The Père Magloire National Calvados Week, in association with UK creator Emporia Brands, returns Monday 16th October 2016 until the Sunday 22nd October 2017, taking place within bars and retailers across the UK, including London, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
For some, Normandy’s lush green pastures reach their ultimate expression in the region’s famed cheeses and rich dairy butter. We all know that it’s always been about the Calvados. The magical alchemy that transforms green apples into golden nectar, it produces apple brandy as soft, fresh and pure as the beguiling French countryside from which it’s born. The week long celebration marks the harvesting of the delicious apples for the production of Calvados. During National Calvados Week over 100 bars, shops, supermarkets and independent off licenses, including London based Swift, Merchant House, Baranis, German Gymnasium and Plotting Parlour.
Other venues and highlights for the week include such Edinburgh stalwarts as Panda & Sons, Heads & Tales, Voodoo Rooms, Bramble and The Bon Vivant, as well as Glasgow based The Finnieston, Porter & Rye and Drugstore Social. 45 West in Leicester are also showcasing their serves, as well as Jekyll & Hyde in Birmingham, Alvino’s in Newcastle and Last Chance Saloon in Nottingham amongst others.
Meanwhile, participating Waitrose stores will be running an in-store price promotion for the month of October, seeing Père Magloire VSOP 50cl with 20% off. Scotland are covered by Drinkmonger and Royal Mile Whiskies in Edinburgh, plus independent stores across England including Riddles Emporium in South Manchester, 23 Wine & Whisky in Leicester and Fenwick’s in Newcastle. We’ve also partnered with The Drink Shop, who are offering 20% off all Père Magloire products throughout National Calvados Week.
Highlights of the week involve the Telegraph Aperitifs and Digestifs evening that kicks off the celebration on Friday 13th October, TimeOut London are also hosting an evening of Père Magloire to launch the promotion within MASH London, exclusive for their members, and John Lewis on Oxford St and Soho Whisky Club, both in London, are also getting in on the action with their own tasting evenings.
In addition, Fever Tree, Franklins, Fentimans, Double Dutch and Peter Spanton No.1 Tonic are the principle sponsors for this year’s signature serve, promoted within all participating venues across the UK, the Père Magloire and tonic;
50 ml Père Magloire VS Topped with chosen Tonic Water Fresh Ice (at least 4 big cubes) Slice of Fresh Apple
Using a large wine glass or a tall, slim glass, add the ice first then pour in the Père Magloire VS, followed by the Tonic Water. Cut a full slice of apple and drop into the glass.
A promotional video has also been commissioned by Emporia Brands, the exclusive UK importer of Père Magloire and National Calvados Week, which aims to see people coming together from across the UK to enjoy Calvados. To view the video, head to http://www.nationalcalvadosweek.com/press
A third brand that I came across on my French travels a few weeks back is Lecompte, a rather small yet equally stunning range of Calvados. It’s in 1923 that Alexandre Lecompte created the Lecompte House in Lisieux, and built the brand until its sale to Yves Pellerin. Seen as the premium end of the Calvados category and essentially created for the connoisseurs, Lecompte’s distillery ‘La Morinière’ within Notre-Dame-de-Courson, offers a substantial amount of old stock, created by two traditional stills for double distillation.
But how do they fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Lecompte 12yr – 40%
Very soft upon the nose with clotted fudge and vanilla notes coming through. Light on the palate, with hints of nuts and liquorice, followed by a slight fudge flavour that smooths out a dry finish.
Lecompte 18yr – 40%
Light fudge with a slight vanilla essence on the nose. Tropical fruit flavours on the palate, honey and apple, with memories of rum. Dry banana on the long finish.
Lecompte Multi-Vintage – 40%
Aged from stock laid in 1988, 1989 and 1990. Banana and soft fudge combine on the nose, with a light, soft offering of tropical spices and banana leaf that leaves a sweet finish.
