I’ve been off coffee since the start of 2022. As a result, whenever I smell coffee, I can feel its aromas reach for the deepest parts of my brain. It must be some sort of withdrawal effect because I feel like it’s calling me. Smelling exquisite and unfamiliar booze gives me the same sensation.
The most recent exquisite and unfamiliar spirits to give the deepest crevices of my brain a warm hug are a couple of these experimental releases from Christrian Drouin. There are currently four expressions; I have only the Hampden Angels and the Long Pond Angels. If you’ve had Pays d’Auge Calvados, then you know there will be an apple funk. Add to that the funk that you get from Jamaican rum, and these are a funk junkie’s wet dream come true.
Hampden Angels is a 14 year old eau de vie de cidre that’s been finished for eight months in four ex-Hampden rum casks. Only 1,296 bottles were produced. Because Hampden uses ex-bourbon casks and it’s also been used by Christian Drouin for this expression, they’re not allowed by the AOC to call this a Calvados. So, it’s labeled as eau de vie de cidre (cider spirit). For those unfamiliar with what eau-de-vie is, it’s the catchall French term for spirits. In English, it means water of life.
Long Pond Angels is also a 14 year old Calvados. However, it’s been finished for seven months in French oak casks that held Long Pond’s ITP rum. ITP is Long Pond’s marque with the lowest ester. Only 1,890 of these were bottled. Because the rum was aged in French oak, this is allowed to be called Calvados.
The other two expressions each have different age statements and were finished separately in ex-Hine Cognac casks and ex-Mars Japanese whisky casks.
It’s refreshing to find more French brandy companies becoming more experimental. I say this because most of the ones I’ve encountered tend to stay traditional. What’s also refreshing is that Christian Drouin still bottled expressions like Hampden Angels despite them not being allowed to call it a Calvados. This is daring for a brand since a lot of consumers tend to only notice the category put on a label. They’re less likely to not know what an eau de vie de cidre is. But then again, Christian Drouin is a cream of the crop brand that’s not centuries old. So, I guess they’ve decided that part of their target market are mostly curious enthusiasts who have good taste.
Experimental de Christian Drouin Plantation Long Pond Angels 14 year old Calvados – Review
45% ABV. Small batch #4. £94.95 from The Whiskey Exchange.
On the nose: A fruit salad. I get medium aromas of apple cider, Fuji apples, Granny Smith apples with skin, pineapple juice, cane vinegar, honey, butterscotch, toffee, and pineapple syrup and tepache.
In the mouth: More acidic than fruity compared to the nose. There’s this enveloping taste of Granny Smith apples with skin and apple cider. The texture is similar to biting into the Granny Smith apples but mixed with the sensation of biting into a pineapple. After it are lighter tastes of tepache, pineapples, yellow bell pepper, honey, and butterscotch.
This is an acid trip. Any Jamaican rum and/or Calvados fan will love this. The funk in both spirits really mesh well as if they were made to be together.
Experimental de Christian Drouin Plantation Hampen Angels 14 year old Eau de vie de Cidre – Review
44% ABV. Small Batch #1. £89.95 from Royal Mile Whiskies.
On the nose: Loads of different pineapple aromas with hints of apples to back it up. I get medium to pronounced aromas of pineapple juice, pineapple syrup, butterscotch, cane vinegar, papaya and apple cider. In between are subtle aromas of leather, ripe cherries, blood orange, dusty wooden furniture, and mothballs.
In the mouth: Less pineapples but still very fruity. I get long and medium to pronounced tastes of pineapple juice, pineapple syrup, apple juice, apple cider, blood orange and ripe golden cherries. In between are subtle tastes of kiwi fruit, lime peel, papaya, and butterscotch.
This is the opposite of the Long Pond, but still an acid trip. In the Long Pond Angels, the Long Pond lends less of its flavors. I’m guessing this is due to the less funky ITP that was in the French oak, which resulted in the Calvados flavor being more dominant.
Meanwhile, the Hampden flavors here are stronger despite the short duration of the cask finish. I suspect the Hampden in the casks used were of a marque that used dunder, hence the pineapple and cherry flavors… which means the ex-Hampdens casks used for this are at least LROKs.
This is a good and subtle detail, but the color of the wax and font indicate the dominant flavors you’ll be getting. The Long Pond Angels had more green apple flavors, hence the green color, while the Hampden Angels had more pineapple flavor hence the yellow color.
Overall, these are two really good experimental releases from Christian Drouin. Hopefully, they do more of these releases. They can count on me to be one of their buyers.
Please see the scoring bands here before whinging.