This guide may use terminology related to calvados, which may be a little obscure if you’re not yet familiar with the brandy. If you need to look anything up, check out our guide to how calvados is made.
With maître de chai Richard Prével at the helm, Lecompte’s 12-year expression is a complex and nuanced experience. Despite its age, it still reveals dominant fruit flavours while delivering intensely mature aromas.
You can expect a bouquet like cinnamon and nutmeg, which delivers an accord reminiscent of spiced baked apples with a hint of liquorice that persists through the finish.
"One of the most complex and nuanced calvados expressions that you can buy to experience its unique flavours."
Based in Coquainvilliers, Boulard has been producing Pays d’Auge calvados for nearly two centuries. It operates on 150 acres of family-owned cooperative orchards that cultivate over 120 apple varieties.
Boulard doesn’t just use a Charentais copper pot still, but also ages its eau-de-vie in the same Limousin oak barrels as premium cognac for between 8 and 15 years. As a result, Boulard calvados is remarkably balanced with a richly complex tableau of amber flavour.
Another creation by Richard Prével and Lecompte, the 5-year old expression is a Pays d’Auge calvados that offers a playful harmony of apples and woodiness. The eaux-de-vie of this blend was first aged in new oak barrels add a hint of vanilla.
However, they were quickly transferred to old casks to ensure a slow and deliberate marriage with the tannins.
Founded in 1821, Père Magloire became one of the most renowned calvados producers by the turn of the 20th century. Its X.O. is created from eau-de-vie that has been double-distilled in Charentais copper pot stills and then meticulously aged for over 9 years.
Despite mature caramelised apples on the nose, it unveils delicate notes of forest fruit on the palate with a refreshing hint of vanilla.
5. Le Père Jules 10-Year Old Calvados
Country of Origin: France
Producer: Léon Desfrieches, Père, Fils & Petits Fils
Jules Desfrieches started producing Normandy cider 1919 and launched his own calvados just four years later. When his son Léon joined the family business in 1949, the brand was named Le Père Jules. Today, Léon continues to oversee its operations with his son and grandson, Thierry and Guillaume.
A veritable “fermier” calvados, the apples are cultivated, harvested, pressed, fermented, distilled, and aged on-site. The result is a richly artisanal Pays d’Auge 10-year-old calvados that marries the essence of apple peels with chewy fudge. Revealing vanilla and spices in a balanced palate, it has a long and persistent finish.
The Dupont family has been producing cider and calvados in the Pays d’Auge region since 1887. Jules Dupont first settled at the property and focused primarily on cattle as well as cider and calvados. His son, Louis, continued the family business, which was then taken over by his wife Colette when he passed away in 1974.
Louis and Colette’s son, Etienne, developed and modernised after he took the helm in 1980. He added 10 new hectares of apple orchards and travelling to cognac to learn new distillation techniques. His son and daughter, Jérôme and Anne-Pamy, joined the business in 2002.
After Jérôme sadly passed away in 2018, Etienne and Anne-Pamy now run the family business and its 30 hectares of orchards together.
Dupon’t Fine Réserve is a refreshing blend of 80% bittersweet and 20% tart apples that were double-distilled with Charentais stills after being aged for 6 months. A lively and intense 2-year old calvados, the Réserve demonstrates the brandy’s potential fruitiness and expressiveness
Another young calvados blend, Richard Prével’s Originel focuses on the apple’s potential to deliver fresh and lively fruity flavours. For such a young blend, it’s surprisingly nuanced and balanced after having being aged in small oak casks to ensure a thorough yet brief ageing process.
In 1860, Pierre Groult began distilling cider in Saint-Cyr-du-Ronceray. His son Léon followed in his footsteps and enlarged the operation by planting new orchards as well as building a second ageing cellar and additional stills.
Unfortunately, he was seriously wounded during the First World War and was unable to pursue his vision. However, his son Roger carried the torch and even developed the business by expanding the distillery and adding even more ageing cellars with 12,000 barrels that are still used today.
Jean-Pierre Roult followed and focused on distributing the family’s product throughout France and exporting it abroad. Today, Jean-Roger Groult oversees its production and continues to use his family’s techniques such as perpetual blending.
Roger Groult ages the cider for an entire year before undertaking its wood-fired double distillation in Charentais copper pot stills. The 3-year old calvados offers a supple experience of creamy tart apples and tender nuttiness with a refreshing finish.
Boulard’s VSOP consists of eaux-de-vie that have been aged between 4 and 10 years. Featuring a yeasty nose of fruit and roasted notes, it delivers a balanced palate of forest fruit, charred oak, vanilla, and a velvety spiced apple finish.
Located in the picturesque 16th-century Château de Breuil, the eponymous calvados was first launched in 1954. Indeed, the castle has been the site of multiple businesses including a fromagerie, a chocolaterie, and even a cider producer.
Its Fine calvados is a sprightly Pays d’Auge blend that offers vigorous flavours and a lively palate after having been aged for two years in oak casks.
Over 50% of calvados produced in Normandy is exported abroad and its consumption increases by 2 to 3% every year in the USA. As mentioned in the introduction to this article, calvados is cherished by many North Americans given the relationship it has with their military history.
However, calvados can be surprisingly challenging to find in the USA and the selection is often limited whereas it’s comparatively easier to find in Canada. Occasionally, you might be lucky if your local liquor store stocks a single calvados expression but you’re unlikely to have a choice.
Fortunately, the internet has made the world much smaller and shopping for calvados online significantly opens up your opportunities. We’re quite fond of Reserve Bar who has partnered with Lecompte calvados.
Therefore, it has a nice selection from the Pays d’Auge house but it, unfortunately, doesn’t yet stock anything from other producers.
Alternatively, Drizly works in partnership with local liquor stores. Therefore, you can use it to browse what is available nearby and have it delivered within an hour.
However, the downside is that you can only order what is sold in a nearby shop. Therefore, if you live somewhere rural, you may have difficulty finding what you need.
How Much Does Calvados Cost?
Calvados is often similarly priced to Armagnac, another French brandy. Meanwhile, both are quite affordable compared to cognac, which is much more famous. Indeed, they were both historically regarded as inferior brandies, and cognac was largely exported by the Dutch rather than consumed domestically.
However, the phylloxera outbreaks of the late-19th century helped calvados achieve international acclaim as it was unaffected by the parasitic insect.
Today, a VSOP calvados should cost somewhere in the realms of $40. This price can vary depending on whether it’s of the revered Pays d’Auge appellation or made in the larger AOC calvados.
Meanwhile, a premium calvados that has been aged for over ten years should cost around $100. However, it’s rare that calvados will cost much more than this amount unless it’s an exceptional blend.
We used a lot of terms like Pays d’Auge, Fine, Réserve, and Pays d’Auge. You can learn what these mean and more with our guide to how calvados is made.
Otherwise, now that you have read about the best calvados brands, why don’t you check out more of our resources?