fbpx
Created by potrace 1.12, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2015

We're just loading our login box for you, hang on!

Master of Malt Blog

Tag: Calvados

Five irresistible British apple brandies

Calvados may well be the best-known variety of apple brandy – but skip across the Channel, and you’ll find a burgeoning cider-based spirits scene right here in the UK. Here,…

Calvados may well be the best-known variety of apple brandy – but skip across the Channel, and you’ll find a burgeoning cider-based spirits scene right here in the UK. Here, we’ve picked out five British apple brandies to wet your whistle, no Eurostar required…

The first reference we have about distilling cider brandy is in a book called A Treatise of Cider by John Worlidge which was published in 1668, explains Matilda Temperley, director of the Somerset Cider Brandy Company. The farm can be found within 180 acres of cider apple orchards at the base of Burrow Hill in south Somerset, and was granted the UK’s first ever full cider distilling license in the 1980s. Today, its brandy has protected geographical indication (PGI) status. “The cider we distil is especially made for this purpose,” Temperley continues. “It is very pure with nothing added and contains at least 20 varieties of traditional cider apples. At the moment we are the only people in the UK to legally use the term Somerset Cider Brandy, because ‘brandy’ is tied to our PGI. Anyone else making aged cider spirit must use the term ‘cider spirit’.”

Somerset Cider Brandy Company

Julian Temperley from the Somerset Cider Brandy Company

Matilda’s father, Julian Temperley, pioneered the resurrection of the category, paving the way for other apple enthusiasts to get stuck in – people like Chris Toller, co-founder of Shropshire’s Henstone Distillery, which opened its doors in 2016. His brandy is distilled in a 1,000-litre pot column hybrid still named Hilda and matured in new American oak barrels.

Two of Henstone’s four founders own a brewery that also produces cider, “so it seemed obvious that we should distill it!” Toller says. “We named our spirit Nonpareil after one of the apple varieties used to make the cider. The Sweeney Nonpareil is a native Shropshire apple that almost became extinct in the 1970s and now features in our orchard here at the distillery.”

While the category as a whole remains very much under the radar, the emergence of independent cider producers across England, Wales and beyond will mean there’s plenty of produce to distil. We can only hope to taste the fruits of their labour in aged form over the years to come, so long as British spirits continue to pique the interest of drinks fans.

“There’s talk of a brown spirit revolution, which is encouraging,” says Temperley, adding that production can be a painstaking process – there are brandies ageing for up to 25 years at the Somerset Cider Brandy Company farm. “We have just built a new bonded warehouse to double our output, so we are feeling positive,” she says.

While we wait for those – and others – to come of age, here’s our pick of five phenomenal cider-based spirits from around the UK…

Henstone Nonpareil

From: Henstone Distillery, Shropshire
Henstone Nonpareil is made by distilling Stonehouse Brewery’s Sweeney Mountain Cider in a pot column hybrid still. The use of the columns means the process is equivalent to five individual distillations, resulting in a “very smooth distillate”, says Toller. Maturation in new American oak barrels introduces “a pleasant vanilla flavour and a little smoke on the nose,” he adds.

Shipwreck Single Cask Cider 

From: Somerset Cider Brandy Company, Somerset
Billed as the South-West’s answer to Calvados, thanks, in part, to the Coffey still used to make it, Shipwreck Single Cask Cider Brandy is a unique proposition. The 10 year old brandy has been finished in shipwrecked Allier oak barrels from the MSC Napoli, which ran into difficulty en route to South Africa back in 2007. Hence the name.

Greensand Ridge

Maturing casks at Greensand Ridge

Greensand Ridge Apple Brandy

From: Greensand Ridge Distillery, Kent
Dubbed the “whisky of the Weald” (by its producer), Greensand Ridge Apple Brandy is made from sweet dessert apples collected from fruit growers across Kent and Sussex. After a long fermentation, the cider is distilled and aged in ex-bourbon barrels. Since the apples are surplus, the varieties and ratios changed year-on-year – this bottling is made with 60% Gala and 40% Mairac.

Dà Mhìle Apple Brandy

From: Dà Mhìle Distillery, Wales
Fantastic liquid from the folks at Welsh distillery Dà Mhìle, which is made from organic wild apples foraged from their own farm as well as the nearby valleys. The fruit is first made into cider, then quadruple distilled and aged in former French red wine barrels for a year. Rich, rounded and very moreish.

