A recent article on Armagnac and Cognac prompts a mention of Calvados, the apple brandy from Normandy.- except that in some circumstances it is not just apples that make the brandy, but pears are included!
The best Calvados is the double-distilled Appellation Controllee Calvados Pays d’Auge, which has to be made with apples from the defined region of the Auge – an area between Caen and Rouen which lies south of Honfleur and Deauville towards and beyond Lisieux. Otherwise most of the production is plain Calvados AC which can be double-distilled, or can be made by continuous distillation.
However, it is the little-known AOC Calvados Domfrontais from the immediate region of the town of Domfront (61 Orne, Normandy) which is made of at least 30% pears!
More confusing are the labelling rules which describe the age of the brandy – so 3-star spends a minimum of 2 years in cask;”Vieux” or “Reserve” spend a minimum of 3 years in cask; “Vieux Reserve” or VSOP spend a minimum of 4 years in cask; whilst “Hors Age” (without age) can be applied to any brandy which has been aged for 6 or more years, Sometimes you will see age-specific labels such as 9-year-old, which is about the youngest spirit in the blend. If you find a rare vintage Calvados the year refers to the year of distillation, i.e. the year after harvest.
Another local speciality is Pommeau which is a blend of apple juice and Calvados – a similar idea to Floc de Gascogne or Pineau des Charentes.
Calvados Boulard has an interesting website at www.calvados-boulard.com – Calvados Apple Brandy
In the UK a good source for a wide range of interesting Calvados from a number of excellent producers is www.calvadosonline.co.uk who also feature Dream Calvados Cream!! “a delicious blend of cream and young fruity calvados from Domaine Dupont. To be enjoyed on the rocks, creamy and smooth the taste of caramel, apple and vanilla”. Apples and cream are of course the quintessential Normandy produce, but personally I’ll concentrate on savouring the Calvados!!