Christian Drouin Coeur de Lion
Aged in small oak barrels
and kept for four years in used amontillado sherry
casks, this brand has a deep orange color and a bouquet
and taste of just-picked as well as baked apples,
with undertones of caramel, spice and toasted almonds.
Within minutes of opening this bottle, the room is filled with the scent of dried
apples, oranges and Thai spice. The mahogany-colored liquid has complex flavors
of apples, exotic fruit and rich chocolate, with a long memorable finish.
Made from premier apples selected from a large family estate, this amber-colored
liquid has a complex bouquet and a taste of ripe apples with hints of dried fruit,
vanilla and oak.
With weather generally too
severe to support the growth of premium grapes, but perfect
to sustain a wide variety of apples, the southern Normandy
district of Calvados has been producing a fermented apple
beverage since the days of Charlemagne. During the middle
ages, apples distilled at monasteries in the area were
thought to have medicinal benefit, and in the 16th century
the process was refined to yield a highly concentrated
spirit popular with local farmers. But formal strict regulation
of production (appellation d'origine contrôlée)
only started in 1942. And just in the past few decades
has Calvados achieved recognition as an aperitif that rivals
cognac and Armagnac in aesthetics.
While excellent bottles now hail from a number of producers,
the best come from the Pays d'Auge district that surrounds
the towns of Cambremer and Lisieux in the Touques River basin.
As in other areas of Calvados, apples selected include a
combination of varieties classified into four broad categories:
sweet, bittersweet, bitter and acidic. In fact, more than
100 varieties may be included, with the goal to yield a balanced,
yet multi-flavored cider. However, a Pays d'Auge designation
requires a minimum of six weeks for fermentation, two distillations
in small copper pots (rather than single column distillation
in other areas), followed by at least two years of aging
in small oak barrels – the purpose of the process
being to impart greater complexity to the finished blend.
Calvados receiving only two to three years of barrel aging
is generally quite fiery and shows a bouquet and taste of
fresh apples and spice. But for their premium labels, top
producers (such as Boulard, Domaine Dupont, Christian Drouin
and Huet) allow the fermented cider to sit for many months
before beginning distillation, and then age the distilled
product in small casks for decades. This longer aging allows
the tannins in the cider to mellow and draw new flavors into
the product from the wood. At its best, well-aged Calvados
has a bouquet and taste of fresh and dried apples with hints
of apricots, oranges, caramel and chocolate.
As with cognac, once bottled the product does not improve
with age. Also like cognac, serving should be at room temperature
in snifter-shaped glasses.