Fowey Valley 1 Year Old Cider Brandy

From: Fowey Valley Cider, Cornwall
The folks at Fowey Valley distill their vintage cider an honourable five times before laying the liquid down in new American oak barrels for a minimum of one year. Expect black cherry and sandalwood on the nose, with nuts, molasses, raisins liquorice and pepper on the palate. Sound good? Be quick, there’s only one bottle left.

No Comments on Five irresistible British apple brandies

Save the bees, drink Calvados

Not only is Calvados one of France’s best-kept secrets, it’s also one of the most sustainable spirits in the world. We get the low-down on this unjustly neglected brandy as…

Not only is Calvados one of France’s best-kept secrets, it’s also one of the most sustainable spirits in the world. We get the low-down on this unjustly neglected brandy as Avallen Calvados co-founders Tim Etherington-Judge and Stephanie Jordon introduce their eco-friendly brand to the world.

“Calvados is an extremely dusty old-fashioned category,” Etherington-Judge admits. “There’s amazing liquid inside the bottles, but they’ve been marketed and designed by old French producers. I liken it to single malt Scotch in the early eighties, which was driven by connoisseurship of a few people in the know. If you didn’t, it was very unapproachable.”

For the uninitiated, Calvados is brandy made with French apples and pears. All Calvados has to come from Normandy, and much like Cognac, it is governed by appellation contrôlée regulations and has a very stringent set of production rules (which you’ll find on our Calvados list page, the link is above). For Avallen – an old Cornish word, FYI, meaning apple tree – the duo partnered with existing distillery Domaine du Coquerel, which sources apples from 300 different farmers located within a 20 to 30-kilometre radius to create the liquid.

From left: Tim Etherington-Judge; Pierre Martin Neuhaus, owner of Distillerie Coquerel; Stephanie Jordan

“The apples come in, they’re washed, they’re pressed and the juice is fermented, which takes around two to three months because it’s a wild fermentation that happens in the winter,” says Etherington-Judge. The liquid is aged in French oak barrels for two years and bottled at 40% ABV with no added sugar, caramel or boisé. Some of the pulp from the apples is used to make the paper for Avallen’s labels – which are printed with sustainable dyes – and the rest is loaded into a methane digester and turned into gas to run the distillery. The bottle, meanwhile, is one of the lightest on the market, reducing Avallen’s carbon footprint during shipping.

When Etherington-Judge and Jordon, who worked together at multinational drinks goliath Diageo, set out to build their own brand, they wanted the project to be as sustainable and as environmentally-friendly as possible. Calvados as a category promotes biodiversity and extremely local production, explains Etherington-Judge. “Cows roam the orchards in Normandy, the bees pollinate the flowers and the cows eat some of the early-ripening apples and fertilise the trees,” he continues. “There’s also a very low level of chemical use in Normandy and where we’re made, in La Moche, no pesticides are used at all. It’s very different to the monoculture [cultivated for] the grains for our whiskies and gins and the sugarcane fields for our rums.”

For every bottle sold, the duo will donate €0.50 of profit to organisations dedicated to restoring and protecting the declining bee population. They have also committed to planting 100,000 wildflowers across the next three years, and operate the business as a vegan company – you won’t find any eggs in an Avallen Sour. “One of the biggest causes of bee decline is industrial agriculture, particularly the farming of meat,” says Etherington-Judge. “How can we talk about saving the bees if we are not following through on it on every single decision we make?”. The duo are also dabbling with blockchain technology, uploading laboratory analyses, invoices for each charitable donation and, eventually, finer details about the orchards online in a bid to be “100% transparent and authentic”.

Save the bees!

Save the bees!

Traditionally, Calvados has been enjoyed as a digestif, but the team behind Avallen want to “completely break away from that model because it’s obviously not working for the category, and get back into cocktails” from the “simple and delicious” Avellen and Tonic to the old-school Delicious Sour, which dates back to 1891 and combines Calvados, peach brandy, lemon juice, simple syrup and a pasteurised egg white (or an alternative vegan foaming agent in Avallen’s case).

Whether served straight up, in a short sipper or as a component in a quaffable long drink, Avallen is set to bring some vibrancy and life into what is, at present, a dull and poorly-understood category. “At the end of the day, it tastes like cooked apples and vanilla custard,” muses Etherington-Judge. “Who won’t love that flavour?”