Lecompte Secret – 40%
Using blends as old as 1923, with a minimum of 42 years. Rich on the nose with plenty of apple and oak blending perfectly. Both flavours carry onto the palate, with dark cocoa, raisin and a developing spice creating a very long and dry finish.
The Lecompte Secret has a rather interesting back story to it, with the following taken from the Lecompte website;
Eighty-five years after Maison Lecompte was first established, the new owners entrusted Richard Prével, a third-generation Cellar Master, with the task of crafting the most extraordinary, the most perfect and the most complete Calvados ever made. Richard Prével spent five years blending, and composing hundreds of combinations of Lecompte’s precious eaux-de-vie. During the course of this tireless quest for perfection, he made an incredible discovery: several barrels laid down by the founder of Maison Lecompte, undisturbed since 1923. This timeless treasure, crafted from over 100 individual eaux-de-vie, provided the finishing touch to a blend which was already exceptional.
I’m very lucky to have tried this, especially with its price tag, and it truly is one of the best Calvados expressions I have had. If the price puts you off though, the younger ages can offer some great recipes instead –
50 ml Lecompte 12yr Calvados
10 ml Cherry Brandy Morand
160 ml Fresh apple juice
2 slices Fresh ginger
½ stem Fresh lemongrass
3-4 drops Fresh lime juice
In a shaker, put the Calvados with fresh ginger and lemongrass and muddle all. Add the cherry brandy, fresh apple juice and a few drops of lime juice. Shake, strain and pour over ice.
Lecompte Old School
60 ml Calvados Lecompte 12yr
20 ml Saint Germain
3 dashes Chartreuse Elixir
Pour the ingredients into a shaker and shake. Pour into a highball filled with ice and garnish with a range of apple encrusted with currant.
Recently, I’ve been fortunate enough to travel over to France and check out a criminally underrated category of spirit here in the UK; Calvados. Originally attending to see one of the main distilleries of Calvados, I was to find out that Boulard was to be not far down the road. Having the chance to experience another distillery and their creations is always a fantastic honour, and I duly share with you what I came across. But first, a bit on the Boulard brand itself –
Boulard, or Calvados Boulard as it is written correctly, started out back in 1825 by Pierre-Auguste Boulard, and are now into their 5th generation with Vincent Boulard the current manager. With a varied range, and some of the most striking of bottle and label designs, Calvados Boulard has been one of the leading Calvados brands in the world. With not much on the way of significant history, it’s the liquid that kick-starts the talking, so below, I give to you my tasting notes on my experiences so far –
Boulard XO Auguste Calvados Pays d’Auge – 40%
A blend of 6 to 15 years and named in homage to Pierre Auguste. Fresh apple with flavours of sweet fudge on the nose. Plenty of fruits on the palate, with a sharp citrus cutting through drawing out a long, bitter finish.
Boulard Extra Calvados Pays d’Auge – 40%
Soft upon the nose with a slight cocoa, vanilla and almond mix. The cocoa returns on the palate, with a candied orange and lingering tobacco leaf on the palate for a long, aromatic finish.
Also under the Boulard banner are expressions including Hors d’Age 12yr, and XO, VSOP and Grand Solage, all of which have won awards over the years. It’s these expressions that are perfect for expanding your palate towards cocktails –
45 ml Calvados Boulard V.S.O.P.
25 ml Orange Liquor
25 ml Lemon Juice
Pour the orange liqueur with lemon juice and Calvados in a shaker. Shake with ice and strain into a glass. Garnish with orange zest.
60 ml Calvados Boulard Grand Solage
1 barspoon Sugar
1 dash Orange Bitter
1 dash Old Fashioned Bitters
In an old-fashioned glass, pour the sugar and add bitters and ice. Mix for 20 seconds, add the Calvados and stir again during 15 seconds. Garnish with a slice of apple.
This week I’ve been extremely lucky to be invited along to not one, but two fantastic places within France, courtesy of the French liqueur Bénédictine.
