A bottle of calvados Pays D’AugeCalvados is an apple brandy from the French région of Lower Normandy.
Apple orchards and brewers are mentioned as far back as the 8th century by Charlemagne. The first known Norman distillation was carried out by ‘Lord’ de Gouberville in 1554, and the guild for cider distillation was created about 50 years later in 1606. In the 17th century the traditional ciderfarms expanded but taxation and prohibition of cider brandies were enforced elsewhere than Brittany, Maine and Normandy. The area called ‘Calvados’ was created after the French Revolution, but ‘Eau de vie de cidre’ was already called ‘calvados’ in common usage. In the 19th century output increased with industrial distillation and the working class fashion for ‘Café-calva’. When a phylloxera outbreak devastated vineyards calvados experienced a ‘golden age’. During World War 1 cider brandy was made for armaments. The appellation contrôlée regulations officially gave calvados a protected name in 1942. After the war many cider-houses and distilleries were reconstructed, mainly in the Pays d’Auge. Many of the traditional farmhouse structures were replaced by modern agriculture with high output. The calvados appellation system was revised in 1984 and 1996. Pommeau got its recognition in 1991; in 1997 an appellation for Domfront with 30% pears was created.
PROCESS OF FABRICATION
The fruit is picked and pressed into a juice that is fermented into a dry cider. It is then distilled into eau de vie. After two years aged in oak casks, it can be sold as Calvados. The longer it is aged, the smoother the drink becomes. Usually the maturation goes on for several years. A half-bottle of twenty-year-old Calvados can easily command the same price as a normal-sized bottle of ten-year-old Calvados.
Double and single distillation
A calvados pot stillThe appellation of AOC calvados authorizes double distillation for all calvados but it is required for the AOC calvados Pays d’Auge.
Double distillation is carried out in traditional alembic pot-still ‘l’alambic à repasse’ or ‘charentais’. Gives complex, delicate and rich fruity aromas with potential for longer aging.
Single continuous distillation in a column still. Gives a fresh and clean apple flavour but less complex flavour to evolve with longer aging.
Calvados is the basis of the tradition of le trou Normand, or “the Norman hole”. This is a small drink of Calvados taken between courses in a very long meal, sometimes with apple sorbet, supposed to re-awaken the appetite. Calvados can be served as aperitif, blended in drinks, between meals, as digestive or with coffee. Well-made calvados should naturally be reminiscent of apples and pears, balanced with flavours of ageing. You will notice that the less aged calvados distinguishes itself with its fresh apple and pear aromas. The longer the calvados is under the influence of oak, the more the taste resembles that of any other aged brandy. Older calvados get the colour of gold, darker brown with orange elements and red mahogany. The nose and palate is delicate with concentration of aged apples and dried apricots balanced with butterscotch, nut and chocolate aromas.
• Père Magloire
• Christian Drouin Coeur de Lion
• Comte Louis de Lauriston
• Manoir d’Apreval
• Charles de Granville
• Calvados Roger Groult
• Chateau du Breuil
• Ferme du Ponctey
Calvados in popular culture
In the 1963 novel On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming, James Bond drinks a glass of ten-year-old Calvados.
Calvados is the main characters’ favourite drink in Erich Maria Remarque’s novel Arch of Triumph.
Calvados is often referred to in the writings of mystic George Gurdjieff.
Cornelius Bear is known to have a stash of several well-aged bottles of calvados in the webcomic Achewood.