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  • Writer's pictureStuart Pearce

Experimental rum cask finished Christian Drouin Calvados

Updated: Apr 28

A shift from the norm today. Let's take a little trip to Normandy, with strong nods to Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados.

Calvados ... Picture cows grazing amongst beautiful organic Normandy orchards. Apples harvested at peak autumnal ripeness. Dreamy stuff.

After washing and sorting, the apples are grated and gently pressed. The low (<65%) yield results in a fruity fragrance with no tartness or bitterness,

The 'apple must' is then natural (wild) fermented over a period from 5 weeks up to an incredible 10 months, reaching 5.5-7% abv.

Next, we move to double distillation in a Charentais pot still (as required by Calvados regional regulation).

Finally, the Calvados is filled into oak barrels and laid down in Drouin's cellars. After 13-17 years, and an unusually large angel's share (loss) of over 40% (*due to their small average barrel size), these experimental releases were moved to the unique ex-rum casks for a finishing period of between 7 & 17 months.

Christian Drouin... undeniably one of the world's finest Calvados producers.

In 2020 Drouin released the first of this experimental series - finishing calvados in barrels that had previously contained world-class spirits from Japanese Whisky to Cognac, Tequila, and Rum. As of April 2024, we're up to 8 of these very limited releases; of which 5 were ex-rum cask aged.

Thanks to Drouin's revered reputation, he has been able to source used barrels from top-tier distillers, with exceptional provenance. Today we will be tasting and reviewing 4 of these interesting, well-aged, rum-cask-finished Calvados.

My shift to reviewing Calvados is no accident. This summer I will be having a 2 month break from rum to dive deep into the unnoticed and undervalued world of fruit distillates.

Undertaking the most comprehensive eau de vie tasting series ever to take place I will be reviewing more than 60 distillates from a who's who of just about all of Europe's significant fruit distillers. More than a year in the planning, this should be a fun and interesting opportunity to examine and compare some amazing fruit distillates.

Those of you who stumbled into the wonderful rum world attracted by something less mainstream & less commercial. Searching for passionate distillers, great value, and incredible quality. You will most definitely want to follow this upcoming series.

Back to rum cask finished Calvados! Four offerings, 30ml of each, left to open up in the glass for 20 minutes. Nosed first, then tasted - as they are similar abv I have gone with the release order. Assisted today by the fabulous Paulo Nutini.

Left to right, as per lead photo, Hampden, Long Pond, Caroni, Foursquare

Christian Drouin Experimental No.1, Hampden Angles - 14yr, 44%, 1296btls

The first of the experimental series, this Calvados spent the final 8 months of its 14 years aging in four ex-Hampden rum casks. Jamaican funk and Normandy apples, I can't wait.

Nose: For 44% I am bowled over by the weight of the nose. Big, bright, and funky. Pineapple, rotten apple, fresh crisp apple, and a delightful pour of cider vinegar. Polish, varnish, a little tropical fruit and dusty old furniture. Complete, complex, and enticing. After a further 15 mins this is developing beautifully - pear drops and old fashioned sweets. Caramel coated bbq meat.

Mouth: A cage fight in your mouth of bright acidic funky flavours. Apple juice and medium-dry scrumpy cider are fighting for attention with funky rotten pineapple and caramel-dipped kiwi. Fun, fresh, and completely unique. A touch thin on the palate, but beautiful. [83pts]

Christian Drouin Experimental No.4, Long Pond Angles - 14yr, 45%, 1890btls

4th of the experimental series, this Calvados spent the final 7 months of its 14 years aging in casks that had previously contained Plantation Long Pond ITP 1995. Another marriage of Jamaican funk and Normandy apples, yum.

Nose: Lighter than the Hampden aged. Still the apple and pineapple but the richness and depth are lacking. Alcohol is not as completely integrated. Polish is present but more honeyed and a smidge less inviting.

Mouth: Starts thinner than the Hampden but leads into a long, delicious, and almost sparkly finish. Seriously acidic - sharp apple mingles with sharp, funky, slightly rotting pineapple. Lacking the weight and texture I want but the fresh acidfest will appeal to Jamaican rum fans and I feel the experiment is a success. [81+pts]

Christian Drouin Experimental No.6, Caroni Angles - 17yr, 48.8%, 1506btls

6th of the experimental series, this Calvados spent the final 8 months of its 17 years aging in 6 casks, acquired from the rum maestro Luca Gargano, that had previously contained super special 1996 Caroni rum!!

Nose: Incredible Caroni influence. Dirty, oily, engine diesel, delicious. Fantastic depth. A little blackcurrant. The apple background, and it is just background on the nose, works well and I can't wait to get stuck in.

Mouth: A more complete mouthfeel here. Lashings of acidic pome fruit smash you as before, but with a background, and a depth, that works brilliantly. The finish .... it's a three-part symphony ... Caroni leads, sharp fresh calvados mid-palate, and excellent dirty, oily, green appley, caronidos finish. The taste doesn't live up to the incredible nose but overall I love it. [87pts]

Christian Drouin Experimental No.6, Foursquare Angles - 19yr, 46.8%, 2396btls

The 8th and most recent release of the experimental series, this Calvados spent the final 17 months of its huge 19 years maturing in casks from Barbados that had previously aged Foursquare rum. I suspect a trade went on that ties nicely to Foursquare's most recent ECS release - Equipoise, rum aged in ex-Calvados casks!

Nose: No fighting here, the rum influence seems to be lifting and enhancing the Calvados. Incredible integration of flavours. Appley, orchard notes, with a backbone of caramel and bajan spice. A special dram. Feels like this is the most Calvados forward, which is unexpected given the long finish. But a Calvados that has Bajan rum in its veins.

Mouth: A real winner. This has come together perfectly. Possibly not the most fun of the bunch, but comfortably the most complete. Both elements complement each other perfectly. Being super critical, the mouth doesn't quite deliver all the nose promises, but it's quality shit, buy it! [87+pts]

Conclusion - if you don't like apples, move along, nothing to see for you here. These are sharp, zesty, and unique. Great fun and delicious.

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