Calvados Week – Day 5: de Querville Calvados Vieux (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge, Circa 2008)

Logo Calvados WeekSo there we go. A little less pear this time. A little less? This only has 10% pear! So, here we have a Calvados made with 90% apples and just 10% pears. But I have a feeling, this might be just enough.

De Querville is a bit shrouded in fog actually. It isn’t a distillery nor a domaine, but it turns out to be a brand. A similar brand exists called Henry de Querville, with a similar line of Calvados, just bottled in different looking bottles. There is a third brand called la Ribaude, and again this looks quite similar to the two already mentioned above. La Ribaude gives us a link to laribaude.com. Clicking on this link reveals us the name of the distillery: Distillerie du Houley. (Yes its on the label too). Quite confusing to boot, and I don’t see the necessity to have a few similar brand names existing next to each other. There surely must be an idea behind this.

The website is only in French, so I guess France is the targeted market for this Calvados. Not so progressive as Lemorton which targets big chunks of Europe, and maybe today, the whole world. Nope, de Querville and the other similar brands, look very outdated by todays marketing standards, but that might be marketing in itself…

Color: Gold.

Nose: Raisins and apples turned brown, laced with alcohol. Initially thick, but quickly turning more mild and light. Fresh and honeyed. Vanilla and old dry vanilla powder. Raisins in the background. After some breathing, the pear pops up. The pear integrates well with the apple. Smells very dry, dusty and powdery. Sweet muscat wine and ever so slightly waxy. Hints of wood and a tiny hint of toasted cask. Smells very nice. Good balance between the sweet and the sour, so it’s not overly fruity and acidic, nor is it very “elegant” smelling. The pear loses its ground when the Calvados gets time to breathe. A shame maybe, but still we have some good stuff on our hands. Maybe 10% isn’t enough?

Taste: Half sweet, fresh, and obviously apply, but the small amount of pear is easily discernible. Light, because of its youth. Very nice to sip this. (Ear) wax and some tannins, but not bitter. Thick apple juice, without prominent acidity. The tannins come through, to give the distillate a backbone. But like many of these kinds of distillates, it can have a very complex nose, but the “juice” tastes less complex. Good balance though and also a decent finish. Nice.

For me, (coming from Whisky), this is one of the better Calavados I have tasted, or is it a style I somehow prefer? Nevertheless, this is much drier and less about fruit and its accompanying acidity, than a lot of other Calvados around. It’s also not the most perfumy nor elegant Calvados around. This is dry and dares to show its wood. I like it a lot already, but I’m also curious how this would have tasted, made in the same way, with some more pear in the mix. Recommended!

Points: 83

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Calvados Week – Day 4: Lemorton Vieux Calvados Réserve (40%, AOC Domfrontais, 2012)

Logo Calvados WeekYet another Calvados in this Calvados Week, but this time it is something different. Lemorton comes from the Domfront region. For this AOC, at least 30% pears must be used in the distillate, but often this number is much higher. Single Distillation is done in a column still.

The Lemorton domain is located in Mantilly near the town Domfront, name giver of the AOC. Mantilly has a terroir of clay and limestone, perfect for pear trees. Lemorton Calvados is not made from pears only though. It’s made from 70 % pears and 30 % apples. The Cider is first aged for 11 months in oak barrels and undergoes a single distillation in a small alambic armagnacais. Distillation takes place, once a year, and the distillate is then put into old neutral casks to let the fruity distillate speak for itself.

Lemorton Vieux Calvados RéserveColor: Red brown.

Nose: Thick apple butter and heavy pear syrup. Nice concentrated fruits with lots of depth. Dusty and very aromatic. It’s almost pear and apple Marmite. Borders on good Pinot Gris and even Gewürztraminer. Fruity acidity. Lovely stuff. Compared to a “normal” Calvados made only from apples, this Calvados which is more pear than apple, shows, how nice and complex the aroma’s of pear can be in a distillate. Honey and a tiny hint of toasted bread with hot butter on top. Small lick of lemon curd. Wonderful nose. After this, it still goes on. There is also a meaty component. Smoked very dry meat, but also some elements of cold gravy. The honey part grows if you let it breathe for a while.

