In the late 16th century one of King Phillips armed fleets, El Salvador, shipwrecked on the shores of France on its way to conquer England. As the legend goes the region where the wreck took place was subsequently named Calvados. With time, the name calvados and distilled cider became synonymous.  Only produced in the northern part of France, Calvados is a pear and apple-based brandy that has to be aged in oak casks for at least two years. Even though Calvados is as successful as Cognac in France, exports have only started recently.  In 1978 only 18 percent of total production was exported. Today it is more than 50 percent and still growing.

Trois Etoiles (three stars):  2 years minimum
Vieux (Old) / Réserve (Reserve):  3 years minimum
Vieille reserve (Old Reserve) / VSOP:  4 years minimum
Hors d’Âge (no age) / Âge inconnu (age unknown):  6 years minimum
Extra / XO / Napoléon:  6 years minimum

1. #43 hit – Boulard XO
 Boulard-XO_01 ON THE PALATE: Baked Apples, Roasted Nuts, Dried Fruits.

 VERDICT: No wonder why it has about third of the U.S. market, this is Calvados at its best. Good complexity, smooth, dark and not to forget those deliciously baked apples.



2. #45 hit – PÉRE MAGLOIRE XO
 lnk_161651b ON THE PALATE: Caramelized Apples, Nuts, Cinnamon.

VERDICT: Creamy and soft with distinct under-ripe apple notes ending off with a roasted nut finish. How can you not like this? I love this apple brandy and can highly recommend it!

3. #26 hit – BOULARD  Grand Solage
 Calvados_Solage__02465_zoom ON THE PALATE: Ripe Apples, Dried Fruits, Oak.

 VERDICT: Considering its young age and the cheap price Boulard Grand Solage is a real bargain. The delicious taste of green ripe apples far outweighs its shortcomings. If you are new to apple brandy I think this is an excellent first choice (For what it is worth Grand Solage was the one who triggered my obsession with Calva).

4. #50 hit – LECOMPTE 12yo
 Lecompte ON THE PALATE: Apple Pie, Roasted Nuts, Vanilla.

VERDICT: As I would like to see the alcohol more in the background I still enjoy this Calvados. Concealed underneath the harsh surface you will find layers of caramel glazed apples, vanilla, and even hints of cigar-smoke.

5. #27 hit – PERE JULES 3yo
 calvados-pays-d-auge-pere-jules-33-ans ON THE PALATE: Decomposing Apples

VERDICT: No matter what the masses say I will continue to love this Calva.

6. #31 hit – PAPIDOUX XO
 Papidoux XO ON THE PALATE: Apples, Vanilla, Smoke.

VERDICT: Papidoux XO is harsher than other XOs I have tasted and also more plain in its taste. There is however some notes of vanilla and an almost obscure taste of…smoke?  Yeah, although the smokey flavor is very distant it is definitely there. Anyway I miss the smoothness found in many other brands and also some more complexity..

7. #34 hit – PÉRE CHARLES Fine Calvados
P1030613 ON THE PALATE: Alcohol with apples..

VERDICT: I am not normally a guy who shies away from a harsh drink but in this case I surrender. The taste of ripe apples is completely concealed behind a wall of alcohol. Given the low price on this bottle (around 15$) I should not have expected anything more; you get what you pay for.


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