A truly outstanding American Grape Brandy – a real stand out for the New York State Finger Lakes in particular!
Notes: Spirits of Miles is a small craft distillery located in Geneva, New York (about halfway between Rochester and Syracuse) on Keuka Lake. They currently produce bourbon, several varietal grape brandies, Eau de vies, liqueurs, and some amaros ( such as their black walnut amaro). As we review their other products, we will link them. Their products are all grown, fermented, and distilled in New York State.
This very particular brandy has been aging since 2005, first in new American oak casks, then in sherry and port casks in a solera system.
American brandy as a category is frankly a much dismissed – if not outright reviled category of brandy in many quarters. This regrettable state of affairs was due in large part to cheap soulless mass-produced brandy aimed, it seems, at alcoholics and bargain hunters looking for cooking brandy. It was not something that was taken seriously for years. This was not always the case. American brandy made from native grape varieties or imports was once held in high esteem, at least by some, until its precipitous fall from grace ( mostly from Prohibition and the consolidation of the alcohol industry). This has thankfully changed in recent years with the influence of Hubert Saint Germain and his heroic efforts to revitalize and rehabilitate the image of American Brandy by word, deed, and superior distillation.
Appearance: Clearwheat straw yellow gold in the glass and deep amber in the bottle
First Impression: Lovely Armagnac-like notes of a quality brandy with lots of dark fruit, allspice, vanilla, port, and sherry notes. Multilayered and complex, well beyond any other brandies from this area, hands down!
Taste: delicious honey-like mouthfeel and a heavy dark fruit/grape presence on entry leading to a dark fig/persimmon and spice. Medium to heavy mouthfeel lets you know you are drinking a well-aged brandy. The port and sherry barrel aging definitely play a role in the deep complexity of flavors you encounter with this brandy.
Drinks: Very nice on its own in a good tasting glass. It makes an outstanding French 75 or Side Car.Also, make a nice Manhattan variation swapping out the rye for brandy and also a celestial Brandy Mint Julep on a hot day!
Bottle: Nicely complicated and attractive packaging overall. An unusually shaped paper front label that features the family homestead on the lake on the front label. The back label has some good tasting notes along with “Grown, Fermented, and Distilled in the Finger Lakes,” which ( in my mind at least) is important as a statement as craft and local are increasingly slippery terms these days. It is important that these attributes are stated clearly.
The glass bottle has fluted shoulders, much like an antique decanter, and is sealed with a soft black sealing wax which is thankfully easy to remove/open. I hate it when you have to resort to sharp objects to get at your whiskey!
Other: Very limited supply and distribution
Final Thoughts: A very interesting and complex yet approachable American brandy.Could very well start to change your mind about this very overlooked category of spirits
Unfortunately, there is no stand-alone website ( yet), but the Family Winery does have one. Also, I would definitely visit the place if you have a chance – If you are lucky, the distiller might be in too!