Can a French Calvados and a Swedish Akvavit marry? To find out we travelled to Normandie to visit the renowned Calvados distillery of Boulard. All the way back since 1825 they’ve been making Calvados, a cask aged apple eau-de-vie which is nowadays enjoyed all over the world – neat, but also in cocktails as we were to find out.
At the distillery we were greeted by William Ploquin-Maurell who’s the Export Business Developer at Spirit France Diffusion. We started off with a tasting of some of Boulard’s most well-known bottles including their Grand Solage. It is made with 3-5 years old Calvados that is then further matured on oak casks. To make just one bottle of this Calvados, about 18 kilos of apples are required. The result is a spirit bursting with apple flavors, combined with a touch of sweetness, some cinnamon and vanilla notes and maybe even orange and nuts. It is a perfect bottle to start with, especially if you’ve never tried Calvados before.
As one of the first ever, us and the group we travelled with were invited to have lunch right in the middle of the distillery. Two big round tables with white linen cloths were the immediate focus point when we entered the beautiful distillery. Here we were served a four-course lunch including a goat cheese mousse breaded with gingerbread, and then also a generous platter of French cheeses. It was a rather spectacular feeling enjoying all this phenomenal food and at the same time overlook the copper pot stills where Boulard double distill their Calvados. It was almost an emotional feeling, thinking about how the craft of making Calvados have been going on just here, since so long.
There’s actually an extra interesting reason why we visited Boulard just now. In April 2023 they will release a Calvados matured on O.P. Anderson akvavit casks, as part of Boulard’s 12-barrel collection. This is their innovative and experimental range of limited releases, where they let Calvados mature in special casks. So far batches of Calvados matured in bourbon, rye and Mizunara casks have been released. Some of those we got to taste during our visit, and we especially liked the rye cask aged version. The best of all though, was indeed the akvavit cask version about to be released. Maybe it’s because we’re Swedes, but there’s just something about those spice notes from akvavit coming through the apple Calvados. It’s a very Nordic flavor-experience packaged in a single bottle, that we can see ourselves mix cocktails with, and sipping neat. Here in Sweden the Boulard Grand Solage O.P. Anderson Aquavit Cask Finish will release on Systembolaget April 22, 2023.
Close to Boulard’s distillery (which is not currently open to the public) is the Calvados Experience Center, which is on the other hand very open to everyone interested in Calvados and the process of making it. An entrance fee of some ten euros grants you access to a 45-minute interactive and truly immersive experience. With the help of sound and light effects, full size models, moving media, projections and much more (we don’t want to spoil the fun of experiencing this yourself) visitors are led through the history of Normandie’s Calvados. We can’t stress how impressed we were by this tour and how high-tec it was. And just as the interactive experience ends, you literally end up in a tasting room where you can try, if not all, so at least most of Boulard’s products.
During our time at the Calvados Experience Center, we were treated to a surprise. In the tasting room bartender Camille Pila mixed an impressive seven different cocktails to us, all featuring Calvados, one of them even the Boulard Grand Solage O.P. Anderson Aquavit Cask Finish. Fittingly – Camille named that cocktail “A Swede in Calvados” mixing the mentioned Calvados with lemon, simple syrup and tonic water. We are now quite eager to mix cocktails ourselves with different Calvados varieties.
On our last afternoon in Normandie we went to Honfleur, an icon in the Norman landscape. Just by the harbor here, we had fresh oysters that we drizzled Calvados and O.P Anderson Klar Akvavit over. The temperature outside was around zero degrees Celsius only, but just thinking about the last two days experiences almost warmed us a bit. Later that evening we had dinner at a restaurant called Le Fleuron, and it was at this very place that William Ploquin-Maurell pulled his last trick – a bottle of Calvados XO Auguste – one of Boulard’s most exclusive products. It was a very fitting and delicious end to this Calvados-filled experience.
In Sweden the brand Boulard is distributed by Anora Sweden AB. We want to thank Martina Talmet, Marcus Pedersen and Jonas Ericsson from Anora for providing facts and insights for this article. Also thank you to Sophie Berlin and Emelie Ångström at Kitchen PR.