An appointment with Charles Neal is an appointment I look forward to with great relish. This Bay Area importer is consistantly bringing in the best line up of artisan French spirits in the business. All of his products come from small farmers in the countryside who decide to bottle their own products rather than sell them to the big houses. Charles Neal is to spirits as K&L is to Champagne. We go over and find the little guys that no one else is paying attention to and then try and introduce them to our customers. We currently carry a number of Charles Neal selections, such as the Dudognon Cognac, the Pellehaut Bas-Armagnac, the Lemorton Domfrontais Calvados and the 1984 Ravignan Vintage Armagnac. Perhaps the biggest feather in Neal's cap however is the Adrien Camut Calvados collection, a small production outfit in the Pays d'Auge region. Every time we're able to secure a new batch of these apple brandies, I usually buy as many as are available.
While I've always considered the Camut 12 to be the best Calvados in our inventory, this might change to the recent release of Camut 6 year old. I brought my assistant Kyle in to the tasting bar today so that he could educate his palate a bit and he agreed that the 6 was simply stupendous. Even though the Pays d'Auge brandies are twice distilled, the crisp acidity of the apples comes through clean in the spirit and the palate is bursting with juicy, ripe, spicy cider. To me, the measure of a great Calvados is the balance between barrel and fruit, and I've perhaps never seen a finer example. I just bought Charles out of every bottle he had available, so I'm hoping to secure a nice amount for our interested customers.
Following the departure of Mr. Neal, I had a brief visit from a small distributor in the area who is going to be bringing the small NYC producer Breuckelen Distilling to California. I had read a bit about the gin (pictured above) online and had hoped to eventually try it on my annual excursion to the Big Apple. However, no need to wait, as it showed up today on my doorstep. We're hoping to have this in stock by early next month. A fascinating gin, delicate and dainty, with nice lemon and floral elements. Kyle felt that it would make a fantastic gin and tonic, and I had to agree. Should retail in the sub-$30 zone. Fun, fun, fun!