Monday, February 25, 2013

Camut 15 year Calvados

While I've reviewed a California apple brandy, I've never reviewed a proper Calvados, the renowned French apple brandy. Camut is one of the most esteemed producers of Calvados and this one is a 15 year old Pays d'Auge from K&L's exclusive series (K&L is currently out of it but is expecting a new batch later this year). Pays d'Auge is a region of Calvados that requires more restrictions on the brandy (e.g. it must be double distilled in an alembic still).

Adrien Camut Calvados, 15 year old, K&L Exclusive, 40% abv. ($116)

The nose on this is really beautiful with apples and a slight touch of wood. The palate is spicy, like a spiced apple cider. It's got cinnamon, cloves, and even some pepper. It trails off into a peppery apple goodness with some clove notes at the very end.

This is a fun, spicy brandy. If you're a fan of apple brandy, you should definitely give it a try. It also makes me want to try some of the other Camut expressions.


NP said...

This bottle lasted me 6 days. And i was drinking it slowly

Florin said...

This reminds me I have a 6yo Camut (also K&L) that I need to open... Thanks Sku!

The Davids have a very nice blog entry from their visit at Camut - and I've heard a first-hand report that the stake they were cooked in the fireplace was not as tasty as it looked in the picture! :) The Camut warehouse, on the other hand...

Numen said...

I'm with NP on this; this bottle was simply too drinkable. It wasn't the most complex, but it was extremely well-crafted without a flaw. And, before I knew it, I was on my fourth pour. I'm eager to see what Calvados K&L decides to bring back this time.

Anonymous said...


Glad you had the opportunity to try a Camut calvados. They are among the best in my opinion. But good calvados need not be expensive. I recently tried the Trader Joe's house brand Duc de Normandie (a bit over $20). It, too, was very good, lots of soft apple aromas. The important point about calvados, I believe, is that it need not be aged too long. I view aging of calvados as a bit like wood finishing. The apple aromas are already there after distillation. So a touch of wood character just enhances the apple notes. Plus, calvados is usually aged in large, well used, oak containers, and the Normandy climate is quite mild. So the aging process is very gentle, exactly the opposite of bourbon. I've tried some very old calvados. The apple aromas are quite suppressed. What's the point?

Looking for another calvados to try? Find a bottle of Calvados Lemorton (also imported by Charles Neal). Skip the pricy vintages and go with the Reserve. You won't regret the choice! Note that Calvados Lemorton comes from a different appellation (Domfrontais) for which a minimum of 30% pear juice must be used. But you really don't taste the pear.

Tom Troland

Numen said...

Hi Tom,

I'm glad to read your comments! I think that the age factor on Calvados is a bit of a complicated balance. It's the brandy that's truest to its constituent fruit. With too much time and too little care, that apple element gets washed out. When Calvados is in that 6-15 year range, it has a more vibrant acidity, which reminds me of green apples. After that, it seems to gain a sweet, more caramel profile akin to red apples. It's a generalization, but that's been my impression so far.

Do you notice a difference between the Domfrontais distilled on a column vice that done on a pot still? Lemorton, I believe, is done on the column.

I'd be very curious to know whether Calvados growers/producers think that certain apple varietals have a greater impact on the end-product than others. After reading Charles Neal's book, it seems like many grower-producers aren't even sure what types they're growing (not a criticism).

Anonymous said...

Hi Numen (and Sku!),

Good to read your comments, too! Of aged brandy, yes, calvados is truest to its base ingredient. (Neglecting unaged brandies such as pear brandy, of course.) I agree with your generalization on calvados aging, even if I might not have thought of your exact words. Long ago, when I was newer to calvados, I tried to get the oldest stuff I could afford. More lately, however, I find I prefer younger calvados. Perhaps I prefer green apples to red! A couple of years ago, when in Normandy, I visited a small producer and sampled his (Pays d'Auge) calvados. I found I liked his youngest offering best. (This guy, Jacques Gilles, was growing a large number of apple varieties.)

As for calvados Domfrontais, I have only tasted the Lemorton. So I have only had the product of a continuous still. Actually, I am not convinced that using pot stills makes a big difference in quality, distillation lore notwithstanding. I've had excellent continuous still calvados (not, of course, Pays d'Auge AOC). And the use of pot stills for bourbon (e.g. Woodford Reserve) has not yielded better (or worse) whiskeys.

If Sku asks Charles Neal pretty please, Sku might get a sample of Lemorton. Go for it, Sku!

Tom Troland

sku said...

Thanks, as always, for the great comments from the brandy brain trust.

I should have clarified more in the post. I understand that many prefer young Calvados because they say the fruit can get lost as it ages. I was surprised that, at 15 years, this one retains so much fruit. That's what made me interested to try older Calvados.

Thanks for the suggestions as well. Of the Calvados I've had, one of my favorites is Royer but since it's not available in the US, I've never reviewed it.

Thanks again for the comments,


Anonymous said...


Glad to offer a comment or two on brandy, and it is interesting to read Numen's perspectives (not to mention yours!). Apparently, Numen, too, knows which end of the brandy bottle is up!

I suspect the reason why a 15 year old calvados retains so much fruit is that its interaction with the wood is so slow. In visiting calvados producers, I have been struck by the large oak aging vessels they often use and by the seeming great age of these vessels. Surely, the wood extraction is very minimal in them, even after 15 years. And the Camut calvados I have tasted, at 25-30 years old, is still very fruity (and very good). I almost wonder if it makes sense to age calvados so long, apart from the fact that older calvados sells for more money. But, to each his own! I'll look for Royer sometime when I am in Normandy.

Tom Troland

Numen said...

Tom and Sku,

Thanks for the comments; it's always great to get your thoughts and perspectives.

Tom's completely right that most Calvados producers use very old, very used oak. Some will also use barrels that housed cider, which imparts a bit more apple flavor (as well as sweetness and acidity). Some estates will use some new oak for distillate that is expected to get to market sooner, giving it a bit more flavor, but most of the stuff stays in very old oak. All that probably accounts for a lot of the steady apple presence in Calvados as well as the light color!

Still I suspect that ageing does a bit, with changes in alcohol and sugar levels over time. A proper older Calvados typically is a bit thicker, I think, than a younger one. Though most Calvados producers use old wood, they do tend to air the spirit regularly, which almost certainly helps expel a lot of the rough alcoholic edge to it. I think that the flavor profile does change over time due to the changes to the sugars, but it's not necessarily an improvement, just a difference. I defer to others with a sense of the distillation process and in the industry.

The real tragedy is that there is a lot of fantastic Calvados out there (along with some unpolished stuff), but it falls so much behind Cognac and Armagnac, that it doesn't enjoy the same recognition as the more famous French brandies. It's probably similar in the US where most people think of apple brandy as just "applejack" rather than something really great.

Anonymous said...


Some more very interesting thoughts! Yes, calvados is virtually unknown here in the U.S., even more obscure than armagnac except at specialty retailers. The Liquor Barn chain in Kentucky stocks hundreds and hundreds of spirits, but just one calvados and one armagnac.

Tom Troland