From the Underbrush to the Bar Top: Our Pawpaw Brandy

The pawpaw is an unusual plant. Aside from gourds, the pawpaw is the largest edible fruit native to the United States, used by Indigenous Americans for millennia. The pawpaw is a deciduous underbrush tree, spreading into dense thickets along floodplains and hillsides in the eastern US. In springtime, the pawpaw tree erupts with nodding maroon flowers before sprouting oblong green fruits in the summer.

The fruit itself has a tropical taste. From the same family as the cherimoya and the sweetsop, the pawpaw has a custard-like consistency and a flavor that has been likened to mango, banana, pineapple, and pear. Pawpaws grow wild on our farms, and we have fond memories of picking and eating them right off the tree. We had a hunch that the pawpaw had the potential to become a truly unique spirit and after a little trial and error, we arrived at our Pawpaw Brandy.

The pawpaw wasn’t the first fruit we tried turning into a brandy. Shortly after we opened, we experimented with fermenting and distilling a peach brandy using our “hillbilly still.” Unfortunately, the peach brandy was not quite where we wanted it to be when it came off the still, so it was added to the “bless your heart” shelf with our other failed experiments.

Despite that first attempt, we still felt like a pawpaw brandy was worth a try. We gathered some pawpaws from our farm and made a small batch. Right away, we knew we had something special, and that we wanted to share it with Jeptha Creed fans.

There’s one big challenge when it comes to pawpaws: they don’t keep well. Once the fruit falls off the tree, it’s fresh for just a few days, so acquiring and processing a large amount of pawpaw fruit was an obstacle. We secured as many as possible from our property and surrounding farms and got to work processing them as quickly as possible.

We sometimes get asked if pawpaws are harvested or scavenged, and the answer is “yes.” The pawpaw tree grows wild in our region, so it’s certainly possible that you could come across the fruit during a hike or stroll. Due to the fruit’s rising popularity, there are now pawpaw farms that cultivate and harvest the fruit, but their short shelf life makes it difficult to find them outside of farmers’ markets. Additionally, at Kentucky State University in Frankfort, the College of Agriculture, Communities, and the Environment (ACE) is working on domesticating the pawpaw fruit, hopefully improving its stability and usability for ventures like ours.

After a few months of frantic processing, and some additional time in the barrel, Jeptha Creed’s Pawpaw Brandy was born. The final product is refreshing, fruity, and unlike anything else. The nose is a burst of fresh fruits: pawpaw, banana, mango. The palate is a tropical fusion of grilled pineapples, mango, and brown sugar. The butter finish brings soft notes of sweet oak and caramel. This brandy can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, or transform your favorite brandy cocktail with a punch of tropical sweetness. Looking for something special and distinctive? Stop by the distillery and pick up a bottle of our Pawpaw Brandy today.

 

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