document IDAC


The apple tree has been living happily in Normandy for a very long time. The writings of the Celts and the Romans refer to numerous wild apple trees which were considered to be sacred at that time, growing on Norman soil. The climate and soil were extremely well suited to their development. In the 13th century, with the development of commercial sailing ships, the ships which came from Biscay brought the first grafts from cider apple trees. These soon replaced the wild apple trees ; varieties such as "Bisquet" or "Marin Onfroy" remind us of this time. The history of the apple was soon to become entangled with that of "sydre" and later "cidre" or "cider" which became more and more popular in Normandy and later, throughout France, between the 14th and the 19th centuries. The origins of Calvados are more difficult to trace. The first official written reference to the distillation of cider with a view to obtaining drinking brandy dates back to the 16th century or, more precisely, the 28th of March 1553, when the event is referred to in a diary kept by a gentleman from the Cotentin, the Lord of Gouberville. Whether he was a forerunner or whether he was referring to something which was common practice, he was in all events the first person to write about it. It was during the same period, in 1600, that the apple brandy distillers guild was first established. This was how apple brandy first obtained its birth certificate. Its christening, however, did not take place for another 200 years. The legend tells the story of the shipwrecked "El Salvador", one of the vessels from the invincible Armada which was smashed to pieces on the rocks off the coast of Normandy. However much truth there is in this, it would seem that the name "Calvados" was first of all given to the county before being used for the drink which was in large part made there. Indeed, before the Revolution, the sale of Norman apple brandy was limited to the area in which it was produced : a way of protecting the market held by the wine-based brandies. In 1792 and 1793 exchanges of products were liberalised. Due to difficulties in communications, the brandy from the production area nearest to Paris benefited from this. Calvados brandy, soon to be known as "Calvados," became popular in the French capital. In 1942, Calvados was granted the "Appellation d'Origine Controlée" status (regarding zones of production and methods of distillation).


pom Today, orchards can have two types of appearance : - the type with apple trees which were planted some time ago. This is typical of the traditional Normandy countryside where the cows graze in the shade of tall apple trees. - orchards with low apple trees or specialised orchards which are devoted entirely to the production of fruit. Here, the grass is not maintained by animals but by machines. The grass is mown regularly so as to form a lawn which will cushion the fall of the apples. If we add all of the different types together, we find ourselves with an orchard of over 9 million trees ! This is why the Normans will tell you that the best seasons in which to live in Normandy are the spring (just imagine a bouquet of 9 million trees covered with pink and white blossom...) and the autumn... when the air is heavy with the scent of ripe apples. pom pom pom


pom pom In the beginning there was the cider apple... In fact it is quite wrong here to use the singular, as several hundred varieties of cider apple have been traced and listed. The cider apple is very different from the eating apple. Often small in size, it is particularly rich in tannin, on which the flavours are fixed. Cider apples are not suitable for eating and are divided into four families : sweet, bitter, * bitter-sweet and sour. To make a balanced cider and a harmonious Calvados, the producer must blend these different varieties : Calvados is never made using a single variety of apple ! Pears for perry making are also mixed with the apples in order to give greater acidity. They are used to varying degrees in different regions. In the Pays d'Auge, 80% of the apples used are of the bitter or bitter-sweet types, thus giving the characteristic Calvados Pays d'Auge. The juice is extracted from apples which have grown and ripened in the area covered by the "appellation d'origine controlée" and this juice, after being fully fermented using completely natural methods, becomes distilling cider. Distilling generally takes place in the spring and autumn, using carefully codified traditional processes. There are three different named types of calvados : "Calvados", "Calvados Pays d'Auge" and "Calvados Domfrontais" and their geographical areas of production are strictly defined by the Institut National des Appellations d'Origine (I.N.A.O.). All the operations concerning the fabrication of these brandies - apple harvesting, elaboration and distillation of ciders - must take place within the respective areas. This means there are three types of Calvados, and the three AOC labels "describe" three distinct areas and three distinct traditions. "Calvados Pays d'Auge" originates in clayey limestone soils is the result of a double distillation. "Calvados Domfrontais" originates in granite soils that are damper and abound in pear trees. In the Domfront region these pear trees, often several centuries old, are as numerous as apple trees, which explains why brandy pears are present in larger quantities in the ciders destined for distilling - there is a minimum of 30% brandy pears in the must. "Calvados Domfrontais" is obtained by one distillation, using a patent still. "Calvados", although the mode of distillation is not prescribed by regulation, is usually produced by a patent still. It is obvious that the two distinct ways of distilling give different products. Professionals esteem that "Calvados Pays d'Auge" is richer but recommend a longer minimum ageing process. They therefore recommend you to try first the "Hors d'Age" quality of "Calvados Pays d'Auge". "Calvados" and "Calvados Domfrontais" can be appreciated when younger, but ageing does not alter their qualities.