Taste: Sweet and right from the start, you know this isn’t as complex as the nose. The nose itself was rather perfect to be honest. The taste isn’t as thick and aromatic and especially not as syrupy as expected. It’s thinner, more acidic and somewhat watery, but still with some woody bitterness and quite dry. Lacks some sweetness. As said above, this does have some White Wine acidity to it. Not bad, but the nose was better. Dissipates towards the finish, getting more acidic, stays dry and gains some bitterness. The finish is the least interesting part of this Calvados.

Compared to the products of Château du Breuil, Lemorton is quite expensive, especially considering the Lemorton Réserve is their entry-level Calvados. Smells like a very expensive distillate though, which oozes quality. The taste, not so much, alas. Although I loved pears before I liked apples, this Réserve is not my favourite Calvados I’ve tasted so far. Pears in Calvados have proven their worth to me, but maybe 70% is just a bit too much. Let’s look for an apple and pear Calvados, but this time a bit less rich in the pear department…

Points: 77

Calvados Week – Day 3: Toutain Vieux Calvados (40%, AOC Calvados)

Logo Calvados WeekDay three already, and this time we’ll have a look at an 8yo (minimum) Calvados from Toutain. Toutain use apples exclusively, so no pears were hurt for this bottling.

The history of the Toutain family as Calvados producers, starts in 1921 when Joseph becomes a traveling distiller. A common job in the region back then. Ten years later his son Emile does the same. Emile also starts to build stock of his Calvados. In 1961 the third generation, Lilian, starts out as a traveling distiller as well, and together with his wife Odile (Delabarre, also a Calvados producing family), make their own Calvados near Beuzeville. By 1964 the pair sell their products locally. In 1971 Lilian and Odile buy Domaine de la Couterie (depicted on the label), together with 4 acres of orchards. Within twenty years the orchards of the domaine will have grown to a healthy 25 acres, including 10 acres from Delabarre. By now the products are sold all over France. In 1989, Odile starts to manage the company and the Fourth generation, daughter Corinne, first takes over as distiller from her dad in 1999, and as manager from her mom a year later. Managing becomes a bigger job than being a distiller. By now, the products of the company are sold all over Europe. Since 2007 Corinne’s son Maxime is managing the company, but he doesn’t distill. The orchards now measure 62 acres, half of which lie in the AOC Calvados and the other half in the AOC Pays d’Auge.

Calvados Toutain VieuxColor: Light gold with a slight pinkish hue.

Nose: Less obvious apply like the previous two examples from Château du Breuil. In this Toutain the apple aroma’s are more pulled into the realm of White Wine, but on top also an unmistakable hint of clear glue. I like the depth and complexity of this vieux. Nice hint of fresh air, and this one smells differently when nosed vigorously. The slower you smell, the more glue you get. I know it sounds strange, but try it for yourself. Hints of wood and sweet white wine. Quite estery and dusty. Hints of licorice, honey and wet earth. Whiffs of horse stable in all its variations and dry grass. Endlessly complex stuff. Altogether quite rustic and I don’t know why, probably the bouquet of aroma’s, but this Calvados puts me smack in the middle of autumn in the country side. Quite a feat.

Taste: Again winey and half sweet. Toffee and high in esters. The glue bit is here too, but shows itself more as acetone, not much, but noticeable. Nice wood. Not elegant polished wood, no. Rough planks of wood. Again not obviously fruity nor apply, so as mentioned before, not summery fresh and fruity. It all fits together. The aroma’s are all over the place in my mouth, which seems a bit unbalanced, but give it some time and it all comes together nicely.

I have to say, I’m quite baffled by the variation in aroma’s you can get from different kinds of Calvados, from different parts of the departement. This Toutain is quite a rustic Calvados. For me the aroma’s in the taste are not completely integrated, but there are lots and lots of positives in this already. A stunning nose for one. I can’t wait to try older expressions of this, like the Hors d’Age, and the (Très) Vieille Reserve. Those last two are quite costly though.

