Charles Neal, author of the only book on Calvados you need purchase, says of Huard that it is to AOC Calvados sub-region/appellation what Camut is to the Pays d’Auge and Lemorton to the Domfrontais: the most admired of its producers. Then again, Charles Neal is the US importer of Huard so he might be a little biased. I purchased this from Astor Wines in New York (I’m not sure if it’s an exclusive). It is a blending of Calvados from three vintages: 1990, 1992 and 1999. That is to say, the youngest Calvados in this blend is 16 years old and the oldest is 25. Astor is currently selling it for about $60. I mention the age and the price because they’ve particularly been on my mind since my friend Sku posted reviews on Monday of two teenaged Calvados imported by Nicolas Palazzi, a 16 yo and a 18 yo that are selling for $200 and $225 respectively (also at Astor): more than three times the price of this Huard. Sku raves about those Calvados but didn’t have much to say about the price in his review.
Frankly, I find the price unacceptable and said so, somewhat rudely, in a comment on his review. Sku noted by way of justification/mitigation that the Palazzi Calvados are both single casks, at cask strength and from a small producer. I was unimpressed by this argument. In a world where the excellent Lemorton 25 is available for $125, asking for $225 for a 18 yo (as was also the case for the Beudin/Bordelet 18 yo—also imported by Palazzi) is a bit much. And justifying it via the single cask/cask strength/small producer argument seems to me to risk validating a questionable path for Calvados.
For someone like me who has come to brandy as a result of out of control “premiumization” in the whisky world it’s hard to look at something like these expensive Palazzi imports and not see a near future in which abv’s may or may not be raised but prices across the board certainly will be (and keep in mind that Calvados is already far more expensive than Armagnac of similar age). If Palazzi is such a brandy savant, let him bring more affordable stuff to us: almost none of the Calvados producers listed in Neal’s book are available in the US and I doubt highly that it’s because they’re so expensive. Promote Calvados by making more of it available across the board, not by pushing a few expensive bottles for a niche market.
As always, these are my views and if you don’t like them…I have others.
Huard Hors d’Age (40%; from my own bottle)
Nose: Rich apple with notes of toffee, dried orange peel, apricot and just a whiff of wood smoke. On the second sniff there’s some oak along with hints of incense/cinnamon and some spent matches. Pretty consistent with time.
Palate: Pretty much as promised by the nose with more apple and unfiltered apple juice and just a bit more of the oak (not at all tannic) plus a nice waxiness. The oak expands a bit as it sits but it’s balanced perfectly by the fruit, which is itself perfectly balanced between tart and sweet. With more time the orange peel is shaded by some honey. Much richer mouthfeel and depth than you would expect from the strength.
Finish: Medium-long. The oak leads here and then the apple returns at the end.
Comments: This has the best nose of any Calvados I’ve had so far—perfectly balanced between the apple and the oak—and the palate isn’t too far behind either. Another for the whisky drinkers and I can’t imagine better value in whisky for $60. And just to spell it out, you can get two 750 ml bottles of this for the price of one 375 ml bottle of Palazzi’s Beudein/Bordelet selection, which, in my opinion, is not as good despite being a single barrel at cask strength from a small producer.
Rating: 88 points.