The Rosengarten Report
"The Products I'm Loving Right Now"
Westford Hill Hand-Distilled Eaux-De-Vie
I'm a big fan of Alsatian eaux-de-vie -those remarkable, clear-as-water, eastern French distillations that taste so vividly of specific fruits. Oh, grappa's great, sure . . . but downing grape-based grappa is not as exciting, to me, as imbibing a fiery spirit after dinner that tastes exactly like pears, or cherries, with no cloying sweetness at all. One of the reasons the Alsatian versions of these fruit brandies are so exciting is that, in addition to the devastatingly accurate fruit flavors in the best ones, there can be a funky, earthy . . . well, yes, almost grappa-like edge that raises the bar of intrigue a few notches. Now, there are a number of small-batch American distillers who are working hard to produce Alsace-level eaux-de-vie, and there are a number of good American products out there (mostly from the Pacific Northwest.) But I'm swooning today over a product I just tried that's made practically in my backyard-in Ashford, Connecticut, at a distillery open only since 1998. And I'm swooning because in a number of their eaux-de-vie, this producer has managed to combine huge fruit flavor, ethereal funk that is seduction itself, and a kind of velvety smoothness that tames the fire of 40% alcohol. My favorite of the line is the Westford
Hill Framboise Eau-de-Vie ($25), which is remarkable for much more than its strong whiff of raspberry jam; there's a heady mélange of perfume and sexiness here that is almost impossible to describe (at least in a family publication). Something of the same quality attends the Westford
Hill Fraise Eau-de-Vie ($25), which adds earth and leaf to the remarkable strawberry insistence. Another winner is the Westford
Hill Kirsch Eau-de-Vie ($17), as wild a blast of sour cherry-verging on apple core and almonds-as I've ever experienced in a distillate. Lastly, I also love the Westford
Hill Pear William Eau-de-Vie ($17), which has, perhaps, the most dazzling fresh-fruit flavor of all, a dead ringer for the blushing skin of a ripe pear. It does lack the funkified complexity of the others, and it is slightly hotter in the finish-but chill it in the freezer (which I recommend for all of these), and the heat will diminish.