The bartender’s last word…

“Guests who have been on holiday to Normandy are generally the only people aware of Calvados,” says Tom Soden, co-founder of sustainable London cocktail bar Nine Lives, where Avallen made its UK debut. “It’s lost behind the more famous brandies of France. Perhaps this is due to no particular brand evolving – Calvados brands haven’t changed with the times.

“Typically Calvados has been used as a more accessible alternative to Cognac – both in terms of taste and price,” he continues. While stirred drinks and classic style Punches seem to be the favourites, the “round fruit flavours” in Calvados make it “a great entry level into more spirit-forward drinks”.

“Stronger Sours and lighter stirred drinks have been where we’ve found Calvados to excel,” he continues. “Perhaps the introduction of new dynamic brands like Avallen will break new ground and attract new customers.”

Avallen Calvados

Avallen Calvados

 

No Comments on Save the bees, drink Calvados

New Arrival of the Week: Compass Box Affinity

What happens when you gather two really rather delicious beverages, one from Scotland, and one from France, and mix them together? Compass Box has done just that with Scotch and…

What happens when you gather two really rather delicious beverages, one from Scotland, and one from France, and mix them together? Compass Box has done just that with Scotch and Calvados. The result? Affinity, an intriguing thing indeed…

Oh, Compass Box. The whisky blender extraordinaire, the maverick drinks maker, the champion of transparency*. What can’t be said about the self-proclaimed whiskymaker? (We visited way back in 2012 and were super-impressed. Time for a return trip.) Not only do the brand’s bottlings look the part (seriously, check out the labels), the blends themselves are seriously innovative. Well, that’s what I thought. Until Affinity came along, and suddenly, the rest of the range feels almost pedestrian in comparison.

Why the hype? Because Compass Box Affinity is one of those category-defying, hybrid spirits we got so excited about at the start of the year. And it’s here!

Affinity is a Scotch whisky-Calvados blend. And it’s a union made in heaven. Quite why it’s not been tried before I’m not sure (do let me know if you spot something similar already out in the wild). It’s appley, of course – thanks to the Calvados, from Christian Drouin, which, at 37.5% of the volume, is by far the largest of the six constituent parts.

As well as Calvados, Affinity is produced using a Highland malt blend (Clynelish, Dailuaine, Teaninich) matured in three different cask types, a blended Scotch parcel from a refill sherry butt, and Craigellachie from a first-fill sherry butt. It’s exciting to be able to dissect something in such a way. Especially a spirit so unusual in terms of its make-up. This is the joy of Compass Box. Not only is the product range genuinely ingenious, the brand is committed to letting us all know, in as much detail as it legally can, exactly what its drinks are made from.

In his notes on the release, Compass Box founder John Glaser says the team has been blending Calvados and Scotch for some time, “enchanted” by the character of the pair. “One of the world’s greatest spirits, sadly Calvados is also one of the most under-appreciated,” he writes. “Affinity showcases the mouth-coating texture and ripe fragrance of Calvados, partnering it with the rich spiciness and malty aromas of Scotch whisky.”

Delicious indeed. But how to drink it? The inspired Compass Box sorts recommend serving Affinity with amaro and vermouth for a thoroughly unexpected Boulevardier twist. Or with a sweet tarte tatin (guaranteed to impress at the next dinner party). I reckon simply sipping over ice is thoroughly pleasing, especially now the mild spring evenings are here. Tchin-tchin!

*In 2016, Compass Box launched a Scotch Whisky Transparency campaign after it got told off by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) for inadvertently breaking the law around age statements on two of its products. Compass Box had detailed the ages of the constituent parts in its blends, but EU law states that only the youngest can be disclosed.  

 

Compass Box Affinity

Compass Box Affinity

No Comments on New Arrival of the Week: Compass Box Affinity

New Arrival of the Week: Mackmyra Äppelblom

Our new arrival this week is Mackmyra Äppelblom, a whisky from Sweden’s original single malt distillery which has been finished in a pretty rare cask. The clue is in the…

Our new arrival this week is Mackmyra Äppelblom, a whisky from Sweden’s original single malt distillery which has been finished in a pretty rare cask. The clue is in the name…

Back in 1999, Mackmyra was the first and only whisky distillery in Sweden. The story began with eight friends who all loved whisky but realised there were no Swedish producers. Naturally, they questioned why, and solved this problem by creating their own!

