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

Frapin V.S.O.P. (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru de Cognac)

The beginning of the year saw the launch of Cognac as a distillate to be reviewed on the pages of Master Quill. Serge calls it a Malternative and I think I understand why. Sure it’s another distillate, that’s not made from distilling Beer, like Whisky, but made from distilling Wine. A different distillate altogether. Is it an alternative to (Single Malt) Whisky? It’s not an alternative in taste, it’s too different, and I don’t come across a lot of cask strength Cognac’s to name but a difference. I do feel it can be an alternative to Whisky considering price. Most Single Malts are becoming more and more expensive (or younger a.k.a. the NAS phenomenon), and the consumer is looking for different distillates that are just more affordable. I always was interested in Bourbon’s and Rum’s but never considered them as alternatives, just different. But even those distillates are becoming more and more expensive.

In the case of Whisky, just look at the rise in price of your beloved eighteen year olds. Highland Park, Springbank, Longrow etc. You could buy Highland Park 18 for a lot less than it is sold for today, and I’m not talking about a decade ago, just look what happened in the past two years. You and I, who remember the old pricing, might not be willing paying double for it in the space of one year, but that’s no problem for the distillery. A new customer is willing to pay that amount, first fo all, because he or she can afford it or did not get used to the old price. This brings us right back to an alternative for Malts. This Frapin costs as much as a good blend, but as I said above, it tastes like something completely different. Personally I see it as a different distillate, with its own particular taste, love it or not, but it won’t make me trade in my bottles of Whisky, so in that sense it’s not an alternative at all…

I believe if you are looking for an alternative for your Whisky, you should look at other producers of Whisky, wo still can produce a nice and affordable Whisky. Sure if you love Whisky, you won’t find a replacement unless it’s a Whisky as well, but more on that later…

Frapin V.S.O.P. (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru de Cognac)Color: Orange gold.

Nose: Quite woody. Orange skins. Fresh lacquer. Old bakelite. Cocktail Cherries. Definitely some oaky vanilla. Dry earth and woodchips, just like smelling Orchids. Sweetish. Sweet vanilla, but this time only hints of (sweet) licorice, something I get in a lot of Cognacs. Dry and dusty, like listening to Gheorghe Zamfir. Quite aromatic, but not very fruity or floral. Smells nice overall.

Taste: Wood, caramel toffee and lots of almonds, Quite sweet actually. Vanilla ice-cream. Hints of whipped cream. Some more fruit, but its hard to point out which. It’s like sweet yellow fruit yoghurt. Sweet, yoghurt, without any of the acidity or dryness. Quite light. The finish is the weakness here. Not a lot is happening over there. Only the candy cherry taste somehow lingers on a bit.

Baffling difference between the nose and the actual taste. It’s almost like the nose shows the potential, but the taste has been in part ruined. Added sugar maybe? Anyway, the whole is too light, and leaves next to nothing behind.

Points: 77