Calvados: Reclaiming the Spotlight It Deserves

It’s a question worth exploring (and one that spirits writer Jason Wilson himself posed in an article in last week’s New York Times): Why don’t more people know about Calvados? We’ve done Cognac to death, to the point where this brandy is now the provenance of the mass-market spirits drinker. Armagnac, Cognac’s red-headed stepsister, has gotten even more attention of late.

But poor, lonely Calvados. Why are you so misunderstood?

As Wilson describes it, Calvados, distilled from Normandy’s famed apples, is the drink of older generations. But food and wine writers once adored this complex spirit, calling it, to quote the famous A.J. Liebling, “the best alcohol in the world.”

Where there were once 1,500 Calvados producers in Normandy there are now 300, but a troupe of young distillers, grouped together under the cheeky moniker “Esprit Calvados,” seeks to bring Calvados into the spotlight once again. This collective consists of some of Calvados’ best producers: Domaine Dupont, Christian Drouin, Roger Groult, Pierre Huet, and La Père Jules; each house is now run by a son, in his 30s or 40s, who has recently taken over the property from his father, continuing on the long tradition of quality Calvados production in Normandy.

On this side of the Atlantic, we are always looking for the next best thing, but what if the next best thing is the last best thing? Which is to say: Perhaps we should look to the past for an idea of where our drinking future is headed. Calvados just may be the spirit we’ve all been waiting for.