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Vendor: Bunch & Bushel

Toutain XO | 8 Year Old Calvados

Regular price $75.52 Save price $75.52
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Vendor: Little Brown Dog Spirits

Petit Chien Brun 2016-2023 | Single Cask Drouin Calvados

Regular price $71.21 Save price $71.21 Regular price $79.84
Vendor: Little Brown Dog Spirits

Petit Chien Brun 2006-2021 | 14 Year Old Single Cask Drouin Calvados

Regular price $75.52 Save price $75.52

Calvados is a French cider brandy made principally with apples, though often also with pears as a subsidiary ingredient. Almost 20kg of fruit is needed to produce 1 litre of undiluted Calvados spirit.

Calvados, like other French food and drink products, has its own Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC), encompassing clear rules for a broad production region that includes ten smaller départements which were initially defined in 1942 and subsequently amalgamated under the single Calvados AOC banner in 1984. 

Alongside the main Calvados AOC there are also two smaller prestige AOCs that have more restrictive rules and regulations governing production. These are Calvados Pays d’Auge, which was one of the original ten départements; and the pear-heavy Calvados Domfrontais, which was given its own AOC in 1997.

Calvados AOC

In geographical terms the main Calvados appellation contrôlée covers a wide area of Normandy in northwest France, and some other smaller districts in Brittany and Pays de Loire with a history of Calvados production.

Calvados has been distilled in Normandy since at least the 16th century and production is relatively simple - a cider is made from one or more of the apple and pear varieties approved for Calvados (of which there are over 350) and is then distilled in either an alembic pot still or a continuous still. Today around three quarters of all calvados produced is AOC Calvados.

As with most French AOCs there are manifold rules governing various aspects of the production of calvados within the territorial boundaries of the AOC area. These regulations encompass topics including the pressing of the apples and fermentation of the cider, for which a minimum of 21 days fermentation is prescribed for Calvados and Calvados Pays d’Auge, and 30 days for Calvados Domfrontais. In practice, although the use of distiller’s yeast has been permitted since 2017 most Calvados producers still adhere to the traditional natural fermentation from wild yeasts, so fermentations can last months before the cider is ready for distillation.

Calvados AOC regulations also state that the spirit may be either pot or column-distilled - though in practice the majority of standard AOC Calvados is column-distilled - and must be aged in oak casks for at least two years before bottling.

Calvados Pays d’Auge

As one would expect, the rules for Calvados AOC Pays d’Auge are stricter. The Calvados Pays d’Auge geographical region is strictly defined, and in addition to the rules governing the standard Calvados AOC, for Pays d’Auge the number of permitted apple and pear varieties is smaller, pears must make up no more than 30% of the recipe and the spirit must be double-distilled on an alembic still rather than a continuous still.

Calvados Domfrontais

The Domfrontais style of Calvados, which features a high proportion of pear cider (perry) in the wash, has had its own AOC since 1997 - though the practice of using pears in Calvados goes back much further. 

In addition to the standard AOC Calvados rules, the ciders distilled for Domfrontais Calvados must contain at least 30% pears (though several producers use much higher percentages), the extracted juice must be fermented for at least 30 days before distillation and the spirits must be distilled in a column still and aged for a minimum of three years in oak casks before bottling, the longest minimum ageing period for any Calvados. Additionally, the orchards for Calvados Domfrontais production must contain a minimum percentage of pear trees - this was originally set at 15% but rose to 25% in 2016.

Calvados Classification and Age Statements

The classifications for Calvados are not dissimilar to those of cognac or armagnac, with the most common definitions below:

VS or 3-Star:  At least two years old

Vieux, or Réserve:  At least three years old

VO, VSOP, Vieille Réserve:  At least four years old

XO, Extra, Napoléon, Hors d’Age, Très Vieille Réserve:  At least six years old

As with most other spirits produced in Europe, any Calvados with a stated vintage must have been distilled only in that vintage, and any age statement must refer to the youngest spirit in the bottle.