Following on from their nationwide cocktail competitions from the past few weeks, winners from Glasgow, Nottingham, Manchester and London came together, alongside the Bénédictine team and fellow media representative Gary Sharpen of The Cocktail Lovers, to enjoy a three-day trip. With an itinerary that included the likes of a tour of the Bénédictine palace, the distillery itself and a cocktail safari of some of the best bars in Paris, the trip was one that I personally had been looking forward to.
After meeting at St Pancras and hopping on the Eurostar to Calais, a bus ride to Fécamp, the location of Bénédictine, gave us all the first glimpse of France and Normandy. The fishing port of Fécamp was the location for our hotel, and only a five-minute walk through the streets to the stunning Bénédictine palace. Here, we enjoyed a Bénédictine cocktail master class by Frenchman David Tanton of Dou Dou drinks (and resident Bénédictine cocktail creator) in the custom-built bar next to their Winter Garden. Here, he created for us ten cocktails that all included Bénédictine. A highlight for me was the following classic –
Pour Bénédictine into the glass, add ice, and top up with cold milk. This recipe can also be done with soya milk or hot milk. Garnish with orange slice and cinnamon stick.
Another classic he created for us all was the original Sling, as well as the Singapore Sling version, the Bobby Burns and the simplistic Big Ben. This really showed us the versatility of this herbal liqueur, going from adding tonic water or white grapefruit juice, to combining whisky or cognac to create a powerful yet satisfying drink. Of course, plenty of Bénédictine straight or over ice were on offer, including their lesser known B&B (Bénédictine and Brandy) and their Single Cask variety – a spirit that is only available to purchase within the palace itself.
Dinner came straight after the class, with the evening being held within a rather stunning room named the Abbots Hall. Here, a three course meal was prepared for us all, with scallops to start, duck and sweet pear with veg for mains and a variety of cheese for dessert. This also gave us the chance to get to know the rest of the group, including Philippe Jouhaud, the Sales and Marketing Director at Château de Cognac within Bacardi (the owners of Bénédictine) and our guide for the three days. A nightcap of Bénédictine back in the Winter Garden of the palace (an indoor conservatory decked out with chairs, tables and Bénédictine memorabilia) finished off a long but fantastic day.
Our second say began with a walk back to the Bénédictine palace where we were going to be given a tour of both the palace as well as its distillery within. We checked out the history of the Abbey of Fécamp, the birthplace of Bénédictine back in 1510, and were shown some extremely rare artefacts from the palaces archives, including an authenticated signed charter from William The Conqueror. The palace also holds the original still that Alexandre Le Grand used to re-create the recipe in 1863 that Benedictine monk Dom Bernardo Vincelli had created all those years ago. Drapes of its cutting edge advertising techniques were also shown, as well as a large cabinet full of counterfeit bottles of Bénédictine that have been found from all over the world.
Our next port of call came the distillery itself where it takes two years for the creation of the liqueur. Under the watch of the Master Distiller, the mixtures of plants and spices go to make four secret preparations. The process begins by infusing each preparation in super-fine alcohol. Each preparation is then distilled slowly within copper stills, or even double-distilled, depending on the ingredients in it. These initial stages produce four alcoholates, also known as “Esprits”. The four Esprits then age for three months in oak casks. This maturing period allows the essences extracted from the distilled plants and spices to mix together. Once the Esprits have aged separately, they are blended together. This mixture will then rest for eight long months in a large oak barrel. The elaboration process continues with the final blend – honey and an infusion of precious saffron are added. Once added, it is heated to 55°C. The final blend is then aged in large oak barrels for four months. This final ageing process is necessary to put the finishing touch to the subtle balance between the ingredients.
After a quick hit of Bénédictine before we left, we walked down to the sea front for a spot of fresh fish lunch at La Marée (including a Bénédictine filled crème brûlée) before catching the double-decker train (yes, you read that right) to Paris.
