This year's birthday booze started out with a huge pour of the 1978 I'd opened last year. Back in 2012 I began the ritual of opening up a special (and expensive) 1978 whisky that I'd only drink on my birthday. That precedent-setter was a Balblair 1978, and it was good for three birthdays' worth of posts. Since 2012, a funny thing happened. Or not so funny, I guess. The price of 1978 whiskies has risen exponentially. Hell, 1988 whiskies are now more expensive than 1978s were three years ago. So while I do have a pair of '78 single malts in the stash, those will be the last. Vintage be damned, I'll just open something fun on my birthdays.
Meanwhile, last year, I decided I would open up a 1978 that I'd found for a fraction of the price of a single malt. It was a calvados, a calvados brandy from the Domfrontais region of Calvados, Lower Normandy, France. While calvados brandy is usually made primarily from apples, there is an exception. Pear trees flourish in the Domfrontais region's soil, so local brandy makers have added these fruits to their calvados mash. To get the "Domfrontais" appellation on the label, the calvados distillate needs to be made up of at least 30% pear. The Lemorton family's calvados distillate content is 70% pear.
For more words, see last year's post. And for even better info see Charles Neal's site.
To the booze!
Region: Calvados (in Lower Normandy)
Subregion/commune: Domfront, Orne
Distillate: approximately 30% apple / 70% pear
Distillation: once through a column still
Year distilled: 1978
Year bottled: 2013
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
(from just above mid-bottle)
The color is bourbon brown, pretty dark for a calvados. The nose starts out all apples and honey, and though other notes appear, the apples and honey always remain up front. There are some roses, lemon peels, oaty granola or maybe oats & brown sugar, and a hint of sweat. But in the palate, the pears take over. Small notes of salt, pepper, and clover honey. A mild sugariness, never cloying. After 20-30 minutes, tart apples come rolling in. Honey is the biggest note in the finish. Then, Macintosh apple skins. Yes, I know that's the wrong apple for this juice. A mild dryness lingers. Hints of baked apples and pears show up late.
So any changes since last year? Yep, much less wood spice now. Less pepper too, though that may have come from the wood as well. That has made the liquid an even easier drink now. Perhaps slightly less complex though. The pear notes have receded and the apples have largely taken over.
You readers will not see this getting reviewed next year. I'll open something else then. While this is still an enjoyable drink, there's nothing to keep it from being anything other than a nice everyday comfortable spirit for the warmer days. Okay, nothing other than the price and age statement. But it's open now and it's meant to be enjoyed and, frankly, it's not a world beater.
If you're looking for a calvados brandy distilled in 1978, there aren't many (or any?) others being sold in the US, so this would fit your needs. But you need to ask yourself, is the age or year of distillation really that important? The Camut 6 year old can stand toe-to-toe with this one any day, and at less than half the price.
Availability - A dozen or two retailers in the US and Europe
Pricing - $150-$180 (US), $120-$140 (Europe)
Rating - 84