Calvados: Aged Apple Brandy!

24 May 2022

Calvados is aged apple brandy from the French Calvados region. Normandy, where Calvados is situated, grows traditionally many apples. Cider makers use the apples to make cider out of 'm. Calvados distillers make a dry cider and distill that into a white apple brandy that's then barreled. After two years it can be called "Calvados".

Calvados, depending on region, can be single or double distilled. For the double distillation, often an "Alambic Charantais" is used. For single distillation any column will do. Distillation and maturation strength? Usually around 70%.

Apple is a fruit and it is generally considered a fruit with very limited flavor. The apple's thin skins are the reason, since that's where most of the flavor of any fruit can be found. How do Calvados distilleries work around that? Well, they have access to over 200 varieties of apples. Each with its own flavor profile. Not all of them are necessarily edible, but they do provide flavor. Sweet, tart, or bitter. A Calvados producer, using as many as 100 varieties of apples for his spirits, is no exception!

Depending on the region, fermentation times of up to 2 months can be used. The longer the fermentation, the higher the degree of esterification. More esters equals more flavor. A need trick to get around the relatively low flavor that apples in general provide!

The cuts management towards creating good Calvados is both heads-oriented and tails-oriented. The apple flavor can be found in the heads smearing. The tails smearing is needed for the white drink to stand up to the wood flavors provided by the barrel it ages in.

Fun facts on Calvados? Charlemagne already spoke of apples being grown and cider being made in the region. And records of spirits distillation go back to the mid 1500's.

Calvados is both used as an aperitif and as a digestive. So before a meal and - say - after dinner. More interestingly, it is - in French culture at least - also used as an "in between serving". The Calvados is used in between courses to reignite appetite.

Finally, the heads smearing that is essential for the apple flavor of Calvados, poses a challenge. Heads factions quickly oxidize and diminish, potentially limiting the barrel aging time to about two years. The solution? Calvados producers can add new make apple brandy spirit to replace the angels share. This way, more apple flavor is added over time. Also, a fuller barrel results in a lower exposure to oxygen, and therefore further lowers the rate at which heads oxidation takes place.

Do you want to learn about heads, hearts, and tails? And how fermentation protocols influence flavor composition and intensity? Do you want to learn how to distill any spirit, Calvados or otherwise? Then reach out to and register for the iStill University. The distilling industry's best and biggest educational facility is at your service.

The Calvados region ...

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