With a hotel within the fashion district of Paris and only a two-minute walk from The Louvre, we were ready for our cocktail safari, visiting five of the best that Paris has to offer. With well-known trade representative Marie Delaporte of Bacardi at the helm, she took us to our first bar of the evening, Le Forvm. A gin Martini was my tipple of choice to begin the evening, with the others going for some specially created Bénédictine cocktails or a choice off their cracking menu. Little Red Door was our next port-of-call, with cocktails using the likes of Makers Mark, Mozart chocolate bitters, Campari and Bénédictine on offer. A great venue, with our group situated on the mezzanine level looking over the bar and the famed little red door. A spot of food was the next stage, La Conserverie the host. With some signature Bénédictine cocktails created by the team (a favourite of the night for me which combined Laphroaig, Antica Formula and Fernet Branca) and platters of meat, bread and cheese on offer, it easily sticks in my head as one of the quirkier venues we visited, but a charm that i would love to go back and see again. Soon after, we were on our way to Curio Parlor. A bar complete with stuffed foxes and peacocks adorning the walls, gave us some of their Bénédictine creations. I though was getting ready for our last venue of the evening, Park Hyatt. This 5* hotel boasted some of the most expensive cocktails I’ve come across, but my my were they good. The highlight? La Parisien Cocktail – Bénédictine, rye whisky, Martini Rosso, Peychaud bitters and Ardbeg. To die for!
An early start for me as we had a couple of hours to pass the time with a spot of sightseeing of Paris, taking in the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. A taxi ride back to Gare du Nord train station to catch the Eurostar started the long journey back to London and Manchester.
Highlights? The Palais de la Bénédictine with the tour of the rooms and the distillery itself. Having dinner within the Abbots Hall will always be remembered, as well as visiting the Paris bars of Le Forvm, Park Hyatt, Little Red Door and La Conserverie. This was the first time I’ve visited France and Paris, so even the sightseeing aspects were a bonus for me.
The trip has given me a greater idea of how versatile Bénédictine is, as well as seeing how well-loved the brand is here in its home country. It’s always great to put pictures into perspective too, and the chance to see a liqueur distillery (a very different affair compared to your gin or whisky set-ups). A trip I didn’t want to miss, and I’ll happily go back again.
Also, watch out for a great little video that will be hitting the web very soon, courtesy of the guys from MC2tv. I won’t spoil the surprise, but I can safely say it puts a different view on the journey undertaken!
Check out a whole host of photos via my Facebook page of Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3.
Check out my piece on Bénédictine as well as tasting notes for all three of their expressions here.
National Calvados Week! What I hear you cry? Calvados? Well if your anything like the North of England, Calvados isn’t a big market compared to some of the other categories in the spirits world, but it is in London, and to help spread the word, a whole week dedicated to Calvados has been created.
To give you the heads up on all the events that are taking place over the UK, it’s probably best to look into Calvados itself, and see if it’s worthy of a dedication –
Calvados is an apple brandy, predominantly from the French region of Lower Normandy. The first known Norman distillation was carried out by “Lord” de Gouberville in 1554, and the guild for cider distillation was created about 50 years later in 1606. In the 17th century the traditional cider farms expanded but taxation and prohibition of cider brandies were enforced elsewhere than Brittany, Maine and Normandy. The area called “Calvados” was created after the French Revolution, but “eau de vie de cidre” was already called “calvados” in common usage. In the 19th century output increased with industrial distillation and the working class fashion for “Café-calva”. When a phylloxera outbreak in the last quarter of the 19th century devastated the vineyards of France and Europe, calvados experienced a “golden age”. During World War I cider brandy was requisitioned for use in armaments due to its alcohol content. The appellation contrôlée regulations officially gave Calvados a protected name in 1942, and after the war, many cider-houses and distilleries were reconstructed, mainly in the Pays d’Auge. The Calvados appellation system was revised in 1984 and 1996. Pommeau got its recognition in 1991; in 1997 an appellation for Domfront with 30% pears was created.
