Originally made famous for their award winning organic vodka, the Schramm family running the Pemberton Distillery are finding their organic methods are once again setting records.
Owners Tyler and Lorien Schramm have crafted and are about to release the first double distilled organic apple brandy ever made in Canada, a spirit that kind of fell in their lap.
About a year and a half ago local Pemberton farmers started showing up on the Schramm's doorstep with barrels of apples. They were begging the Schramms to take the extra pounds of fruit for fear of bears climbing their trees and ripping off branches as they pawed at the apples.
"We got 1,000 pounds from some guy in Birken, a few hundred pounds here, a few there. We had apples everywhere so we decided to get creative," explained Lorien Schramm.
They made their first small 25 litre test batch last spring, which sold immediately. They decided to repeat the process this year, but this time making a much larger batch, picking about 3,000 pounds of apples from Scott Riley's farm in Lillooet last fall and collecting a couple thousand pounds from other farmers.
The creation of their apple brandy starts in the grinding process when apples are unloaded into an industrial sized veggie grinder. The peels and stems are left on the apple while grinding, which Lorien says adds to the flavour complexity.
The crushed apple is then transferred into a steam-heated tank where the apples are cooked in a mixture of water and yeast. From there, the mash is pumped into one of the Schramm's five state-of-the-art fermentation vessels. These puppies cost a pretty penny, ranging in price from $25,000 for a 500-litre tank to $120,000 for 1,000-litre vessel.
As the yeast breaks down the sugar in the apples it produces a byproduct called ethanol, the volatile colourless liquid that is praised and loathed by many.
Once all of the sugar is broken down by the yeast, the mash is transferred to the wash still. This is where the first round of distillation happens.
The goal is to strip out all the liquid from the mash and leave the solids behind. Basically, the alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water, which allows the alcohol to turn into vapour. The vapour then travels through a cold stainless steel condensing unit. At this point the vapour cools and turns back into liquid in a second distillation tank, separating the mash and alcoholic liquid, which by the way has a 75 per cent alcohol content.
Since the apple brandy is double distilled this process happens a second time, converting the 75 per cent alcohol into 85 per cent.
From there Lorien and her husband collect and store the concoction in a cask for about six months.
"Last year we found six months was the perfect amount of time because you still get that great apple flavour, but it had enough time to mellow out. The longer you wait the more you're going to pick up cask flavours," she said.
The result is a light, pale-gold liquor with a bold apple taste. This 40 per cent alcoholic sipping brandy has a clean, smooth finish that warms the core.
Pemberton Distillery is the brain child of master distiller Tyler Schramm. The 34 year old trained at a Scottish University and, along with his wife and the help of his brothers, began operating the distillery in June 2009.
Being 100 per cent organic means Tyler and Lorien make all Pemberton Distillery spirits from natural recipes without genetically modified or synthetic additives.
"We don't add any preservatives or chemicals to our distillation and fermentation processes, that includes apple brandy. Every year we get an audit, and undergo a transparency trail to prove that everything is organic. It's definitely a lot of work, but in the end it's worth it," smiled Lorien.
Bottles of the Schramm's apple brandy will be on sale in February, but for those who cannot wait, the Schramms are currently taking names for their waiting list.
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