For more than 40 years, Plant Manager Lester Clements has been in the business of turning apples into brandy.
America's oldest native distillery is tucked away in the North Garden section of Albemarle County, and nobody really knows that Laird and Company is there.
Laird and Company has been in the apple brandy business since the 1700's. Now, all of the company's apples are carefully distilled at its North Garden facility.
For more than 40 years, Plant Manager Lester Clements has been in the business of turning apples into brandy, which is distributed all throughout the country. Before it can be distributed, there's a lot of work that has to be done.
Plant Manager Apprentice Daniel Swanson said, "We grind apples, make cider, then turn it into apple brandy." First, the apples are brought by the pound to Laird and Company's North Garden Plant. Then the apples are ground up and put through a special machine to squeeze out the juice. Then, the cider needs time to ferment.
Clements said, "It'll ferment up to probably 6-or-7 percent, in that neighborhood, and then we take it to the stills and get the alcohol in it." From start to finish, the process usually takes about two weeks to complete. Then, the brandy is aged in barrels until it's ready to be sold.
Swanson said, "It's hands on. We're helping with the apples, helping with the barrels, shipping and receiving."
The process results in a Virginia based product that's been enjoyed throughout the country since 1780.
Clements said this year the North Garden Plant will go through close to three million pounds of apples to make close to 350 barrels of apple brandy.