Discover Calvados: The Fine Spirit Made from Apples from Normandy

Autumn is synonymous with apples and in the spirit of autumn it’s the perfect time to discover and sip, Calvados – the luxurious brandy made from a distillation of apple cider with apples from Normandy, France. It is produced by distilling cider and maturing it in barrels and what is produced inside each bottle is a wonderful spirit, a delicious alternative to brandy, that offers a flavourful taste experience. This spirit is a must-have for the bars of fine homes to offer something different to tantalise and delight your palate.

What is  Calvados?

Calvados, the spirit made in the Region of Lower Normandy in France has been an integral part of the social and gastronomic life of the region for centuries. The history of Calvados (or Calva as it was called by the people of Normandy) can be traced back over 400 years to the early 16th century.

In France, apple orchards produced cider from the 8th century, but it was only distilled in Normandy in 1553. The date of origin is 1553 and is mentioned as 28th March by Gilles Picot, Lord de Gouberville, who wrote about distillation after the arrival of a new variety of apple from the southern Basque Country. The history of apples refers to Normandy, a large stretch of coastline to the north (the English Chanel) stretching from Cherbourg in the west to Rouen in the east and comprising five departments: Manche, Calvados, Eure, Seine and Maritimes, which cover thousands of square kilometres.

Père Magloire XO 200. To celebrate this exceptional anniversary, Père Magloire had to offer a Calvados worthy of the event: the XO 200 (

The apples used in the production come from Normandy where there are over 200 different varieties. Normandy is the undisputed epicentre of Calvados production, an area rich with history and passionate purpose, there are over 400 Calvados producers in the region, each of which has its own special combination of apples and ripening process adding to the unique characteristic of this spirit. Like champagne has its designation and can only be grown in certain regions of France, to be called “Calvados” it has to come from these regions: Normandy and Northern France. There are bitter and sweet apple varieties that find their way into apple blends to achieve the harmony that is present in a well-made, well-balanced Calvados.

Barrel Aged

Just as wine is made from grapes, the ciders used in it are made from certain apple varieties. The apples used in production are fermented and juiced for a few weeks to become cider, which is an important drink in the region due to its low alcohol content. The must is then distilled and aged in oak barrels, where it must remain for two years to obtain the title of AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (Calvados AOC), after which it matures for a softer taste.

CALVADOS PAYS D’AUGE. Auguste X.O. Cuvée Auguste celebrates the famous ancestor and founder of the maison, Pierre-Auguste Boulard, but also endeavours to celebrate Time and Men. The Cellar Master resorts to the fullness of his art to blend the countless aromas in his oak barrels and compose this calvados with balanced aromas of apple, vanilla, honey, caramel and toasted almonds. (

Rare Calvados

According to, ” Although calvados can be dated back to Napoleonic times when it was used both as an anesthetic and antiseptic in Napoleon’s navy, most calvados is relatively modern. However, you can still buy rare calvados which dates from the first half of the twentieth century. Calvados is made from a cidre which is produced from the apple orchards in Normandy.  Apples are not generally acidic enough to start the distillation and so most firms also combine a small quantity of an acidic pear known as a Perry Pear. It is for this reason that most young calvados carry a distinctive pear drop aroma but this will start to mellow after 10 or 12 years and provide a richer apple flavour. Calvados distilled before 1960 are considered as very rare and can therefore attract quite high prices.”

An old calvados from Lemorton, a 1972 vintage. The Lemorton family have been producing Calvados for over 5 generations, using traditional techniques to produce and age their cider before distillation. An impressive spirit (

Pairing and Enjoying Calvados

Calvados is part of Normandy’s gastronomic culture. This spirit pairs beautifully with cheese, coffee and chocolate, a perfect addition sure to please the palate especially in the colder months as it pairs beautifully with the flavours of the season. It is also lovely to simply sip on its own.

According to the official site for Calvados,, here are some guidelines about how and when to drink Calvados. Imagine ending the day with a relax­ing even­ing, after a good meal, enjoying Calvados. It is best served in a tulip-shaped glass which con­cen­trates and reveals its irres­ist­ibly smooth, full char­ac­ter, its oaky and car­a­mel­ised notes and its amaz­ing length on the palate.

“It is a very smooth spirit, and pairs well with a good many things. A classic pairing is with grand crus coffees (Hon­dur­as, Panama, Ethiopia, etc.). Nowadays, many people have re-adop­ted the tra­di­tion of the  “Café Calva” with the “Calva” con­fer­ring sub­tlety and eleg­ance to the coffee. Calvados can also be enjoyed through­out an entire meal when a few small sips will delight the palate and bring out the fla­vour of many dishes. A Calvados VS served “glacé” (icy cold) is the per­fect accom­pani­ment to smoked fish and caviar. With desserts, the pastry notes in the Calvados are per­fect with fruit tarts, tarte tatin, tiram­isu and any kind of chocol­ate-based cake. A 2 to 4-year-old Calvados is perfect for more casual drinking occasions.

Born between the land and the sea, Calvados will also be appreciated with meats such as roast poultry or poultry in a sauce, a creamy veal escalope with pan-fried mushrooms, roast pork with apples, a pre-salted leg of lamb or a duckling in honey.

It also makes an excellent gift for the spirits lover and addition to ones home bar. Use it in place of brandy for an additional flavour to cooking and serving fine foods at home.

Book on Calvados

Calvados – the world’s premier apple brandy, By Henrik Mattsson

Calvados is one of the best-kept secrets in the world of fine spirit. This unique French apple brandy is carefully distilled from dry cider made from special apple varieties, aged in French Oak barrels then blended and bottled for the connoisseur.
This award winning book is a first in comprehensive reporting on the delicate apple brandy called calvados.
• All the facts, details and background combined with beautiful pictures and illustrations.
• The fascinating story; its myths and secrets.
• The different types of calvados, how they are made and what they taste like.
• How to taste, judge and enjoy this unique spirit.
• A phone and address directory of the producers complete with a map.
• Tasting notes, food and cigar pairing.
• Drinks, recipes and a gastronomic tour guide are included.
Winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2004. In the category – Best Wine Book Best Spirits and other Drinks Books for Books in English – Rest of the World.

For more information visit the author’s website

Recipe Using Calvados

French Apple Tart BBC Food

This easy apple tart uses shop bought puff pastry to speed things up. Laced with calvados and topped with soft Chantilly – look out for all-butter puff for the best flavour. For recipe go to BBC Food


For more information, visit


Featured image credit: Wedding feast at Yport by Albert Fourié – 1886 © Musée des Beaux Arts de Rouen



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