Asked Questions

This page con­tains everything you always wanted to know about Calvados but were afraid to ask!

Can you make Calvados from all types of apples?

No. Unlike table fruit, cider fruit (apples or pears) are small in size and par­tic­u­larly rich in tannins.

Apples are clas­si­fied into four fam­il­ies (sharp, bit­ter­sharp, sweet and bit­ter­sweet). It is the subtle blend of these dif­fer­ent vari­et­ies that gives the cider to be dis­tilled the bal­ance and char­ac­ter that will later be found in the Calvados. All the vari­et­ies of cider apples and perry pears are listed in the appen­dices to each appellation’s specifications.

What is the minimum ageing time for an eau-de-vie to become Calvados?

The min­im­um ageing time before market release is 2 years in oak bar­rels (and 3 years for Calvados Domfrontais).

How do you heat a still?

A still can be heated by gas or, more tra­di­tion­ally, by wood. 

Why is Calvados aged?

Ageing allows the Calvados to devel­op firstly in colour, and then its aromas and length on the palate. A young­er Calvados will tend to have a straw yellow hue and will devel­op very dis­tinct fruit or floral aromas. An old Calvados will, on the other hand, have a more amber colour, remin­is­cent of mahogany, and will devel­op a more com­plex range of aromas with a mix­ture of can­died fruit, dried nuts, car­a­mel or chocol­ate notes.

What is a Trou Normand?

In the 19th cen­tury, the “Trou Nor­mand” had an offi­cial place at meal­times, it was a small glass of Calvados served to aid diges­tion during ban­quets and formal meals. Gust­ave Flaubert alludes to this wide­spread custom in his “Bouv­ard et Pécuchet” writ­ten in 1881. Tra­di­tion has it that, midway through the meal, the master of the house invited his guests to raise their half-filled glass of Calvados, smell it and then swal­low it down in one gulp. Today, the tra­di­tion is to serve an apple sorbet soaked in Calvados in the middle of the meal.

Is Calvados an apple eau-de-vie?

No. Calvados is a cider or perry eau-de-vie and not an apple or pear eau-de-vie — i.e. it is obtained from fruit that has already been fer­men­ted. It is depend­ent on the terroir, the vari­et­ies har­ves­ted, their qual­ity and quant­ity, and the nature of the cider or perry made from these fruits.

How many apples does it take to make one litre of Calvados?

It is estim­ated that about 18kg of apples are needed to obtain 13 litres of cider at 5% vol. ready for dis­til­la­tion into Calvados. These 13 litres will pro­duce 1 litre of Calvados at 70%, i.e. before its ageing and reduction.

What is the Angels’ Share?

The “angels’ share” is the pro­por­tion of the volume of a spirit that evap­or­ates during its ageing in bar­rels. Over the ageing pro­cess, the alco­hol con­tent will gradu­ally decrease. 

What is an AOC?

An Appel­la­tion d’Ori­gine Con­trôlée (AOC) is a French label identi­fy­ing a product whose vari­ous stages of man­u­fac­tur­ing (pro­duc­tion and pro­cessing) are car­ried out in the same geo­graph­ic­al area and accord­ing to recog­nised know-how. The concept was born in 1905, but it was not until 1935 that a legis­lat­ive decree cre­ated the Appel­la­tion d’Ori­gine Con­trôlée. The first AOC status was awar­ded on 15 May 1936. The Calvados Pays d’Auge became an AOC in 1942. Today there are 3 AOCs for Calvados: Calvados (1984), Calvados Pays d’Auge and Calvados Dom­fron­tais (1997).

What is a Café Calva?

At the end of the 19th cen­tury, it was cus­tom­ary for work­ers and farm­ers to add a drop of Calvados to their morn­ing coffee, to warm them­selves up and summon the energy needed to work in often dif­fi­cult conditions.

This tra­di­tion gradu­ally took hold in French pop­u­lar culture.

How much alcohol does Calvados contain?

To be leg­ally sold, Calvados must be at least 40% abv. This alco­hol con­tent is obtained by the gradu­al addi­tion of dis­tilled or demin­er­al­ised water to the eau-de-vie. This is known as reduction.

How­ever, some “cask strength” Calvados are unre­duced. They have a “nat­ur­al” alco­hol con­tent cre­ated by the evap­or­a­tion of the eau-de-vie over time. Taken dir­ectly from the top of the barrel, they are usu­ally bottled on demand and show a won­der­ful con­cen­tra­tion of aromas. Some “cask strength” Calvados can con­tain up to 55% vol.

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