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Looking for something new to try before or after your dinner? How about a Pommeau? Pommeau is the traditional blend of Calvados and unfermented apple cider that hardly ever makes its way out of Normandy. Very similar to Cognac’s Pineau des Charentes, Pommeau combines the fruity unfermented apple sugars spiked with a touch of aged brandy. In the fall it makes a wonderful apéritif, but for those afraid of sugary pre-dinner drinks, it would be delicious with cheese, and out-of-this-world with deserts featuring apples. Camut makes what is likely the best Calvados in the grand Cru “Pays d’Auge,” so it’s no surprise that their Pommeau is the best we have ever tasted. John Rankin
At 12 years old, this Calvados shows extremely youthful and vibrant apple, caramel, and sweet cream aromas. These marry well with perfectly integrated spice and oak notes that add depth and intrigue. This is an absolute treat and is a big step up in complexity from the Camut estate's wildly delicious 6-year Calvados. Tim Gagnon
Capovilla spirits are truly labors of love. The Bassano bottling consists of pommace from a variety of grapes from Vicenza. The secret to the rich, broad flavors is the rare still that Vittorio Gianni Capovilla uses. Called a bain-marie still, it heats the pommace at low temperatures to maintain the grape flavors and not create the offensive, alcoholic tones that mars many more commercial Grappa productions. We are extremely happy that Jan d'Amore has decided to import these spirits, and strongly recommend that Grappa and Eau-de-vie fans try them. JR
This is a single variety grappa bottling featuring the wonderfully aromatic "Uva Moscota Fior d'Arancio." Vittorio Gianni Capovilla uses his rare bain-marie still to slowly distill and preserve the lively honey and citrus qualities of the grape. Grappa fans will note the extreme purity and freshness of the spirit and applaud Jan d'Amore for bringing it to the American market. John Rankin
The 2000 Bacco fully exudes the traditional Château de Briat house style: decadent, yet complex and structured, with a focus on new oak. Again, from the diary of John Rankin: On the nose it is luscious with sweet caramel, the chewy soft kind, and orange zest rising from the glass. On the palate it is rich and silky – very drinkable – with a touch of spice and a sugary milk chocolate finish. With this flavor profile and the château’s affinity for new oak, this would be a fantastic crossover spirit for Bourbon lovers! Tim Gagnon
This phenomenal, clear apple brandy is the result of a collaboration between the great cider producer Cyril Zangs and Calvados distiller Jean Roger Groult. Over 30 varieties of apples are first cellared for a few months to concentrate sugars and flavors, and then gently pressed into a cider that ages on it's lees for 10 months. Jean Roger Groult then distills the cider on his tiny direct fire still, making very precise cuts to isolate the heart of the spirit, with a resting time of a few weeks between the first and second distillation to further concentrate and enhance the flavors. There is wonderful texture and weight to this un-aged brandy, with the purity of the apple notes complimented with baking spice, hints of cinnamon, and a savory, umami character of earth and dried foliage. An exceptional and unique spirit from Normandy. Oskar Kostecki
The Dudognon Reserve is one of the best values in Cognac. Made without additives or coloring, it's a pale gold color with subtle citrus and white fruit aromas. The palate is clean and long with tea, earth, citrus and spice. Far superior to the brand-name VS or VSOP blends and really worth trying. John Rankin
Our Chambers Street selection of Calvados was distilled in 2002 and was aged in a barrel that previously held cider and Pommeau (cider and Calvados blended together). From the diary of John Rankin: The barrel that we bought has candied apple and toffee cream flavors and is surprisingly juicy and fruit-forward, even with a fair amount of age and alcohol percentage. It shows the influence of Pommeau and cider more than barrel, along with richness and a long finish of exotic citrus and dark-toned flowers. Tim Gagnon
Orchard Hill was started in 2005 by all-around spirits guru, Karl du Hoffman, in the Hudson Valley town of New Hampton, NY. They focus on two products here - cider and pommeau - and we were thrilled to be able to get our hands on the latter. Inspired by the famed Normandy elixir of calvados and non-alcoholic sweet cider, Karl wanted to make a product that was true to the apples of the Hudson Valley yet echoed centuries of pommeau production in France. Aptly named Ten66 after the Norman Invasion of England in the year 1066, this is a blend of 3-10 year-old apple brandy and cider of various vintages from 2005-2012 that have been aged in used French oak barrels from wineries on Long Island (that held Merlot or Chardonnay in their previous life). Apple butter, apple cobbler, caramel, toasted nutmeg, and baked cherry come to mind on the nose which hint at what is found on the palate. It is juicy with deeper notes of caramel and spice. This is delicious served slightly chilled as an aperitif but would be equally good with a cheese course after dinner! Tim Gagnon
Located in the heart of Cognac's premier cru "Grand Champagne," the Beau family has a long history of making exceptional artisan Cognacs. The Beaus use old wooden barrels and a majority of Ugni Blanc to facilitate a clear expression of terroir. This creates an absolutely lovely spirit that has been aged an average of thirty years, well over the requirements to label "Hors d'Age." The perfect after-dinner drink with a balance of dried fruit and very nice minerality. JR
Maison Paul Beau was one of the first grape growers to distill and bottle a portion of their harvests instead of selling to the large houses, starting in 1895. Since then they have been making fantastic Cognac from vineyards surrounding the village of Segonzac in the heart of Grande Champagne. Their VSOP is a phenomenal value, the blend containing brandies averaging around 15 years in age. Notes of baked apple, pear, caramel, and baking spice lead to a long and complex finish. A must try! Oskar Kostecki
This Armagnac shows a vibrant orange color with hints of caramel. Tastes mature, but even after 28 years in cask there is a grippy quality and some citrus-toned fruit. This is an excellent introduction to vintage Armagnac and a fabulous value. John Rankin