I’m taking another break from rum.
It’s been a long while since I covered Calvados in more detail. The last one was Adrien Camut’s 6 year old from the Pays d’Auge part of Normandy. For this review, I’ll be talking about LeMorton Calvados from Domfrontais.
LeMorton Calvados is owned by the LeMorton family. They’ve been at it for 5 generations now, with Didier LeMorton currently being the head of the family. Aside from producing Calvados, they also make poire (pear cider), Pommeau de Normandie (a mix of apple juice with Calvados), and raise cows.
Being in Normandy, there are stories of the family interacting with American soldiers during World War II. The war was less intense in their area (the southern part of Normandy), so they weren’t affected as much. The troops were also more relaxed there; however, they have had to contend with typhoons whose winds are strong enough to uproot trees that take decades to grow and bear fruit.
If you’re into tyromancy, you’ll know that this is where Camembert cheese comes from. Calvados producers are farmers, so it’s normal for them to raise cows aside from maintaining orchards of apples and pears. The cows are either raised for their meat (such as veal) or cheese. Their milk is either consumed as is or turned into cheese. I’ve also heard of stories wherein the cows help indicate when the fruits are ripe, as the cows wait for the fruits under the tree and eat any that fall to the ground.
What makes Domfrontais Calvados (like LeMorton) different from Pays d’Auge Calvados (like Adrien Camut) is the amount of pears used. The AOC of Pays d’Auge Calvados can only have a maximum of 30% pear cider. Some brands don’t even use pears; Domfrontais’ AOC requires their Calvados to have a minimum of 30% pear cider.
Despite that, the LeMortons use a blend of 70% to 80% pears and 20% to 30% apples, depending on the year. Their apples are collected by a sweeper starting from the middle of September up to the middle of December. They are then left to rest outside on a cement floor for up to two weeks. This is to dehydrate them before being pressed. The pears are hand collected by the family members and are pressed immediately.
As for distillation and aging: Pays d’Auge Calvados has to be double distilled in pot stills, like Cognac. A minimum of aging two years in oak is needed. Domfrontais Calvados must be distilled once in a column still, similar to Armagnac. A minimum aging of three years in oak is required.
Being apple-heavy and pot distilled, Pays d’Auge Calvados will be funkier and more full bodied than Domfrontais. For Scotch drinkers, the former would be more like a peated single malt while the latter would be more like the typical Speyside malt. For rum drinkers, the former would be more like a Jamaican rum while the latter would be more comparable to Cuban rum.
Much of the information on this review and much of what I’ve learned about Calvados is through Charles Neal and his book Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy. So, if you’re curious about this spirit, buy a copy of his book.
LeMorton Calvados Reserve – Review
Six years old. 40% ABV. USD $54.99 from K&L Wines.
Color: Simple syrup.
On the nose: Fruity and acidic. I immediately get Granny Smith Apples, apple cider, apple juice, poire, and pears. In-between and after are short bursts of yuzu, yellow bell pepper and sour plums.
In the mouth: Slightly peppery to go with the fruits and acidity. I still get Granny Smith Apples and pears but it’s more acidic. It’s like I’m biting into them with their skin on. A bit more acidity comes through with a burst of yellow bell peppers, chicken liver and yuzu. Behind it are cinnamon syrup and dried mushrooms
Being made from apples and pears, this isn’t your usual French brandy. The French brandy you’re familiar with are usually more wood-heavy or balanced. Like the Camut, this one is much more distillate forward. Just look at my tasting notes; there’s barely any mention of wood flavor aside from the cinnamon.
With that said, my limited experience with Calvados has me inclined to say this isn’t a spirit for termites (drinkers who like the taste of wood). This is something that will be appreciated more by Scotch drinkers who prefer things like a single cask Mortlach or Clynelish aged in a refill ex-hogshead; a single malt whose distillery profile is more expressive and not as diluted by the wood’s influence.