Much like cognac, champagne, and bordeaux, calvados is a product and a region. The region of Calvados is located in Normandy in northwest France and has more apple orchards than anywhere else in France. Finding new and creative ways to consume apples has been a way of life in these parts for centuries. The first account on record of apple cider distillation dates back to 1553 when Gilles de Gouberville, locally credited with the invention of cider eau-de-vie and by extension Calvados, wrote about stills and eau-de-vie in his memoirs. Considering that the Arabs introduced the method of distillation in 12th century, it’s likely that the practice of crushing apples, the pressing, fermenting, and distilling of them, was employed well before the de Gouberville wrote about it.
The product that we now know as calvados was nothing more than a local specialty enjoyed by the people of Normandy until the mid-1800s. Advancements in transportation brought about increased commerce and tourism to Normandy’s seaside towns, exposing more and more people to what was by now a fully elaborated product. This emergence of calvados coincided with what we now know as the Great French Wine Blight, an aphid infestation that destroyed many of the country’s vineyards. Interest in calvados skyrocketed.
FRENCH MOONSHINERS REVOLT
The period after World War II ushered in a time of exuberance and celebration in France. In an effort to slow down the consumption of alcohol and likely to pay down wartime debt, the government implemented higher taxes and more restrictions on distillation practices. The Domfrontais region of Calvados, home to countless small family farms separated by high and thick hedges, turned out to be an ideal location to circumvent these new taxes and restrictions. Farmer distillers would crank up the stills illicitly on nights when it was unlikely that government officials would be around to supervise until one night in 1962 when the government caught on to the operation and busted in on the bootleggers mid-distillation. Who needs the Internet when you’re a small farming community? Before long a crowd of neighboring farmers showed up in support of their bootlegging brethren. The government officials were surrounded by the angry mob of farmers and it didn’t look like a peaceful resolution was possible.
Enter the Secretary General of the Farmer’s Federation, a man by the name of Count Louis de Lauriston. He had been alerted to the mess in Domfrontais and arrived in time to find a peaceful way out of the increasingly tense impasse. The Count, or Comte in French, negotiated the fines be cancelled on the condition that a cooperative be created to cellar, market, and distribute the Domfrontais farmers’ calvados. Since 1962, calvados distilled by these farmers using their time-tested methods has been cellared by the cooperative and marketed and distributed under the brand name Comte Louis de Lauriston and has received over 200 medals in spirit competitions since. Well played Louis, well played.
The nose on the Comte Louis de Lauriston Calvados Domfrontais V.S.O.P. is loaded with apples and pears. No real surprise there considering that Domfrontais calvados must be made up of at least 30% pear, but additionally there are nuanced notes of oak, vanilla, and a touch of ginger. The palate follows more of the same, delivered with a crisp freshness along a light to medium body.
Cigar Pairing: AVO Syncro Caribe
The AVO Caribe is smooth and creamy with a mild- to medium-bodied profile of cedar, sweet spice, tanned leather, and a touch of white pepper. Combined with the Louis de Lauriston Calvados Domfrontais V.S.O.P., the cigar’s creaminess is cranked up and integrated with a delightful touch of pear sweetness on the finish and retrohale.