Today, Mackmyra is actually made up of two distilleries and continues to push boundaries. When it launched in 2002, distillation was carried out at the Mackmyra Bruk site, until 2011 when production was moved to the new Gravity Distillery at Gävle. This innovative feat of construction stands 35 metres tall and seven storeys high. As you might have guessed from the name, the distillery makes use of gravity throughout the whisky-making process. In 2017, the old distillery at Mackmyra Bruk was brought back up-and-running under the name Lab+Distillery, which explores slightly more experimental spirits.

The Gravity Distillery!

Mackmyra Äppelblom, the latest release, is a single malt aged in ex-bourbon and new American oak casks. Äppelblom, meaning apple blossom in Swedish, refers to the very special finishing process in oak casks which previously held Calvados from one of the region’s leading producers, Christian Drouin (Calvados is an apple or pear brandy from Normandy in France). The family-run company began in 1960, and the apples come from the Drouin family orchards, many of them harvested by hand. Mackmyra’s master blender Angela D’Orazio partnered with Christian Drouin and his son Guillaume to create the whisky, which is bottled at 46.1% ABV. It seems it was a match made in heaven; D’Orazio commented that “the choice of Calvados producer was easy. Christian Drouin creates absolutely fantastic Calvados, […] he has challenged French traditions in this area, and is therefore the perfect match for Mackmyra’s approach and our enjoyment of experimenting”.

Since Christian Drouin’s Calvados is aged for an exceptionally long time, a minimum of 20 years, there’s very little opportunity for the casks to be used a second time. For the first 20 years of the business, all of Drouin’s Calvados was ageing and not one bottle was sold. We’d say that was quite an investment, and clearly this isn’t a finish that we’ll see all that often! Guillaume Drouin, managing director at Calvados Christian Drouin stated that he was “happy to see the result of this innovative ageing using one of the very few casks we ship from our cellar”.

We present to you, Mackmyra Äppelblom!

The result is a lightly-spiced and fruity whisky, reminiscent of fresh green apples, just in time for spring! While wonderful served neat, you can also try Mackmyra Äppelblom alongside a warm apple dessert or even apple sorbet.

Tasting note for Mackmyra Äppelblom:

Nose: Toasted oak and orchard fruits galore, namely apple and pear with a hint of lemon, delicate floral notes with sweet vanilla and toffee.

Palate: Well-rounded fruity and spicy notes continue with the marriage of pear and citrus. Cedar wood emerges alongside aniseed, caramelised almonds, white pepper and ginger spiciness.

Finish: Spicy tones linger with gentle oak and zesty lemon and apple.

No Comments on New Arrival of the Week: Mackmyra Äppelblom

Fantastic French Brandies

Indulge yourselves in the final days of autumn in style with this fantastic selection of French brandies… Autumn means the days are shorter, colder and darker. But this is nothing…

Indulge yourselves in the final days of autumn in style with this fantastic selection of French brandies…

Autumn means the days are shorter, colder and darker. But this is nothing to fear or loathe because it’s the perfect setting to enjoy everything the wonderful world of French brandy has to offer!

And why not? French brandy is no longer a forgotten favourite. It’s ditched the stuffy old-man’s image. The three French ‘Appellation Contrôlée’* brandies, Armagnac, Calvados (the Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams to Cognac’s Beyonce Knowles) and Cognac, are all now welcome guests at cocktail parties and bartenders have embraced the bold, complex spirits with a wide range of styles and character.

So, join us, both seasoned experts and intrepid newcomers alike, as we run through some of the most flavoursome and fantastic French brandy around. À votre santé!

No Comments on Fantastic French Brandies

Warming tipples for autumn evenings!

Join us as well celebrate all things autumn with a round-up of sensational seasonal spirits! Autumn is a season loved by many. It’s all about comfort food and drink. It’s…

Join us as well celebrate all things autumn with a round-up of sensational seasonal spirits!

Autumn is a season loved by many. It’s all about comfort food and drink. It’s a chance to make the most of the produce from the seasonal harvest. It’s the time to attend bonfire nights and Halloween parties. It’s the season when we welcome the darkening nights and browning leaves with a hearty tipple and, let’s face it, heaps of bloody pumpkin spice.

