After two weeks of Armagnac let’s go back to Calvados Wednesdays for a bit. You may recall that my first Calvados review was of the new release of Domaine Hubert from K&L. You may also recall that I expressed some skepticism about the claim that this was essentially the same as their original release of Domaine Hubert, which had a vintage stated and was 6-7 years old. It certainly didn’t taste like it was very much more than four years old. Well, Florin, winner of the second season of Celebrity Apprentice, is a big fan of that 2006 Hubert and insisted that I try that one as well. (By the way, I’d sent him a sample of the new Hubert and he shared my reservations about it, though he did like it more.) He gave me a sample and here I am now with a review. I tasted it alongside a pour of the recent version. It couldn’t be done blind because the difference is obvious before you even taste them: the 2006 vintage is much darker—make of that what you will…
Last week I posted my first Armagnac review, of the 30 yo Domaine de Baraillon bottled for K&L in California. That one is long gone. I remarked that at $80 a bottle it had seemed like an unthinkable value for someone like me who is reeling from the sharp increase in single malt whisky prices over the last few years. (Truth be told, it has been a very, very long time since any officially bottled 30 yo single malt whisky has been available for less than $100, leave alone any that were actually of high quality.) Well, today’s Armagnac is slightly younger, but only slightly at 25 years old, but it is an even better value on the face of it: it is available for close to $60 in a number of markets. Unlike the de Baraillon, it’s also widely and seemingly continuously available. As such I am hoping that I will like it a lot too.
Given the fact that they have a very snazzy website Delord is obviously not a small-scale farm producer. I have to admit I have a knee-jerk inclination to favour the idea of farm producers when it comes to Calvados and Armagnac—I have to constantly remind myself that almost no Scottish distillery fits that bill. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Okay, let’s stay in the brandy family for Wednesday reviews but let’s mix in some Armagnac with the Calvados. I know even less about Armagnac than about Calvados, if such a thing is possible. I blame Charles Neal for this: unlike his great book on Calvados, his book on Armagnac is out of print (and the reviews for it are not as strong). I know it is a grape brandy like Cognac: I know that unlike Cognac, and like a lot of Calvados, it is single-distilled; I know that it hails from Gascony; and I know that it has three sub-appellations, of which bas-Armagnac has the status that Pays d’Auge has in Calvados. That is more or less where my knowledge ends. I know very little about the producers and about which have stronger reputations than others. This is a bit of a shame as the variety of Armagnac available in the US is greater than that of Calvados and the prices are much better. If you know of a good guide to Armagnac producers please point me in its direction. Continue reading
Camut is perhaps the most famous and renowned of all the Calvados houses. As per Charles Neal, the family has been making Calvados for seven generations now and Adrien Camut was instrumental after the 1960s in the promotion of Calvados as a spirit to be taken seriously. He also apparently made a number of technical innovations in the production process that led to other producers asking him to make stills for them. (He passed away in 1989—the domaine is now run by his grandsons.) But Camut is not just important historically; their Calvados has a very high reputation. In fact, when I began to express an interest in Calvados, more than one person—Sku among them—urged me to try Camut as one that I would be sure to like. I’m now finally getting around to it. I’ll be curious to see if the pride of the Pays d’Auge challenges my current preference for the pear-heavy Calvados of the Domfrontais. My understanding is that most producers in the Pays d’Auge use far less than the 30% poire content that is the maximum allowed for the Pays d’Auge appelation—and given the fact that pears are mentioned not at all in Neal’s entry on Camut in his otherwise comprehensive book, I suspect that Camut might be one of the producers who use no pear at all. If you can confirm or dispute this please write in below. Continue reading
I really enjoyed the Lemorton Réserve and so I am really looking forward to this much older iteration. Especially as in his wonderful book on Calvados (which, yet again, I recommend highly) Charles Neal has high praise for older Lemortons. Granted he is speaking of vintage releases from the 1970s but still. I am curious to see if this will be closer to its much younger sibling or to the 18 yo Bordelet-Beudin I reviewed last week. I quite liked that one but noted that it seemed in many ways to be closer to bourbon and wine cask-matured malt whisky than to younger Calvados (as always, note the caveat of my very limited Calvados exposure); it was also quite oak-driven. Will all that be even more true of this even older Calvados? Let’s see.
This was bottled for Astor Wines in New York and at $125 is about half the price of the 18 yo Bordelet-Beudin. Continue reading
If this Calvados has a bit of a mouthful of a name it’s because it has a complicated origin. It was bottled by Eric Bordelet, who makes Calvados but it wasn’t distilled by him. Henri Beudin is apparently his neighbour. Beudin does not, however, make an appearance in Charles Neal’s great book on and guide to Calvados (which is rather comprehensive and which, again, everyone should buy). This suggests that Beudin is not a regular Calvados producer. Bordelet, however, is in the book, but at time of publishing (in 2011) he was not yet bottling his own Calvados, “as he feels many of his spirits are still too young” (Neal, 562). He is a renowned maker of cider, however, and I’ve heard very good things about his cider, some of which is available in the US. Bordelet, and presumably his neighbour, Beudin, are in the Domfrontais region but Neal reports that Bordelet double-distills his Calvados—I’m not sure if this is true of Beudin as well. If someone who has a bottle could clarify if this is mentioned on the label (or if the Domfrontais appellation is used, which would require single distillation) that would be great. All I have is this sample, which Sku kindly shared with me—he really liked it and I’m interested to see what I make of it. At 18 years of age, it’s the oldest Calvados I’ve yet had. Continue reading
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). Continue reading
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? Continue reading
As I said on July 1, I am very new to Calvados. As such even though I’ve already made disclaimers about the nature of my Calvados reviews (there’ll be at least three this month), I’m going to make them again.
In brief, I am the furthest thing from an expert on Calvados. I am also pretty far from being an expert on Scotch whisky but in that case I know a decent amount about the history of Scotch whisky; I know quite a bit about different styles of Scotch whisky and the likely effects of variables in the production process; I know a fair bit about a bunch of the major distilleries and the profiles they’ve produced over time; and I certainly know when a whisky has flaws (whether it overcomes them or not) and when it has achieved very desirable characteristics. In the case of Calvados, I currently know only whether the one I am drinking appeals to me. And since my palate is conditioned by single malt whisky (which is also very relevant to my reviews of American whiskey) it may well be the case that what appeals or doesn’t appeal to me about a particular Calvados may have little relationship to the qualities looked for or scorned by connoisseurs of Calvados. (Among other things, I also don’t know what the plural of Calvados is: one Calvados, two Calvadoses? Calvadosi? Calvadeaux?) Continue reading
A couple of months ago I posted my recipe for a smoky take on the classic Boulevardier cocktail. I made that with Bowmore 12 in place of the regulation bourbon and as I made it for our Oscar party I named it the Boulevardier of Broken Dreams. It was quite nice but I’ve been playing with some variations since then, fueled by the fact that my bottle of Bowmore 12 got emptied that night. Most of these variations have involved tinkering with the proportions of the components. I’ve found that more heavily peated malts don’t work quite as well (or at least I haven’t managed to figure out the proportions). Then I hit on the idea of bottle “aging” a regular Boulevardier in a recently emptied peated whisky bottle. This, I am happy to say, has been quite a success—though continued experimentation is, of course, necessary. Continue reading
We’re hosting an Oscars viewing party tonight and I’m making my version of Kit Anderson’s famous Bad Attitude chili. The recipe calls for some bourbon and as I didn’t have any at hand that I was willing to pour into a vat of chili I went out yesterday and came back with a liter bottle of Old Grand-Dad 80 Proof. Naturally, my thoughts turned to cocktails to be served with the chili and from there to the classic Boulevardier, which is basically a Negroni with bourbon/rye in place of the gin (though it apparently predates the more well-known Negroni). I’m still going to serve that but what I have here is a twist that I thought I’d improvised but which renowned killjoy, Jordan Devereaux told me on Twitter is something he was served at a bar in New York: basically, a Boulevardier with Bowmore 12 in place of bourbon/rye. Just because someone was already serving it doesn’t mean I didn’t invent it: just ask Christopher Columbus. I’m calling mine the Boulevardier of Broken Dreams. Continue reading
The run of reviews of peated whiskies will pause for one day as I post a blind review of this “Mystery Spirit”. This is a sample of unknown origin sent to both Michael Kravitz of Diving for Pearls and to me by the famous Romanian actor, Florin. As the name indicates, it may not even be whisky. Michael and I are publishing our notes on it simultaneously (I’ll post the link to his review once I have it). Once our notes are up Florin will tell us what it is/was. Hopefully, it’s not his urine. (Actually, I think Michael sent Florin his notes yesterday and found out what it is–as our reviews are being published simultaneously I won’t know what it is till after this goes up).
I’ve had a very mild cold for a couple of days now. It’s not really knocked out my nose or tastebuds but I’m not drinking anything I like very much or taking notes for reviews until it’s gone. Instead, I’ve been drinking other things and little bits of whiskies I’ve recently been a little disappointed in. In this latter category fall the Ballechin 5 (Marsala)–to be reviewed soon–and the new(ish) Ardbeg “Ardbog”–to be reviewed in a month or two. Neither are bad–and I like the Ardbog more than the Ballechin–but neither seemed like they’d be wasted on me under current conditions either. Oddly enough, I liked them both a fair bit more last night. The dry, farmy peat of the Ballechin seemed to be tamped down and the Ardbog just tasted rounder (this may also be due to the bottle having been open for a few months now). I’ll be interested to try them again once this cold is done (hopefully in a day or two) and see what I make of them again. Continue reading
I know nothing about mezcal but I’m not going to let a little detail like that stop me from reviewing one anyway. This particular mezcal is one that a lot of whisky geeks have been gushing about for some time now—it apparently has a smoky quality quite reminiscent of Islay whiskies. It also has going for it the fact that it’s a mezcal from a single village, Chichicapa. Indeed, the bottlers, Del Maguey, release a number of single village mezcals, some priced rather extravagantly. I’ve not quite been able to bring myself to pull the trigger on a bottle, as it runs north of $60 in most markets, but thanks to a sample swap I’m able to finally check it out.
Del Maguey, Chichicapa (46%; single village mezcal; from a sample received in a swap)
Nose: Nail polish remover at first and strong whiffs of gasoline. Then quite a lot of peppery fruit begins to appear: melon, grapefruit. Some floral notes too and then expanding lime (peel). After a bit it gets quite creamy and custardy. With more time the fruit gets quite intense. Not much change with water.