An Apple Brandy a Day Keeps the Winter Blues Away

Our Classic & Vintage Artisanal Spirits producer Domaine Dupont was featured in an article by Kara Newman at Wine Enthusiast Magazine.
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If the tasting notes below inspire an impulsive trip to the nearest bakery, that’s perfectly understandable. Calvados—Normandy’s­ signature apple brandy—is remarkable for its confectionary flavors: tarte tatin, gingerbread, apple strudel.
Marked by rich baked-apple flavor, vanilla and subtle spice, Calvados is an expression of the French countryside. Hundreds of apple varieties grow there, dotting the landscape with orchards where the branches hang heavy with fruit—at some distilleries in more pastoral settings, cows wait patiently beneath the trees for overripe apples to fall.
Several varieties of these apples (and sometimes pears) go into each bottle. Compared to France’s grape-based brandies­, Cognac and Armagnac, Calvados is notably fruit-forward, showing ripe apple, pear and citrus notes where grape brandies show more dried-fruit notes, like dates or figs. There’s often an intriguing earthiness, too, with herbaceous or even savory, meaty notes popping up.
Between a robust, buttery texture from the copper-pot distillation process and confectionary notes from time in oak barrels—think almond, maple, caramel, vanilla and baking spice—it’s no wonder that “almond croissant” and “spice cake” start coming to mind during tasting sessions.
If all this bakery-speak is making you hungry, you’re in luck: Calvados is an ideal dessert pairing. Although the apple brandy itself isn’t necessarily sweet, it’s a good foil for fruit pies, tarts and other outrageous treats that tend to appear on the holiday table.
This festive season also means parties, so you might find yourself making cocktails. If you’re lucky enough to be gifted a bottle of Calvados, consider adding some to the mixing glass. Bartenders have long sung the praises of Calvados, because it plays so well with other ingredients.
No matter how you consume France’s apple-based brandy, it’s good to the core.
Domaine Dupont Vielle Reserve Calvados (France; Domaine Select Wine & Spirits, New York, NY); $55, 94 points. This golden brandy is scented with rich vanilla and honey, plus a surprising herbaceous lilt. The bold flavor has a savory, almost meaty note at first sip, but finishes with more delicate freshness, fading into honey, white flowers and vanilla. This complex, distinctive sipper is worth getting to know.

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