But what makes the perfect autumn drink? Summer refreshers and cocktails are now out of the question. But winter warmers aren’t the required tonic just yet. In autumn, or ‘fall’, for our exceptionally literal friends in the United States, it only seems right to celebrate brown spirits: whisky, Armagnac, Cognac, Calvados and darker or spiced rums, as well as liqueurs and cocktails packed with seasonal fruits and colours.

In this spirit, we’ve produced a list of appropriately autumnal boozes. Each comes with a seasonal serve if you want to get creative. These ought to keep you going until the snow starts to fall.

No Comments on Warming tipples for autumn evenings!

Around The World In 80 Drams – Week 8 – Janneau

It’s week 8 in our Around The World In 80 Drams tour – we’re one tenth of the way through! We’re making our third and final stop in France this…

Janneau

It’s week 8 in our Around The World In 80 Drams tour – we’re one tenth of the way through! We’re making our third and final stop in France this week, sampling yet another distinctly French spirit. As I mentioned last week, we were heading to a commune which my class in school couldn’t help but giggle at the name of when we were learning French geography. Yes, we’re heading to Condom to taste some Armagnac! But from which distillery? One that would take me over four hours to travel to from Courvoisier – it’s Janneau, of course!

No Comments on Around The World In 80 Drams – Week 8 – Janneau

Around The World In 80 Drams – Week 6 – Domaine Dupont

Hello and welcome to the 6th stop on my Around the World in 80 Drams expedition! Last week we were in Belgium with the Filliers fellas, and this week we’re…

Domaine Dupont

Hello and welcome to the 6th stop on my Around the World in 80 Drams expedition! Last week we were in Belgium with the Filliers fellas, and this week we’re heading south to France! I mentioned that you should prepare for apples before reading this instalment, so of course that means Calvados is on the cards! We’re heading to one of the most well-known Calvados producers – Domaine Dupont!

I also mentioned that it would take me about 20 hours to travel between Filliers and Domaine Dupont via American crocodile, which I admit wasn’t much of a hint. I think I was just a bit more concerned about locating said American crocodile in Belgium at the time, both because it would be difficult and also because if I did find one it would be absolutely bloody terrified.

No Comments on Around The World In 80 Drams – Week 6 – Domaine Dupont

The Eccentric History of Berry Brothers and Rudd — Part II

The first George Berry was born in 1787 and, at the impressionable age of 16, made the two-day journey from Exeter to London, in which city he remained. He would…

Berry Brothers and Rudd

The first George Berry was born in 1787 and, at the impressionable age of 16, made the two-day journey from Exeter to London, in which city he remained. He would become an extremely successful merchant, maintaining a clear focus on wine and spirits – a tradition continued by his sons George Jr. and Henry – the original “Berry Brothers” who took the helm in 1845.

Berry’s young life was not without event. In 1838, he signed up as a special constable during the Chartist riots, alongside his friend, the future Napoleon III. Years later, whilst in exile in London, Napoleon used the very cellars at No. 3 to hold secret meetings. Two storeys below terra, the marvellous stone-walled chamber bears his name, and is home to a collection of ancient bottles from centuries ago, back when a member of the gentry would have his own glass bottle stamped with his seal. The sealed bottles would be taken to No.3 to be filled with wine or spirit, and returned when they were empty. Napoleon’s own bottle still stands in one corner.

No Comments on The Eccentric History of Berry Brothers and Rudd — Part II

New Product entitled… erm… “Brown Drink”

  So – we’ve been doing our Drinks by the Dram whisky sample service for almost a year now, and in that time have decanted ‘loads’ of 700ml bottles into…

 

browndrinkthumb

So – we’ve been doing our Drinks by the Dram whisky sample service for almost a year now, and in that time have decanted ‘loads’ of 700ml bottles into 30ml samples.
 
700 divided by 30 is 690, so even if one is slightly generous with the 30ml measure, there’s still going to be a little drop or two left over.
 
My original plan (and I thought it was a darned good one) was to save all of this up, and make some awesome cocktails at the staff Christmas party, or maybe do something at the directors’ joint birthday party, but it turns out that “a little drop or two” multiplied by “loads” is about 37 full-sized bottles-worth.
 
Even we aren’t that thirsty.
3 Comments on New Product entitled… erm… “Brown Drink”

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search