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 Nope, de Querville and the other similar brands, look very outdated by todays marketing standards, but that might be marketing in itself…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

J.M 11yo 2002/2014 Vieux Rhum Agricole “Millésime 2002” (46.3%, Bourbon Cask Matured, Martinique)

Reviewing the dirt cheap La Mauny “1749” already opened my eyes to Rhum Agricole from Martinique, but especially after reviewing the J.M XO, I started to really like the stuff. Followed quickly by the La Mauny XO. There is a difference in ABV though, the La Mauny is bottled at 40% ABV, and suffers from it, the J.M XO is bottled at 45% ABV, which seems to be a much better strength. Apart from the difference in ABV, I somehow clicked more with the taste of the J.M. Soon after, I went out and bought this 11yo J.M Millésime 2002. (Two of them actually, since I had high hopes for this one, and I got a pretty good deal on them as well). Aged in Jim Beam Bourbon casks, just like the XO, but almost twice the age. Having already tried the 2002, this time it’s not about comparing it to the XO, because both earn a place in any drinking collection. You know, a collection of bottles destined to be drunk, bottles that will be actually opened to be enjoyed. The XO is younger, has less depth but is also a high quality Rhum Agricole. Having said all that, I have to warn some people. A lot of (sweet) Rum drinkers are a bit put off when starting with Rhum Agricole. Its different. Just like heavily peated Whiskies differ from Bourbons and so on. Proceed with caution, acquire the taste, and if you put some effort into it, you’ll be rewarded with some great Rhums (If you choose wisely).

J.M 11yo Vieux Rhum Agricole Millésime 2002 (46.3%, Bourbon Cask Matured, Martinique)Color: Full gold.

Nose: Fresh, half sweet and industrial. Wax. Red fruit sweetness and acidity. Cherries, dust and toffee. Soft wood and old leather. With some air more fresh leather combined with a little bit of clear glue. Ground roasted coffee that has been around for a while. Pecan nuts with a hint of cola, brown sugar and cane juice. Hints of menthol which leaves a long minty feel in your nose and throat (already after smelling, I haven’t tasted it yet). Hints of good oak aged Calvados.

Taste: Brown sugar and slightly burnt sugar and maybe even some cask toast. Starts with a small amount of sugary sweetness, but it quickly becomes more dry. Warm apple juice and Calvados (de Querville, the older ones). Leather and more notes of apple. Hints of licorice towards the end. Although this wasn’t reduced, the ABV is natural cask strength, this doesn’t have a very long finish. Medium finish which concentrates around the burnt sugar note combined with some bitter wood. Although the Rhum as a whole is very good, the finish lets it down a bit.

Wonderful Rhum with lots of complexity which releases layer upon layer. It great, but even better if you are patient with it, since it develops a lot in the glass. Great balance too. I have to say that the way I perceive the bitterness of the finish, has also a lot to do with me and the moment when I drink it. It’s more a digestif than an aperitif. The bitterness is less obvious in the evening, than it is in the morning, so don’t let this put you off, since the bitterness is in no way overpowering.

Points: 87

La Mauny XO Vieux Rhum Agricole (40%, Martinique)

After the J.M XO Rhum Agricole, why not compare it with another XO Rhum Agricole from the same island. This time an offering from La Mauny of which I already reviewed the entry-level 1749. This XO is just like the J.M 6 years old (and probably older), but has a lower ABV. This one is 40%.

La Mauny XOColor: Dark orange gold.

Nose: Woody and spicy. Higher in esters than the J.M. This one is fatter and thicker and has some traits of Jamaican high ester Rum. Aromatic with sweet spices. Again a (dry) wood driven Rhum Agricole. Fruits in this one are of the tangerine kind, mixed with some creamy vanilla. Plain sugar with a hint of gravy. Quite some cloves and tiny hints of fireplace, coal and tar. Licorice and cloves, that’s it! Absolutely wonderful nose. Just like the J.M, this has a note of floral soap, just not roses this time. Mocha and milk chocolate. Give it some time and it grows on you. It is shy to let its aroma’s go. This has been reduced too much and should have been higher in ABV. At La Mauny they must think that if they rise the ABV, people get scared and will stop buying their product?

Taste: Sweet black tea. Syrupy. Red fruits like raspberry. Very soft. Nice wood, but its presence is very faint. Much less wood in the taste than in the nose or as in the J.M. Quite fruity with nice wood (pencil shavings), but a wee bit too smooth and light at 40% ABV. Amber sweetness with sugared and dry roasted almonds.

Just try the J.M and you’ll know this is reduced too much. A shame, because you can taste and especially smell the quality in this one. Again a very easily drinkable XO Rhum Agricole though. Both have nice and complex noses. The taste is a bit less complex, but still very drinkable. This La Mauny is somewhat sweeter. If I was forced to pick only one I’d go for the J.M. Nevertheless, both are nice, and both show that there is a lot more to be gained from Rhum Agricole.

Points: 84