Les Spiritueux

Last year I spent my birthday at Michel Huard in Normandy eating apple tarts and drinking Calvados next to the wood-burning alembic still in the crisp winter weather. It was idealistic in every way, but I wasn't just there for kicks. I was hoping to put together a few K&L exclusive Calvados expressions, maybe a single barrel or a special cuvée, but there wasn't any one particular barrel that stood out to me. It was only after I started tinkering with blending some of the individual samples together—playing around for fun, nothing serious—that I finally understood the nature of French spirits. When it comes to fruit distillates, I've found over the years that single barrel expressions rarely do justice to the spirit. While whiskey often does just fine as a solo act, I almost never find a sole cask of Cognac or Calvados that exceeds the quality of a finely-balanced marriage of brandies. I realized this past December that if we were going to continue importing interesting and exclusive French spirits from these romantic regions, we were going to have to take our blending skills to the next level. So I sat down with a few different cask samples that day and started a more scientific approach.

Later on during that same trip, I spent yet another wonderful evening at Dugognon in Cognac, going through more single cask samples with Claudine Buraud's son Pierre in the barn next door. The exact same thing happened that night that happens every time we visit the estate: we fall head-over-heels in love with the brandies, but we can't find one single barrel that matches the quality of the standard editions. I told Pierre we were going to have to pull a bunch of different cask samples and try our hand at blending something new. He was game. I ended up toying with a potent barrel of nine year old ugni blanc (the grape varietal used in 99.9% of all Cognac) and trying to merge its richness into a wacky variant they had on hand: a single barrel of brandy distilled from a montils, a varietal I had never heard of until that very moment. 

It's been almost a year since I put together these cuvées, but I got the word from Charles that they just hit the docks. There should be more cask strength Pacory Calvados, as well as that 2001 vintage edition I told you about made entirely from pears (no apple!). Fifteen year old pear brandy? Yum. Stay tuned!

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll