Domaine Pacory, (Calvados)

Domaine Pacory, Calvados
Here is another K&L exclusive Calvados (after the Hubert) and another from the Domfrontais (after the Lemorton Reserve). This is another whose age is not stated, only alluded to. Sku, from whom I got this sample, notes in his review that “while there is no age listed, K&L tells us it is five years old”. Florin pointed out in the comments that the label states the “Réserve” category which is used for three year old Calvados and wondered why they wouldn’t have used the higher category if it were indeed five years old (“VSOP” or “Vieille Réserve”). Sku noted that he “spoke to K&L and they assured me that it is 5 years old, distilled 2011. Apparently, they used existing, available labels rather than create a new one to get it done more quickly.” I found this explanation from K&L a little unconvincing and said so there but I’ll repeat myself here (I’m good at repeating myself and believe in sticking with my strengths). 

First, note that K&L say that this was bottled specifically at cask strength for them:

“Would you be open to bottling these at cask strength?” we asked him, wondering if our cocktail-mixing customers might be interested in something a bit more robust. “Bien sur!” he replied.

From Sku’s picture it appears that the abv is on the label. This would imply that the label was in fact specifically made for this release. If that’s true then why wouldn’t they be able to note the age/category on the label as well? Or if they had lots of these labels with the exact abv but without the age statement lying around it would appear that the cask strength bottling was not done specially for K&L. If so, then why should we believe the other story either?

It is, of course, entirely possible that this Calvados is indeed five years old and from 2011 and that it’s only K&L’s stories that are unnecessarily specious. It is also the case that K&L’s approach to sales makes it hard to take them at face value. In the meantime, I am going to believe the label and not the story that benefits the seller: this is at least three years old and might be a bit older.

Anyway, let’s get to the Calvados itself!

Domaine Pacory, Calvados (54%; Domfrontais; K&L exclusive; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Bright tart-sweet fruit at first—apple and pear (big surprise). Joined soon by a richer sweetness: think apple tart with vanilla and lemon zest and a buttery crust. It does have a faintly spirity edge too though.

Palate: Very tart, acidic arrival, almost setting my teeth on edge, but thankfully the spirity note doesn’t follow through here. Nice oily texture. On the second sip there’s more obvious wood than I’ve tasted in any Calvados so far (reminder: I have tasted very few) but it’s not obtrusive and works well with the tart fruit, introducing some spicy, peppery counterpoint. With a lot of time and air it develops a slightly chalky sharpness.

Finish: Medium-long. Gets sweeter again as it fades out and the last impression is again of sticky tart-sweet fruit.

Comments: This doesn’t have the richness of the Lemorton on the palate but I really enjoyed the progression from the nose to the palate and then back on the finish to the notes that were first on the nose. I think it might be sold out now, but if K&L brings in another, similar iteration at the same price, I’d say it’s much better than the Hubert if you’re looking for a reasonably-priced Calvados; and at $15 less than the Lemorton, and at a higher strength, it’s an even better value proposition—though I did slightly prefer the richer Lemorton.

Re that chalky note on the palate: this is something that doesn’t appeal to me much in whisky, but I don’t know what its status is in Calvados. Yet more research is called for on all fronts. As with the Lemorton, and despite the higher strength, I thought this wasn’t served well by letting it sit for a long time.

Rating: 83 points

Thanks to Sku for the sample!

10 thoughts on “Domaine Pacory, (Calvados)

  1. If I’m remembering the TTB regs right, it’s possible to change ABV without having to get an entirely new label approved, so that may be what they meant by getting it done more quickly.

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    • So, changing Réserve to VSOP would require new label approval? I guess that could explain not making that change while changing the abv. It would, however, mean that a previous label had gone through the TTB, right? Winesearcher is not showing me any previous Pacory for the last few years, but I suppose K&L or some other store that doesn’t list on Winesearcher may have had one for a Réserve bottling at a different abv.

      If so, I’ll retract my skepticism here. Then again, the marketing spiel I linked to on their site suggests this was K&L’s first Pacory release:

      “While we’ve long worked with Domfrontais distiller Lemorton for our regional Calvados needs, we recently discovered their neighbor in Mantilly: a producer called Pacory.”

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  2. Yes the labeling inconsistencies leave one wondering what to believe. For what it’s worth, the Pacory expressions I’ve seen online are all in the 40-43% abv range so bottling at cask strength doesn’t seem to be the norm for this particular producer.

    In regards to taste, this was the woodiest Calvados I’ve had to date as well. Typically the wood notes are very subtle, probably due to the many times most Calvados producers reuse barrels. I did not perceive any chalkiness but I also tend to drink Calvados about 1oz at a time, so it doesn’t usually sit very long unless I pour my drink and immediately misplace my glass…which I’m sure will happen at least once before I finish the bottle.

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  3. Even if this is indeed 5yo distilled in 2011, the “Reserve” designation allows the producer and seller to come up in the future with younger brandy under the same label and price – or to upgrade the label to “VSOP” and raise the price.

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    • Well, I guess we’ll see what happens with the price when the VSOP label appears. It must be said the price they sold this for (as cask strength) was very fair if it was indeed 5 years old. Compare with the price of the Lemorton Reserve or the 6 yo Camut.

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  4. To add another small twist: Charles Neal’s book (which, again, everyone should buy), which was published in 2011, does not even list a Réserve among Pacory’s releases; he does, however, list a 5 yo VSOP. Which again raises the issue of why if the need was to use existing labels it was a Réserve and not a VSOP label they found for an allegedly 5 yo Calvados.

    The book also really makes me want to taste the older Pacory Calvados. None of that seems to be available in the US though.

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