So it seems to be a rather significant part of the spirit history, but how is it created?
Apples selected for distillation into Calvados fall into over 200 specially-grown varieties. Several varieties may be used into one brand of Calvados, ranging from very sweet apples, to tart and bitter, at various proportions. The fruit is harvested usually by hand from mid-October into December and pressed into a juice that is subsequently fermented into a dry cider. This dry cider is then distilled into an eau-de-vie, which is in turn blended and matured for a minimum of two-years in oak barrels. The longer the maturation, the more mellow the final product. Usually the maturation for Calvados goes on for several years.
The label may contain one of the following terms with reference to the age:
‘Fine’, ‘Trois étoiles ‘, ‘Trois pommes’ for a Calvados matured for at least 2 years.
‘Vieux’ – ‘Réserve’ is at least 3 years old.
‘V.O.’ ‘VO’, ‘Vieille Réserve’, ‘V.S.O.P.’ ‘VSOP’ – at least 4 years old.
‘Extra’, ‘X.O.’ ‘XO’, ‘Napoléon’, ‘Hors d’Age’ is at least 6 years old.
Calvados is sold much older, typically at 6, 8, 12, 15 or 25 years.
Calvados is governed by an ‘appellation contrôlée’ system, which defines the regions where Calvados can be produced; the varieties of apples used; the type of pressing and fermentation; and the distillation and the maturation. There are three Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée for Calvados ; the basic ‘AOC Calvados’ accounts for over 70 percent of the total production, prescribes a minimum of two years ageing in oak barrels and distillation in single column stills.
The ‘AOC Calvados Pays d’Auge’ is the highest quality appellation, that includes all basic rules for AOC Calvados along with several additional requirements, among others a minimum of six weeks fermentation of the cider and double distillation in an alembic still. Finally, ‘AOC Calvados Domfrontais’, a much fruitier and subtler style which is made of at least 30% pears. The appellation was created in 1997 in order to accommodate the long tradition of pear orchards in the region.
One brand that i’ve know of for a while now is Calvados Père Magloire. Established back in 1821 by Debrise-Dulac, he made Père Magloire brand the most important Calvados brand in France by 1900. By 1968, Debrise-Dulac was taken over by Champagne Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin, who contributed to the export development of the brand until 1998 when the independent Norman family group, Pays d’Auge Finances, took over. In 2005, Père Magloire maintained its position as the market leader brand of Calvados both in France and throughout the world, accounting for 70% of the export sales.
But how does Père Magloire fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Père Magloire VS – 40%
Sparkling apple on the nose with a slightly stewed aroma coming through. Sharp upon the palate, with a rich, natural sweetness of apple and floral fruits combining well. Bold, fresh and long on the finish.
Père Magloire VSOP – 40%
A minimum of 4 years old. Heavy apple aroma on the nose with a crisp, fresh flavour bursting on the palate. Well rounded.
Père Magloire XO – 40%
Minimum of 9 years old. Caramel and fudge aromas on the nose with a light, mellow apple scent. Sharp on the palate though with a strong apple kick, pepper and dry spice, moving to a citrus finish that lingers on the tongue.
Père Magloire 20yr – 40%
Blends of between 20 and 25 years. Fresh tobacco on the nose with candied apple, butter and soft wood aromas combining. The tobacco follows onto the palate, alongside cinnamon and crisp apple. Results in a dry finish.
Calvados is the basis of the tradition of le trou Normand, or “the Norman hole”. This is a small drink of Calvados taken between courses in a very long meal, sometimes with apple sorbet, supposedly to re-awaken the appetite. Or maybe just have one of these –
15 ml Fine Calvados Père Magloire
Top with Tonic Water
Build the ingredients into an ice filled rocks glass and garnish with a slice of lime.
If you are adventurous, National Calvados Week will give you a great insight into what is quite frankly sometimes a forgotten spirit. I’m not a cider fan, but Calvados? I could get use to it. Enjoy.