A lovely expression of an apple liqueur made with high quality, aged, Calvados as a base, and not sugared to death.
Notes: l is a relative newcomer to Calvados having been established in 1954. Located in Breuil en Auge, a small town in the Normandy area in the heart of the Calvados region. This region is also noted for its cheeses, butter, cider, and Pommeau.
Located on the grounds of the national landmark Chateau du Breuil, the distillery itself was originally a cheese factory and the aging warehouse was the stable and carriage house ( a very large one) with some breathtaking architecture. ( Hint; it looks like the timberwork of the hull of a wooden ship – since most of the carpenters in the area built ships nearby they carried over a tried and true layout which is breathtaking).
It should be noted that Chateau du Breuil produces only Pays D’Auge Calvados which is from a very small and specific area of the Calvados region – roughly the equivalent of the Grande Champagne designation for the finest growth areas in Cognac. Many of the apples used by them are grown in their own orchards and the rest they source from other local growers under contract within this strictly delineated area.
The harvest, preparation, fermentation, and distillation are of interest in how they are accomplished and some of the details are here:
Production begins with a careful selection of 5 varieties of the finest quality apples in the Pays d’Auge region of Normandy in France. These apples are picked at their peak and then allowed to ferment due to the presence of natural yeast, with no additives to accelerate the process.
Fermentation will yield a fermented ( hard) cider of about 5% after fermentation. This cider is distilled twice, once a stripping run, then again for a final distillation where the cuts are made and the heart of the distillation is carefully transferred to oak casks for aging.
The casks are either Limousin or Troncais oak, the same oak as used in Cognac aging. Entry proof (when the Calvados is put into the barrel) at this point is usually 140 to 144 proof. This is somewhat higher than bourbon or cognac but still retaining a lot of flavor. At Chateau du Breuil they use a charentais classic copper alembic still from Prudhoe, who is essentially the Vendome of France ( for all you bourbon enthusiasts who love Vendome).
The distillation process takes place between the beginning of winter and June 30th of the following year. The steps and procedures are roughly similar to Cognac harvest and distillation guidelines (also strictly spelled out)
To make one liter of Calvados 100% pure alcohol, about 27 kg ( approx 60 LBs ) apples or 20 liters ( approx 5.28 gallons) of 5% alcohol by volume cider are necessary.
The liqueur is made from 60% young Calvados, concentrated apple juice, sugar, and natural apple aromas. As a side note, French legal guidelines specify a minimum of 30 grams of sugar per liter for liqueurs and 40 grams per liter for cremes.
Appearance: Clear, Lovely light gold/amber, on swirling it leaves a nice oily coat on the glass. After a while the meniscus recedes and leaves random tears/droplets on the inner surface of the glass.
First Impression: Ripe apples, oily and seductive, with apple skin scent and a thick apple bouquet.
Taste: Oily thick entry, with sweetness giving some ground to a nicely structured acidity, with oily aromatics and wood notes.An almost dessert version of Calvados ( and yes, great on ice cream or pastries too).
Drinks: While I don’t know of many cocktails for this liqueur, I think it has amazing potential. Think of it as an apple version ( including the aged calvados) of Grand Marnier or Cointreau and go out and create a new classic!
Bottle: Somewhat similar to the Calvados bottles from the same distillers.Nicely weighted punt bottom. cylindrical with a sloping shoulder to a long graceful neck. Slightly bulbous flare near the top makes for a nice grip and control. Bottle itself has a nice balance for handling and pouring. Flat black foil capsule with a stamped Chateau Du Breuil and C du B on the headstamp in old gold ink. Underneath is a rigid top on a composite cork. Foil is precut and makes for easy opening. Obviously a lot of thought and design went into this bottle and presentation. Well Done!
Other: Photos of the distillery can be found on our flickr photo link. Outstanding Calvados and absolutely worth a visit if you are near Normandy or that part of France!
Final Thoughts: A very well done apple liqueur- not overly sweet like many.I think this liqueur has huge potential for cocktail mixology. Hope they import it to the U.S. soon!
Beautifully done and fast-loading if not a huge amount of information ( granted I go in for geeky details.