In Normandy’s colorful, New England-like autumn, apple aromas fill the air as apples are harvested to make that potent spirit that fortifies on a frosty winter evening.


In Normandy’s colorful, New England-like autumn, apple aromas fill the air as apples are harvested to make that potent spirit that fortifies on a frosty winter evening.

Unlike Cognac, that is exported in impressive quantities around the world, Calvados is produced in much smaller quantities and with the exception of some of the top producers, is consumed locally. My destination on this post-harvest October day was one of those high-end producers,The Christian Drouin Calvados Estate, in Coudray-Rabut.


Accompanied by several colleagues from the APE (Foreign Press Association,) I was met in the orchard by Guillaume Drouin, grandson of the founder, who began my Calvados education with a discussion of the thirty varieties of apples and pears that give Calvados it’s distinctive flavor. They range from bitter, tart, slightly acidic and  sweet; crunchy and soft, as we discovered by sampling those that had fallen to the ground.

An interesting sidelight to the production is that the cows that produce Normandy’s  famous cheeses: Camembert, Pont L’Eveque and Livarot, love to eat the worm-eaten apples that fall in September- excellent natural fertilizer.


After distillation the Calvados in aged in oak casks that were previously used for sherry, port and Banyuls. These re-used casks give more body, richer color and greater aromatic richness that new casks.


mme drouin

As a special treat we were invited to taste the gamut of Drouin products over lunch, prepared by Guillaume’s mother.

foie gras


To accompany the moist foie gras au pommeau (a blend of Calvados and apple juice) Guillaume served Poiré, a slightly sparkling beverage made from the pressing of pears immediately after they have fallen from the tree.

An ideal summer apéritif.


Before our main course we were offered two additional apéritifs: a Cidre Brut, considered by The New York Times to be the finest on the world, and the Pommeau that was used in the preparation of our foie gras entrée, and is also an excellent companion to desserts.



The main course was pan cooked quail, served with a VSOP blend of 5-12 year old Calvados.

It was an equally good partner with a classic Normandy assortment of Camembert, Pont l’Eveque and Livarot.




We finished this simple, classic Norman meal, with an apple tart and a 1995 Pays d’Auge.



And now we were ready for some serious tasting of the young and the old, including a 1958 and the limited production Pomme Prisonnière that I first tasted at the Left Bank restaurant in Larkspur, California in 1992.


Calvados Christian Drouin


To learn more Calvados, meet Charles Neal

And to learn how to handle your Calvados

Calvados, the incomparable pear and apple-based brandy from Normandy, France, has a history dating back nearly 500 years. While not as well known as Cognac or Armagnac, Calvados holds a dear place in the hearts of many spirits lovers.

In this comprehensive study, famed spirits writer and author, Charles Neal, takes the reader on a back road voyage throughout northern France, from mount Saint Michel to Rouen, from Omaha beach to the small, hidden hamlets of the Orne.

The history of the region and its distinctiveness in France are fully defined. All of the factors that go into making quality Calvados are explained, from the various soil types, apple and pear varieties, and cider production to its distillation and aging in barrel.

Complete with biographies and reviews of more than 200 producers and illustrated with lush, evocative photography of the Norman countryside, Calvados is both indispensable guide for the serious spirits connoisseur and nectar for Francophile souls.

Buy now




The Paris Insider Newsletter

THE PARIS INSIDER family of weekly newsletters,Including THE PARIS INSIDER (Tuesday,) THE PARIS READERS CIRCLE (Wednesday,) THE PARIS WEEKENDER (Thursday,) and THE PARIS INTERVIEW (Friday) offer freshly written reviews about restaurants, museums, books, events, showings and what's on in Paris. Arriving at 9:15 AM Pacific Time you'll receive all of this plus tips on excursions to the surrounding regions from Champagne to the Loire Valley and much more. Thank you for subscribing.