The Magical Norman Shed – Part I
Back in the winter of 2015 I travelled with my friend Charles Neal to Normandy in search of a few new Calvados producers. While we've long worked with Domfrontais distiller Lemorton for our regional Calvados needs, this time around Charles and I took a side trip over to their neighbor in Mantilly—a producer called Pacory. One thing that separates the brandies of the Domfrontais from other AOC Calvados spirits is the heavy use of pears in the recipe. Domfrontais brandies generally have 60% or more pear distillate in the eventual blend, adding an entirely different dynamic to the flavor. We wanted to see if we could find something with a "high-pear" cepage, preferably with a little age. We were hoping that Frédéric Pacory might have what we were looking for. It was in this magic shed of his that we found a cornicopia of delicious, well-priced, pear-driven brandies.
One of the interesting aspects of Pacory's production is that Frédéric likes to fill at higher proofs than other producers typically do. That meant that a number of his younger Calvados were still be quite powerful. "Would you be open to bottling these at cask strength?" I asked him, wondering if our cocktail-mixing customers might be interested in something a bit more robust. "Bien sur!" he replied. We tasted two delicious candidates straight from the barrel, one from 2011 made from 70% pear and clocking in at well over 50% ABV. My eyes lit up and my heart began to race. "This is absolutely delicious!" I screamed. Claude looked at me a bit worried. "C'est très, très bon." I reassured him with a smile. He seemed pleased.
After tasting an older vintage brandy, one that was 100% pear-distilled, I knew we had found a winner. Pacory's orchards are 100% hautes tiges, meaning the trees are higher and older in age (as opposed to bas tiges orchards that look more like grape vineyards with their tiny trees in vertical rows). It ultimately takes longer to grow the fruit, of course (as you have to wait many years for the trees to reach maturity before harvesting), but the resulting produce is of a much higher quality for two reasons: 1) the yields are lower and the flavors more concentrated, and 2) hautes tiges trees allow for farm animals to co-exist in the orchards. The cows that live in Pacory's orchards help fertilize the soil with their manure and eat many of the weeds that grow around the trees. It's a symbiotic relationship that creates healthy fruit and ultimately higher-quality Calvados.
We brought in the brandies from Pacory last year to huge success. Our reinforcements for 2017 have finally arrived.
Domaine Pacory "Reserve" Domfrontais Cask Strength Calvados $39.99 - This five year old brandy is brimming with pure stone fruit flavor, bright apples and robust pear, with lovely weight and balance. The color is a golden yellow, much like a pear itself. Distilled from 70% pear/30% apple, it's highly recommended.
Domaine Pacory 15 Year Old Domfrontais Calvados $59.99 - This 15 year old is a sure-fire winner for any lover of fruit spirits. It's equal parts fruit and oak, neither outshining the efforts of the other. The pear flavor also comes to the forefront right off the bat; ripe juicy pears that meld seamlessly with the richness of the wood. You shouldn't be asking us whether you should buy one at this point; you'll be asking us if we can get more once you taste it.