Points: 82

Calvados Week – Day 2: Château du Breuil VSOP Calvados (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge)

Logo Calvados WeekThis is the second day of the Master Quill Calvados Week. Again we’ll have a look at a product from Château du Breuil, but this time a slightly older example: the VSOP, a four-year minimum Calvados. Calvados is made from apples and/or pears. Every AOC has its specific rules of used varieties.

Château du Breuil was built in the 16th and 17th centuries and was the home of many nobilities. The Château was completely restored by its current owners who have been distilling spirits there for three generations. Château du Breuil has a large portfolio of different Calvados’. A standard range of which the Fine and VSOP are the two entry-level examples, but also a 20yo and even single cask versions exist. Last but not least a double matured 12yo version with a second maturation of six years in casks that previously held Speyside Whisky.

Chateau du Breuil VSOPColor: Light gold, almost gold.

Nose: Obvious apple. Apple compote, apple skins and also the fleshy part of apples (that has turned brown), are in here. Even the heart of an apple is in here. Whiffs of Gewürztraminer fly by. Also other notes can be picked up. A hint of dry and elegant oak, but also the spiciness of oak. A hint of red wax seal. Pancakes with syrup. When given some time, the in-your-face fruitiness takes the back seat and lets the more woody and austere parts shine. Dusty. Yes, it’s getting better now, more balanced and perfumy. A grown up version, well maybe not completely grown up, but a more adolescent version compared to yesterday’s Fine from the same Château.

Taste: Candied apple and toffee. Less sweet than expected. A real distillate all right. Overall quite light and appetizing. Young. Warming. Warm toffee and candied fruits with a backbone of soft apple skin, without most of its bitterness. Warm sugar-water. White grapes. The faint bitterness that is always present in this VSOP, gets more pronounced towards the finish, up to a point it overpowers the fruitiness. Maybe it doesn’t overpower, but is most definitely has more staying power of all the aroma’s.

If you like your Calvados fruity and very much oozing of apple, get Chateau du Breuil. But don’t think you are getting a simple carton of apple-juice you give your kids to school each day. Already this VSOP is giving a lot more, compared to yesterday’s Fine, but it also is more bitter. Calvados turns out to be a decent distillate, which has a lot to offer. I really look forward to the rest of this week.

Points: 71

Calvados Week – Day 1: Château du Breuil Fine Calvados (40%, AOC Pays d’Auge)

Logo Calvados WeekSummer’s ready and it’s time for yet another Master Quill Week! This time we’ll look into something I have ignored for a long time: Calvados. Distillates from grains, yes, distillates from grapes, why not, but distillates from apples and pears, well, let’s say I didn’t have time to come to that yet. Apples and pears, really? This is my first review of Calvados on these pages, and as I said, I haven’t tried a lot of Calvados yet, so I don’t have much experience determining what is good and what is not-so-good in the world of Calvados. This week will be as much a learning experience for me as it may be for you. If you are only into (Single Malt) Whisk(e)y or Rum and dont want to dilate your mind, you’ll probably want to skip this coming week, please feel free, but since you’ve already read this much of my introduction, why not stay around some more and see if even you can’t be surprised, with something completely different, and see for once and for all if Calvados is something worth your attention, or something you should forget about for all of eternity or maybe longer.

We’ll start off this week with a look at where Calvados is made. Calvados is an Apple Brandy from Normandy, France. If you have lost your bearings, the largest cities of Normandy are: Rouen, Caen, Le Havre and Cherbourg. Calvados is a department in Basse-Normandie (or Lower-Normandy).

There are three AOC’s of Calvados:

  1. AOC Calvados, in 1942 these regions were divided into regulated regions across Normandy and even from some neighboring departments. However, these regions were grouped together in 1984. Mostly only apples are used and single distillation in a column still is done, but that is not a requirement.
  2. AOC Pays d’Auge, established in 1942. Predominantly and often exclusively from apples. This Calvados is required to be distilled twice in an alembic pot still.
  3. AOC Domfrontais, established in 1997. At least 30% pears must be used in the distillate, but often this number is much higher. Single Distillation is done in a column still.

