This week is National Calvados Week and, to my mind, it is perfect timing. This aged apple brandy from Normandy is one of my favourite Autumnal drinks; still fruity, but warming as the nights start to draw in.
For our part, we shall be writing a little introduction to Calvados and having a closer look at Pere Magloire VSOP.
What is Calvados?
Calvados is a brandy, but instead of being made from fermented and distilled grapes (as many other French brandies are), it is made from apples; in essence, it is the result of distilling cider. The region where Calvados is made in Normandy, Northern France is also known for the quality of their cider, so it makes sense that distilled products based on this are of such a high quality.
Calvados has an appellation contrôlée, which means that it can only be made in a certain area of France and strict rules govern its production. For example, all Calvados must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in oak casks.
Pere Magloire is a Calvados Pays D’Auge, which means that is subject to even more regulation than regular Calvados; it has to be made in the Eastern part of the Calvados region. Pere Magloire is made in the village of Pont l’Eveque. In addition to the rules defining Calvados AOC, Calvados Pays D’Auge must be made from cider that has fermented for at least 6 weeks and must also be distilled twice (double distillation). In the theory of distilling, the longer fermentation (consuming more sugars) and the double distillation should lead to a cleaner, dryer, smoother, and higher quality spirit.
So what does it taste like?
On its own
Nose: Fantastic – very engaging and enticing; rich apples with just a hint of acidity, reminding me of refreshing, still cider. Also, hints of spice and vanilla.
Taste: A well-rounded spirit and one that leads on well from the nose. Dry, crisp apple with a little sweetness in the middle, along with hints of toffee, caramel, cinnamon and nutmeg, which provide an impression of spiced baked apple. It has a warming finish, but no burn; as you continue to sip, a pleasant, cosy warmth builds in the chest. Just what you need on a cold, rainy day.
25ml Calvados, 25ml Lemon Juice, 25ml Sugar Syrup, 150ml Soda Water. Add the ingredients to a hi-ball glass with ice.
Tart and refreshing, with the lemon juice bringing out the dryer, crisper notes of the Calvados and the sugar adding some balance. This would make a pretty lovely dinner drink or something to enjoy in the afternoon, catching the last sunny hours before winter. For an extra touch of indulgence, replace the sugar syrup with honey.
Calvados & Ginger Ale
50ml Calvados, 150ml Dry Ginger Ale, Ice. Add the ingredients to a hi-ball glass with ice (lemon wedge optional).
An inviting nose of apple and ginger, that is also quite fresh. In terms of taste, the drink is light and refreshing, with some sweetness; if you prefer a slightly dryer or tarter drink, a quick squeeze of a lemon wedge should do the trick.
50ml Calvados, 25ml Red Vermouth – stir & serve in a cocktail glass.
A wonderfully complex cocktail, equal to many of the whiskey-based varieties. It has a lovely, red-gold colour and an initial flavour of the fruity, slightly tart apples that is followed by rich herbal notes and a little sweetness. The warming nature of the Calvados presents itself on the finish, as well as a note of dry apple.
Calvados Old Fashioned
Take a tumbler/old fashioned glass, add a sugar cube, bitters and a little water, and muddle the cube until the sugar has dissolved. Add 50ml Calvados. Stir gently with ice and strain into another pre-chilled Old Fashioned Glass.
A thick and viscous drink, with the bitters bringing out some of the more delicate, sweet spiced notes of the Calvados. A drink well-suited for after dinner, as an alternative to savouring a brandy balloon of the spirit; there’s a liveliness to the flavours, which will keep you engaged for the evening ahead of you.
I really enjoyed experimenting with Pere Magloire VSOP Calvados and found that it worked equally well on its own and in mixed drinks; it has the character to be mixed, but the smoothness and complexity to be savoured on its own. Of all of the cocktails that I tried, I’d say my favourite was the Calvados Manhattan, but, personally, give me a glass of the spirit on its own and I’ll be more than happy.
Pere Magloire VSOP Calvados is available for £25.86 for 70cl from The Drink Shop this is a special price for National Calvados Week.