The double distillation still

pom which is required for the AOC "Calvados Pays d'Auge" is the traditional type of still. Distillation takes place in 2 successive heating processes : First distillation : this is carried out using the cider and consists in obtaining the "brouillis" or "petites eaux" which contains 28 to 30% alcohol. Care is taken to remove the "heads" and "tails" which contain compounds that are not desirable for the final brandy. Second distillation : this is the distillation of the "petites eaux". It is the final distillation and the "heads" and "tails" are removed once again. To be entitled to bear the name "Calvados", the final distillation must not exceed 72%. The still is made up of 6 parts : the hearth : this is the source of heat, provided usually from wood or gas. the boiler : this is made in copper and it is positioned over the hearth. It takes the cider which is to be distilled and can hold amounts varying from 3 to 25 hl. the cowl: this is made in copper and is either olive or onion-shaped or the shape of a Moor's head. It covers the top of the boiler and extends into the gooseneck. It collects the vapours from distillation, Oder Spirit vapour Liquid alcohol prevents the foam from the cider from being driven towards the cooler and sends the heavier vapours back to the boiler. the coil : this is also made in copper. It is a spiral-shaped tube projecting from the gooseneck which is positioned in a tank of cold water. The vapours which come through the gooseneck condense in the coil. the cooler : this is the tank containing the water for cooling. the cider heater : this is the energy saving device". It contains the cider for the next distillation and, as a pipe goes through it which contains the vapours from the distillation actually taking place, it contributes to the cooling of the vapours and at the same time, warms the cider. The cider to be distilled can thus reach 65° which would otherwise require 5 hours' heating in the boiler.

The column still.

pom This is used for "Calvados" and "Calvados Domfrontais". It is made up of 3 parts : the boiler, the column which is referred to as the exhausting column which has 12 or 15 plates and the concentrating column which is usually made up of 8 plates. The cider enters the first column through the top. It then passes downwards from plate to plate. Due to the heat, the more volatile compounds (water and esters) evaporate. The water vapour given off from the cider moves upwards and is enriched as it bubbles through the cider with the volatile compounds : alcohol, esters and flavours. It is then concentrated in the smallest column which produces brandy directly at 72% maximum. The column still must be fitted with 3 valves which enable the separation of the "heads" and "tails" and it must have a maximum flow rate of 250 hl of cider per 24 hours.


pom pom Calvados matures in casks made from very dry oak in which the contact with the wood provides all of the necessary elements for its successful completion. The tannin-based substances in the wood give it its natural colour and, through continual reactions between the young brandy and the wood, combined with the oxidating effect of the air in the cellars, the Calvados acquires all of its fragrance and fullness. Its bouquet intensifies and its colour deepens, changing from a golden colour to deeper and deeper shades of amber. Each cellar master has his own know-how and practices : there is no standard method for the ageing of Calvados. Depending on the temperament of the producer which inevitably shows in his brandy, on how full-bodied the brandy is and consequently on how easily it absorbs the tannin, the Calvados will be kept in casks of larger or smaller sizes and for longer or shorter periods. The work of the cellar master is not limited to just allowing the Calvados to mature. Like an alchemist, he will concoct skillful blends of brandies of different ages, coming from different harvests and areas, in order to combine the qualities of each of them.

How to read the labels

The bottles of Calvados which are available are divided into 2 families : the vintages and the blends.
The vintages (cf. 1954)
when a year is indicated on a bottle of Calvados, this means that the latter has been produced from a single distillation. Certain producers also indicate the year in which the Calvados was bottled on the label. This date is important as, once Calvados has been bottled, it stops ageing.
The blends (cf. "20 ans d'âge" - 20 years old)
the age indicated on a bottle of Calvados is that of the youngest Calvados used in the blend. Thus, in the case of our example, Calvados which is labelled as being 20 years old can also contain apple brandies which are 40 or 50 years old, but none which are less than 20 years old.

Some of the most common categories:

"Three stars"-"Three apples" or a similar rating
This means that the Calvados has matured for a minimum of 2 years in the wood.
a minimum of 3 years' ageing
"V.O."-"Vieille Réserve"-"VSOP"
a minimum of 4 years' ageing
"Extra"-"XO"-"Napoléon"-"Hors d'Age"-"Age Inconnu"
a minimum of 6 years' ageing.
In the case of a blended Calvados, only the age of the youngest Calvados is indicated.


pom 10 million bottles of Calvados are sold each year. 50% are shipped abroad, mainly to European markets, the largest being Germany. However, some are sold in south-east Asia and the United States.

Old Calvados, young Calvados, both can be appreciated in different situations...

pom Connoisseurs obviously tend to prefer the nobler brandies. Any producer will tell you : "The best Calvados is a Calvados which has spent a long time in the wood!" 10 or 20 years in the cask. Time has done its work and the Calvados has lost all of its aggressivity but has kept its strength. The flavours are more complex but they have kept their specificity. A vintage Calvados should be kept for moments of tranquillity spent in good company. For the more lively moments, such as aperitifs, receptions etc. where tranquillity is not often to be found and where freshness and vigour are most appreciated, a vintage Calvados would be out of place. This is where the "New Vogue Calvados" comes in. New Vogue Calvados is made up of young Calvados which are 2 or 3 years old at the most and which the barmen in Normandy serve expertly on ice, as a long drink mixed with tonic water and in cocktails.

Some recipes invented by the Normandy Barmen's Association

The Norman
Ingredients : 3/10 Calvados 3/10 Pommeau de Normandie 4/10 orange juice 1 dash of grenadine 1 ice cube per glass Preparation : in a bowl. Mix well.
Calvados on ice
Serve 3 dl of young Calvados with 2 ice cubes
Calvados in a long drink
The most successful mix is with tonic water which adds a touch of bitterness and a sparkle of bubbles. The Calvados provides the generous flavour of apples. The ideal proportions are as follows : 3/10 Calvados for 7/10 tonic water Some members of our panel like to add an ice cube.
The Big Apple
Created by Jean-Paul Thomine during the American film Festival in Deauville Ingredients : 3/10 Calvados 3/10 Péché Mignon 4/10 Noilly Prat Preparation : in a mixing jug.