We tasted four premium spirits from Calvados Boulard – the Grand Solage, V.S.O.P., the Auguste XO and Extra that retails for a mere £328 a bottle. We then tried them as mixers in a range of classic cocktails. But not with the Extra. Obviously.
The Buyer re-assesses Calvados as a category and as a mixer in classic cocktails.
Calvados Boulard is one of a number of premium Calvados labels in a small, steady category in the UK. In France and Sweden the category and brand are much larger.
Part of the success that Calvados Boulard has had in those markets, especially with lowering the age of the demographic, has been with what it calls its Apple Twist serves – taking classic cocktails and using Calvados as the base spirit.
Calvados Boulard was founded in 1825 by Pierre-Auguste Boulard and has been passed down from generation to generation. The company selects from a staggering 120 different varieties of apple from the Pays D’Auge and makes this apple brandy from eaux-de-vie aged between three and five years. Traditionally copper pot stills were used with open fires, today the same style of still is used but with gas.
The Calvados Boulard tasting was conducted in two halves with the four spirits tasted neat and then used in an Old Fashioned, a Manhattan and a Mojito mixed at the Churchill Bar, Hyatt Regency, London.
Calvados Boulard Tasting:
Grand Solage (RRP £31.99)
Calvados Boulard’s entry level spirit is 2-5 years old. The nose is freshly-picked apples, the colour is light amber. It has an attractive mouthfeel with the spirit presence you get with an entry level liquid and a persistence on the finish. From first to last this is primary apple characters and flavours. Pair with: cured fish, such as gravlax or rich creamy cheese such as Pont-l’Évêque or Camembert.
V.S.O.P. (RRP £35.99)
Because of the ‘angels’ share’ this is a much more concentrated and darker liquid. It is produced with a blend of Calvados varieties from the Pays D’Auge and aged for a minimum of four years. The nose and palate is cooked apples, caramel and roasted nuts with red fruit and vanilla notes also present. It has a much greater persistence that comes from double distillation and was better with the fire killed by a large ice cube in the glass. Like a liquid toffee apple. I would be very happy with it as a late night sip. Pair with: roasted game such as venison.
XO Auguste (RRP £155)
A blend of old liquid 30-40 years old, certainly above 20 years old. This has different apple characteristics on account of it being aged in different casks – ones containing fresh apple juice, so it has a sweetness and a ripe apple profile like a Pommeau. Ripe apple on the nose and then very rich flavours with notes of toffee and dark syrup. Like a freshly baked apple pie that you just want to have more and more of. This was created as a tribute to Pierre-Auguste Boulard. Pair with: Tarte Tatin and cream.
Extra (RRP £328)
The most elegant and refined of the range as you might expect from the price point. Aged in old oak it is very dark and rich, very refined and has deep tastes of apple with hints of violet, vanilla and sweet almonds. This is a much less aggressive spirit. Should be drunk on its own. In revered silence. Magnificent.
In addition to these four spirits Calvados Boulard also produces a straight X.O. and Vincent for the pouring on-trade.
So what are they like in cocktails?
The three serves that Calvados Boulard was promoting were an Old Fashioned, Manhattan and Mojito.
The Old Fashioned was made with: 4cl V.S.O.P., 1 dash Angostura bitters, 1tsp sugar syrup, 1/2 orange slice, 2 cherries.
The Manhattan was made with: 6cl V.S.O.P., 1 dash Angostura bitters, 2cl Red Vermouth, orange zest.
Mojito was made with 4cl Grand Solage, 1cl sugar syrup, 1/2 lime, mint leaves, 6cl ginger ale.
To be honest the only one of these serves I liked was the Old Fashioned which tasted like an Old Fashioned but distinctly different… in a good way. You miss the smokiness of the bourbon but you do get a very nice, rich, fruity cocktail that works well. I thought it was too sweet and would experiment with the sugar syrup but overall a thumbs up.
The other two I thought missed the point of the original serves, the Mojito being particularly wide of the mark. What I would say though is that if I was a bartender for sure I would have Calvados as an ingredient. You might need to do some hand-holding and promoting on the more entry level cocktails, but the V.S.O.P. I can see working nicely in a super-premium environment as a classic cocktail with a twist, especially the Old Fashioned.
Calvados Boulard is distributed in the UK by Cellar Trends.