged inventories of
Applejack available immediately after the repeal of Prohibition.
New and modern facilities were added, and Applejack production
continued until the outbreak of World War II. At this time,
the plant was converted to the drying and dehydration of
apple pomace for production of pectin and other products
to aid in the war effort.
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.