The name ‘Calvados’ is reserved solely for apple brandy produced in the environs of Calvados in the Normandy region of northern France.


The ancient Greeks and Hebrews knew how to make wine and cider. The first knowledge of distillation dates back to the 8th century Arabia. Several regions of Europe soon became familiar with stronger alcohol. At first, the mysterious water of life was of interest mainly to apothecaries, alchemists and monks, but by the 16th century, whisky, rum, gin, tequila and brandy were also in the glasses of ordinary mortals.

Unlike the warm countries favourable to growing grapes, windswept Normandy was better suited to growing apples. The legendary Camembert cheese also originated in Normandy.

Of course, eating hearty rustic food, like pork roast, fish or seafood in a cream sauce – also required the right amount of drink. Initially, digestion was aided by drinking fermented apple juice, which was later replaced by a stronger drink.

It is not known precisely when brandy was first made from apple cider. In 1553, written sources mention a drink called strong cider or cider brandy. Ironically, the patriotic French must have borrowed the name for one of their most unique drinks from the Spanish! According to the legend, in 1588, the Spanish King Philip II’s armada ship El Calvador was wrecked off the coast of Normandy, which is how the locals came to call the area Calvador. Later the name was replaced by the more French version – Le Calvados. In 1790, the name of the province was officially registered on the French map.

A century ago, 90% of Calvados was produced on the farms of local livestock farmers. Calvados was produced on almost every farmstead, at least for personal use, as cheese and bread.

In 1942, the Appelation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) rules were adopted, leading to radical changes. Today, 85-90% of Calvados is produced in the larger cideries. There are around 6,000 licensed producers in the birthplace of Calvados. Around 50% of Calvados produced is exported.

The region, where production is regulated by the AOC rules, has around 200 different apple varieties and more than 9 million fruit trees. The apples used for cider production are sweet, bitter or sour. In addition, small green pears may be used to add the acidity to the drink. One bottle of Calvados requires 10-11 litres of apple wine and about 12 kg of apples. No sugar is added to the fresh juice, as the sugar in the apples allows the juice to ferment naturally, resulting in a cider with an alcoholic strength of 4.5-6% VOL.

Small apples or pears, the size of a golf ball, are neither pretty nor tasty, but they are rich in tannins, which are essential for long-lasting flavour. It’s amazing how such unattractive apples make such a divine drink!

The first round of distillation produces a drink of 20-30% VOL. The second round of distillation produces a drink of about 70% VOL. and can be considered as a young calvados. It acquires its true flavour and colour during ageing in oak or other types of wood barrels. A little water is added to the drink to reduce the strength of the Calvados, the aging of which takes from a few weeks to 40 years or more. Fruit and timing make for a great Calvados, but the knowledge and experience of the experts, the wood of the barrels, ventilation, relative humidity and temperature in the aging cellars are also crucial factors.

Younger Calvados has a strong fruity flavour, which diminishes over the years. For instance, the influence of oak wood leads to nutty, tobacco, vanilla and other flavour notes. The appellation rules lay down requirements only for the characteristics of the raw spirit to be blended, everything else depends very much on the skill of the blender.


Calvados can be served in a variety of ways and can be enjoyed either before, with or after a meal:

  • Neat, at room temperature or on the rocks, poured into old-style, thick-bottomed glasses;
  • A sip from a shot glass of Calvados with a meal improves digestion;
  • Coffee flavoured with Calvados is a perfect winter drink; sometimes Calvados is also added to tea;
  • Can be enjoyed diluted with juice or lemon tonic and garnished with lemon or apple slices;
  • A sip of Calvados washed down with apple juice or cider.