I'm fascinated by antiquity. The flavors that are imprinted into our DNA through hundreds of years of tasting are the ones that make the most sense for me to drink. This is why you'll never see me write about candy flavored vodka... They are not real- they're not even surreal!
Years ago, around 1972 my parents took me to Normandy in the northwestern reaches of France to experience the D-Day beaches from right up close.
The area still hadn't been discovered by tourists and the beaches although clean, still had remnants of the battle-field just beyond your grasp. I said undiscovered because the only people who came here were either the locals or a very hardy group of survivors from the battle that re-defined WWII. I'll never forget that day that I visited because although it was late summer, we had a freak snowstorm that covered everything in a think mantle of snow.
And for just a few hours, all that I saw was covered in pure, fluffy white. Even the birds stopped singing.
Since it was cold and we hadn't brought the proper clothing for a snowstorm, we tucked into a local pub/restaurant to wait out the storm with a hot bowl of soup and some omelets.
The barman/owner brought our soup and we ate in silence as the snow fell thickly outside. He knew why we were there and we knew that the food was not just for filling our bellies, but for filling our hearts with what we left at the cemeteries.
Many tears were shed that day for those who were lost on the beaches and in the orchards surrounding the villages.
But not for naught, there were laughs to be had as well, although seemingly far away at the moment.
Because as we lost ourselves in our hot food, he brought down a bottle from the shelf behind the bar and poured each of us a healthy dram of what appeared to be Armagnac or perhaps Cognac. What he poured into our glasses was neither.
I was greeted in the nose by the unmistakable aroma of ancient apples. But not the apples of a can of Mott's or the apples that lurk in apple cider long past its lifespan when it bulges in the fridge. What greeted my nostrils was something elegant, yet robust.
It was not hard cider, nor apple juice mixed with whisky. What it was became a metaphor for the entire trip to Normandy. And as I sit in my office, gazing out upon the hillside swathed in the colors of the late fall, I'm transported back to Normandy, sipping Calvados for the first time- and certainly not the last.
Niche Imports is located near to my home and they are importers of a most gorgeous Calvados. I've tasted many different varieties over the years and none have even approximated the flavors of the fall like the bottle sitting in front of me. Most of my readers have never tasted Calvados, much less tasted it in Normandy- truly a taste of the place, so I'll try to describe my feelings of what Calvados means to me.
First of all, Calvados has a venerable history going back to the 8th Century. There were many fits and starts over the years, but one thing is for certain, Calvados is a venerable product and it even as an AOC to prove its quality. Appellation Calvados Controlee is right on the label and this signifies quality.
Coquerel Fine Calvados is the product of long aging and repose in sweet oak barrels. The apple brandy seeps into the French Oak casks and becomes a thing of rare beauty. This version is made of impossibly tart apples from ancient lineage, ones that you wouldn't dare bite into because of their utter bitterness. But crushed and added to a local yeast and allowed to ferment, and then ferment some more... Distilled for a long period of time and then aged for another "long period" of time in French Oak barrels only says one thing to me. Quality.
Coquerel Calvados demands your attention because it is Normandy in every sip. There are fun things that we drink when we are cold, hot chocolate, hot tea, a hot buttered rum, hot whisky- etc. etc. But what the French farmers do with these heirloom apples is stunning indeed.
They make what is already perfect into something that is a rare beauty.
Tasting Notes for Calvados Coquerel
Notes of salt slicked wet stones give way to wisps of wood smoke and freshly peeled and crushed apples drenched in vanilla syrup and minced pipe tobacco. There is heat in there. Plenty of it, rolling in at 40% by volume. The AOC on the label is not there for show. This is a carefully made product that sings the song of its terroir. Normandy is the place of apples and to call this elixir cider would be a vast mistake. What Calvados is - really is- liquid history.
This bottle of Coquerel is as authentic as sipping Calvados on a freezing cold morning in Normandy with the farmers, their breath puffing out against the frost- their memories are constantly intrigued by the taste of apples and history.
You might want to add a slug to your cup of coffee. After all, if you were in France- it would be ok, right?
May I please recommend that you try finding a bottle? It's worth your effort and your hard earned $. But of course it is authentic in every way- so that is why you need to find Calvados Coquerel
Coffee.. Corrected Normandy Style
1 stoneware mug, preheated with boiling hot water
4 oz. Hot Coffee
2 oz. Calvados Coquerel
Fill your stoneware mug with boiling water, pour out when it's sufficiently hot
Add the Calvados
Top with black coffee, sweeten to taste with raw honey or simple syrup as desired