Lemorton Reserve, (Calvados)

Lemorton Reserve, Calvados
Here is my second Calvados review. For the first, and for a bunch of disclaimers about the status of my Calvados reviews, see here. I was not a big fan of that Domaine Hubert from K&L. I purchased this Lemorton Reserve from K&L as well but it is not exclusive to them. K&L’s site describes this as a six year old too, but, as with the Hubert, there’s no age statement anywhere on the label, and elsewhere I have seen it referred to as a five year old. And the website of the importer, Charles Neal (who is also one of the pre-eminent authorities on Calvados), also mentions a five year old but not a six year old blend (let me take this opportunity to again recommend Charles Neal’s massive guide, Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy). I’m not sure why there has to apparently be so much mystery/confusion about the age of Calvados. Or is this merely my Scotch whisky conditioning further revealing itself? 

Lemorton is from the Domfrontais region of Calvados production. In this region pears are are a major component of the Calvados. Until relatively recently I didn’t even know that pears were used to make Calvados but in Domfrontais it is required that at least 30% of the cider distilled into Calvados be made from pears (whereas in the Pays D’Auge it can be at most 30%). Many producers go even higher and this Lemorton is apparently made with 70% pear cider (I’m not sure if this is true of all Calvados produced by Lemorton). So it would appear to be more pear brandy than apple brandy. Domfrontais also differs from Pays D’Auge in that its Calvados is single distilled, usually in a column still (as opposed to double distillation in alembic stills in Pays D’Auge)—and as per the back label that is how this Lemorton is produced, in a column still heated by firewood, it says, with the entirety of production taking place on the property.

Lemorton WaxI do have one major complaint about this bottle and that is about the hard wax that encloses the cork. It was all but impossible to get off. The fact that I managed to get enough of it off to be able to open the bottle without doing major bloody injury to myself is a small miracle.

Lemorton Reserve (40%; from my own bottle)

Nose: Rich apple notes, both fresh tart-sweet apple and apple pie with a buttery crust; some toffee and some brown sugar as well, and just a bit of cinnamon.

Palate: Brighter than the nose but otherwise very much in that vein. The rich flavours are matched by a satiny texture. On the second sip it gets more cidery and there’s a bit of citrus as well—between orange and lemon liqueur. Gets a bit more tart with time and a bit spicier too. With more time it all begins to thin out a bit.

Finish: Short-medium. Nothing new here but also no deterioration. As on the palate with time.

Comments: This is so much better than the Hubert—there are no raw, spirity notes here and nothing bitter or astringent. I know this has a fair bit of pear in it but somehow it seems to have the effect of accentuating the apple notes. Is it the case that the pear rounds out the spirit and provides more of a frame for the apple? As I am the Jon Snow of Calvados—that is to say, I know nothing, not to say that I rush headlong into combat, disregarding my own battle strategy—I will say only that more research is needed before anything approaching a confident hypothesis can be advanced. At any rate, though I did like this a lot more than the Hubert I would say that this is not one to linger over too long, as the pleasures are strongest when it’s first poured (which, again, for all I know, may be true of Calvados generally).

Rating: 84 points.

12 thoughts on “Lemorton Reserve, (Calvados)

  1. I managed to get my hands on some 1968-2006 Lemorton Calvados, but I’ve not reviewed it yet. Let’s just say that ancient Calvados is a lot like Armagnac in the way that there’s vast amounts of comparable wood notes, but the fruity notes obviously vary. Interesting to see you diving into Calvados.

    Maybe there are some American apple brandies to compare it to?

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    • Yes, I took notes last night on an older Calvados—though not as old as yours—and the main thing that jumped out at me was how different it was from the younger Calvados I’d had so far: much more brandy-like on the palate and on the nose closer in many ways to wine cask-matured malts and even to bourbon. But more on that when that review posts (in a couple of weeks).

      I’m getting into Calvados (and to a lesser extent Armagnac) because, like so many people, I feel like I’m getting priced out of interesting malt whisky. I’m not sure there’s quite enough variety in both to replace malt whisky in my life—at least not at this early stage of my explorations.

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      • I feel exactly the same, although so far I’ve just resorted to sharing bottles with friends and buying less.

        I did a bit of a stint in Armagnac earlier this year, as I did with Mezcal last year. Shamefully, Mezcal is really expensive too (in Europe), but Armagnac isn’t. Calvados is barely available at all, unless you want to resort to the big manufacturers and their defaults.

        Luckily, a shop near to work sells ancient Armagnac at decent prices (think 1938 for about € 300). Then again, I’ve got so many samples I shared and bought that I’m not getting around to any of it ;-)

        All kinds of luxury problems.

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  2. Hi Mao! I love that you are exploring Calvados and sharing your thoughts! It’s such an underappreciated spirit. A tip for the future, if you firmly tap the wax of a Calvados (or Armagnac) bottle against the hard edge of a table or counter at the place where the cork meets the glass, you can chip it off without having recourse to sharp objects and their accompanying dangers. Cheers!

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  3. In contrast with you, I found this Calvados very soft. (I even dared use the word “feminine” in my notes, which I know you vigorously repudiate.) About 77pts. Fine, here it is:

    “The softest nose of all calvadoses open at the moment, soft fruit (pears). Reminds me of some Romanian brandies. Soft, smooth palate as well, consistent with the nose. A whisper of a drink. Feminine, would work well with dessert. Due to the weaker flavors than the benchmark, Calvados Hubert, this is not a repeat purchase for me, especially at this price. Again, one that I would thoroughly enjoy in France. A day drink, with meal.”

    On a separate note, I’m pretty sure all AOC Domfrontais has to be column-distilled, pot stills are not an option. As to whether it happens once or 1,000 times, seeing how it’s a column still, that’s a philosophical question that I feel unfit to address.

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  4. I can now confirm that Naomi’s method for removing the hard wax from Calvados bottles works. Tonight I opened an older Lemorton and followed her recommendation of tapping the wax against a hard object (the edge of a shelf, in my case). The wax chipped off very quickly. Unfortunately, when I attempted to remove the cork it broke off—it might be because the cork was shit already but it might also be because I was hitting the wax too high up (where there was only cork below it, thus weakening the cork). Not sure if any of my other unopened Calvados have wax seals lurking under foil but if so, I’ll try to be more precise.

    Naomi, if you’re still reading: can you shed light on what the plural of Calvados is?

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    • MAO, I don’t know about the plural of Calvados. I’ve seen it written Calvadoses in English on occasion. I tend to stick to just Calvados. In French at least, I don’t believe it changes, rather the article changes from le to les to indicate plurality.

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