Cognalternative Session #1
Christian Drouin Experimental Hampden Finish 44%
This first cognalternative can’t be called calvados because the rum cask finish (American oak) doesn’t fit the requirements of calvados AOC, and that’s why they named it eau-de-vie de cidre. So it’s a 14yo cask strength “calvados” that has been aged for 8 months in Hampden casks and bottled at 44%. Let’s go!
Colour: Gold, yellow lights. Regular heavy tears.
Nose: Honeyed tones and fruity notes of quince marmalade. Round nose, quite close to the exotic scents of the Cadenhead’s Dupont. Distinct curaçao notes. Chestnut honey. Roasted tones on bitter chocolate and toffee. Unavoidable cider apple scents.
Mouth: Oily texture. Very round palate on caramelized apple and chestnut honey. Still, something on citruses liquor, this time more on Cointreau notes. A tad more acidity in the aftertaste than the Cadenhead’s. Empyreumatic and resinous notes as a nice reminder of the Hampden touch.
Last Notes: Fruitier with more air. Plums and quinces avalanche. Roasted notes on ground coffee. Heavy tinned plums scents melted to lingering caramelized orchard notes. Back on the palate, you find round mead aromas melted to a light acidity on walnut oil. Very calvados-y au-revoir in fact.
More convincing than the Long Pond finish in my humble opinion (tasted at Quintessence 2021). A little lack of complexity, but very drinkable to be honest.
Swell de Spirits Calvados Garnier #6 Wonders Series 55,1%
This second cognalternative is a single cask calvados unearthed by the young IB Swell de Spirits in Garnier’s cellars. It’s an 18yo calvados (100% apple) that has been aged in a very wet cellar (sometimes there are a few centimeters of water surrounding the casks during wintertime) and bottled at cask strength (55,1%).
Colour: Hay, light gold lights. Heavy irregular tears. Quite a pale color for a 18yo spirit.
Nose: Creamy nose at first. Something between apricot yogurt and cheesecake. Obvious calvados DNA with cider apple but a distinct finesse that I didn’t find in the Cadenhead’s Dupont or the Christian Drouin for example. A briny touch on olive oil and salted water. Surprisingly not aggressive and quite smooth regarding the ABV. Ample lingering apple tart notes underlined by delicate vanilla and cinnamon scents. Hints of banana stew in the background.
Mouth: Sweet texture with a tad of acidity. Honeyed notes are counterbalanced by rustic notes of farm cider and roasted hazelnut shell notes. Great mouth length on vanilla cream and various citruses syrup, mainly lime and yuzu (earthy notes). Slightly smoked. This mouth length could be something close to a Clynelish mix of wax and citruses but with a little astringence on fresh paint (never tasted it, just to reassure you, but I guess it tastes something like that).
Last Notes: You get more oaky shades now. Varnished wood, linseed oil, and a tad of beeswax. Still some light fruity notes on apricot marmalade and tinned vine peaches. Dusty scents of dry walnut and prunes liquor. Back on the palate, you get a distinct sweetness on the vanilla entremet. Tea-ish shades, something between earl grey and rooibos. Spicy aftertaste on heavy cardamom notes and white pepper. Balsamic and light umami aromas in the background. A tad more on pastry notes with spicy tones when you add a little dilution.
Well, what a nice surprise! You can feel that the aging in a wet cellar rounded this rustic apple monster. Not the easiest spirit to taste, not the most exuberant too, but a very satisfying level of complexity.