Laird & Company: 236 Years in Business and Counting

Nine generations of Lairds have led America’s oldest native distillery to continued success


In 1698, Scotsman Alexander Laird immigrated to the United States. He immediately recognized the abundance of apples surrounding him — what else was there to do than to turn it into apple brandy?

Although not officially on the market until 1780, Laird & Company’s famous Blended Applejack Whiskey — an apple brandy base blended with neutral spirits for a richer, smoother taste — has a long history interlaced with America’s history and leaders. George Washington, for instance, wrote to George Laird (a soldier in his army) asking for the recipe — the family, of course, gladly supplied it. Abraham Lincoln served Laird’s Applejack at his tavern in Illinois, and William Henry Harrison, the “Hard Cyder Candidate,” graciously thanked his supporters for their votes with the gift of Applejack.

(pictured: St. John Frizell)

Fast forward to the present day, the company of America’s oldest family of distillers is celebrating its 236th birthday.

Impressively, Laird & Company is still in the family with Alexander Laird’s great great great great — well, you get the idea — granddaughter Lisa Laird Dunn who now serves as the company’s vice president and world ambassador. Her Father, Larrie Laird, still leads the company as its president.

This November, in a celebration honoring Laird’s 236 years of excellence, New York City’s Pegu Club invited a crowd of avid enthusiasts and drinkers to enjoy libations crafted by Pegu’s bartending stars past and present, Kenta Goto (Bar Goto, NYC and Chad Solomon (Midnight Rambler Dallas), among others. Upon request by the Pegu Club’s owner, Audrey Saunders, Pegu alumni returned to their old stomping grounds and, alongside the current bartenders, served their favorite renditions of Laird’s — ranging from aperitifs to nightcaps — to a thirsty crowd.

Pictured here the Marconi Wireless created by St. John Frizell of Fort Defiance.

1.5 oz. Laird's Bonded Apple Brandy

.75 oz. Carpano Antica Formula

.75 Cocchi Torino

1 dash Peychaud's Bitters

Stir over ice; strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. 

Notably, Saunders has a long-standing relationship with the Laird family, specifically Dunn. Saunders is credited for being the catalyst responsible for drumming up interest for Laird’s in the New York City craft cocktail world and creating a demand in bars across in the city. Saunders’ work with Dunn gave the unique liquor a new life in the contemporary cocktail renaissance.

(pictured: Dunn, Saunders, and Pegu's family of bartenders)

At the event, Laird & Company rolled out their line of spirits, which included not only its flagship Laird’s Blended Applejack but also Laird’s Jersey Lightning Unaged Apple Brandy, Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy, Laird’s 7 ½ Years Old Apple Brandy, and Laird’s 12 Year Old Rare Apple Brandy.

 (Pictured: The 8th and 9th generation of Lairds)

Family members in attendance included Dunn, a ninth-generation family member; her father, Larrie, eighth-generation; and cousin John Evans Laird III, executive vice president and CFO.

Dunn will eventually pass the torch onto her two children, ensuring a 10th generation of Laird run Laird.