Chateau du Breuil Fine CalvadosColor: Full gold.

Nose: Apples and yeast. Very nice fruity acidity. Fresh and fruity. Nice ripe yellow, red apples. Very obviously a distillate from apples. All the fruity apple aroma are upfront, and the distillate needs a lot of air to show us more. Alcohol does the trick here. It acts like a mode of transport. Sour beer, like Rodenbach, although that one isn’t made with apples. Hints of (old) wood, and some new oak as well.

Taste: Very light. Seems much lower in alcohol, than it actually is. Apples and vanilla. Altogether soft. Apples, waxy apple skins, warm apple compote and sugar. Toffee. Not very complex. I almost want to add some cinnamon to this. There is some acidity in the finish, but not the fruity acidity that was so upfront, but more the sourness you sometimes get from (new) oak.

I have to say I didn’t expect much from Calvados. How can you make a decent distillate from apples? By thinking that, I never bothered to try even one. Untill now.

So this was my first review of a Calvados on these pages and there is no better way than to start with this entry-level Calvados Fine, by Château de Breuil from the AOC Pays d’Auge. At 2 years old, it is a very young and un-complex distillate. In part nicely fruity and almost summery, but it also seriously lacks the depth I love in more aged distillates. The score is how I feel about it, but keep in mind I haven’t tried a lot of Calvados just yet.

Points: 65

Paul John “Bold” (46%, OB, Batch 1, 2016)

To finish off the trilogy of entry-level Paul John’s, here is Bold. Bold was the last addition to the standard range, bottled at 46% ABV. Earlier I already reviewed the other two, “Brilliance” is the base-model so to speak. Just well made Indian Whisky, no peat used. “Edited” is like the base model, only this time tweaked with a little peat, achieved by blending in up to 30% casks of peated Whisky. Today we’ll have a look at “Bold”, introduced in 2015 and made from peated Whisky alone (35 ppm). For this edition, all peat was sourced from Islay.

Color: Pale gold.

Nose: Lots of butter and vanilla, youth, and I’m guessing quite some first fill casks. Nice clean peat upfront, smoke second. Enticing stuff. The peat might be recognizable, and it definitely comes across as a young smelling Whisky, but add to that an uncommon floral bit, which sets it apart from Scottish or even Islay peated Whiskies. Slightly waxy. Lacking a bit in the balance department. Sometimes there are whiffs that are too close to new make, but the next breath can be excellent. After a while, still creamy, the peat dumbed down a bit, and the smoke has almost gone. Some green notes, mainly (almost new) oak. If you smell this very calmly, it’s all about the butter, the vanilla, the cream, the toffee, but when you “smell hard”, yeah, that’s where it all comes together. More spicy, dusty and better balanced. Nice peat, latex paint, mocha and nutty as well. The nose lures you in. It’s seductive.

Taste: Sweeter than expected and initially not very peaty, let alone smoky. Lots of warming notes going down though, with nice development in my mouth. All nice aroma’s, but initially not very bold. A wee bit too young again, moving into the direction of new make. Not a lot, but enough to notice. Hints of orange skins and bread, that must be the influence of indian six-row barley. Terroir is happening! Hey, now apart from the floral bit, I also get a slightly soapy note. Fruity and friendly notes appear next. Very easily drinkable. Please do not expect a heavy hitter, it’s not a heavily peated malt in appearance. Its fruity and floral. Sunny with a slight peaty bite.

I would package it in pink and yellow with some black mixed in for the peat used, but it is more a happy Whisky than a brooding one. It’s not gloomy, misty and Scottish, it’s bright, colorful and Indian. So for me not so bold, and the anthracite packaging is way to dark. It’s like your dog, its your best friend and its happy when you get home, wagging its tail trying to lick your face. It’s not a bad-tempered pit bull with a spiky collar, that growls at you when you get home, disturbing its sleep, passing gas, chewing on your beloved furniture.

