Discovering the Best of French Calvados in Normandy

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If you haven’t been to Normandy in France, then perhaps you haven’t heard of or tasted Calvados, which is a specialty in the region. The taste reminds me of a cross between a brandy and a bourbon, except that it is made from apples. As they say at the Calvados Boulard distillery I visited this past fall, “from the apple to the cider, from the brandy to the Calvados, to the pleasure of tasting….”

And…tasting we did. We started with a little Calvados education of course.

Below is a sampling of what we tasted at their distillery:

Boulard Calvados Pays d’Auge VSOP – toasted apple, but a little harsh on the palette, at least for me. It is the youngest one of their batch (4-8 years) and is often served with a soda water. The color is a gold amber and its nose is rich fruity nose with a light woody touch, toasted nut notes and hint of brioche. The taste is well balanced harmony between vanilla, wood and ripe apple compote purée due to aging in French oak little cask.

Boulard Calvados Pays d’Auge X.O. — this one is the second oldest of their batch (6-15 years). This one tasted of cooked apple, oak, wood and bees wax, as well as dried fruit and almonds. The color was more a shiny amber color, and had apple, spices, nuts and vanilla infused throughout, with elegant hints of oak. I found it to be a bit more spicy than the VSOP.

Boulard Hors D’Auge 12 Years — this one is also a shiny amber, copper color. Think of a blend between the fruit (apple) and the delicate hint of vanilla (wood) and dried fruit. There are hints of tannin from the Le Tronçay oak (with slow extraction of tannin). Yum! I felt that I was starting to like Calvados a bit more with this one although it was still a little strong for my palette which is largely used to wine.

Calvados Auguste — this one was smoother than the all the others we had tasted so far and is aged at between 10-22 years. Here, they use finer Calvados. I tasted a lot of vanilla in this one, which is common from calvados made from newer casks.

Boulard EXTRA is over 20 years ago. This delicious treat is spicy, nutty and also smooth. Apparently women really like this one and I’m not surprised since it was my favorite as well. The Calvados maker however prefers this one as a digestif and he recommended tasting it with a strong cheese although this one is so smooth, he said, that is it is preferable to drink on its own. I can also imagine men drinking this one in a drawing jacket while smoking cigars as well. It apparently took seven years of hard work for the Cellar Master to craft the Extra.

Worth noting is that the best way to taste is at room temperature.  We had a meander through the distillery itself to learn a bit more about its preparation, what makes for a perfect Calvados and of course, what goes into the process. Did you know that there are 120 varieties of apples in Normandy alone, some of which is used to make cider and others, used to make Calvados?

Here, you’ll get an idea of the distillery through a snippet of video I shot below. Ignore my atrocious French accent:

Like the wine industry which is known for having generations carry on the trade, Calvados Boulard has been a family business for over 180 years, starting with Pierre-Auguste, the founder. Since then, five generations have carried on the Calvaos Boulard tradition. Before we left, we had a little fun posing with the Boulard Calvados maker in the giant barrel outside.

Be sure to check out our Brittany/Normandy food & wine section (and posts), as well as our general section on Brittany/Normandy. And, of course for the passionate about all things France, we have quite a bit of content in our France section as well as Paris.

Note: My trip was hosted by the French Tourism Board, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own.


Calvados Boulard

Moulin de la Foulonnerie

14130 Coquainvilliers, France

011.33 (0)

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