I preferred the second batch of “Brilliance” over the first, and I’m sure the second batch of “Bold” will be better than the first as well. It’s coming along nicely and I guess all the initial casks at Paul John were rather new. So, a great effort for a first batch, it’s pretty good, but I’m eagerly awaiting the second batch. With more experience and more time, I’m guessing that one will be at least as good as the second batch of “Brilliance”. Paul John is definitely on the way up!

Points: 85

Rum Nation Peruano 8yo (42%, Single Domaine Rum, 2011, Peru)

For one reason or another, many Rums that were on my lectern were emptied around the same time. No, not down the sink, just finished them the proper way, enjoying them. Meaning, lots of new Rums got their corks pulled out lately! This Rum Nation Peruano 8yo is the indirect replacement of the Rum Nation Martinique Hors d’Âge I reviewed earlier. An indirect replacement in the sense that it is just a bottle from the same bottler. The true direct replacement is obviously another Rum from the island of Martinique. Which one? Well, we’ll get into that in due course.

Here we have a Rum from the-not-so-caribbean-island of Peru, yes I mean the South American country. Just goes to show that Rum is made all over the world, and why not, there are more South-American countries known for having a sugar-industry and subsequently making Rum, or Ron as they call it. You must have heard of Guyana, Brazil and Surinam? The Rum I’m about to review, was made at the Cartavio plant in La Libertad, where mainly sugar is made as well as ethanol. The facility is built and guarded like a fortress. Looking at the plant, I have never seen so much barbed wire since WW II. So, don’t climb over the wall, because you will be shot! I’m not kidding people, this message is painted on their wall. I guess they don’t like corporate espionage at Cartavio. I’m amazed Fabio got out of there alive, especially since they make their own brand of Rum called Cartavio. Soleras yes, but also with a minimum, yes, a minimum age statement. Not only did Fabio get out of there alive, he got out of there with enough Ron to produce his own brand of Ron Millionario, with the Solera 15 (no age statement intended) and the XO. Since both are quite the success, in 2008 Fabio issued a true 8yo fully matured in Bourbon barrels. So let’s have a look at the 2011 model, shall we?

Color: Copper gold.

Nose: This one starts out with a mix of fruit, paper, wood, leather and loads of fresh air. Underneath already a deeper, warmer more brooding note. Hot rainforest with some florality to it as well. Will it be sweet? I say this because the nose presents itself as a whole, rather than (many) distinct aroma’s. Usually this happens when a Rum has sugar added somewhere in the production process. Syrup and it even smells a bit sticky. Corn syrup with a refreshing vegetal note and some more fresh oak and an unexpected peppery note. More spices show themselves as well as wood and even some slightly scorched wood. Well integrated red fruit notes, like children’s lemonade. So again, I fear the sweetness this might have. Not very complex yet well-balanced.

Taste: Initially, and luckily, not as sweet as I feared, although it does taste sugary. It has some sweetness, and that may very well be (in part) added. Is it a problem? No, not really. Right after the sweeter more smooth part, there is a slightly bitter, oaky backbone, which stays around for a while. Some sugared yellow fruits. I struggle a bit to pick up the aroma’s in this, since, like the nose, this Rum presents itself as one whole. So added sugar, it must have. It’s friendly and nice. Simple, but definitely a sipper. I did use this recently to make my first brownies ever, which says more about the other Rums on my lectern than this particular one.

This is considered to be yet another entry-level Rum from Rum Nation and that is what it is. It’s might be rather simple, lacking a bit of complexity if you are a true aficionado. On my lectern this is the Rum I start with. It’s the easiest sipper, it’s good but it is also a bit unadventurous, smooth (usually spells sugar) and actually at times a bit boring as well. Due to a lack of complexity I like to follow this up with the El Dorado 15yo, which has more complexity (and definitely more sugar), but both go together remarkably well. Enough said.

Points: 83