Calvados Drouin 1991 / 17 Years / Secret Lot 91

Calvados Drouin 1991 / 17 Years / Secret Lot 91

Of all French spirits, Calvados is the one I have least experience with. In short, it is an brandy made from distilled cider (up to 200 varieties of apples and pears are allowed). It can be distilled once or twice in copper stills and then ages in (large) oak vessels (for at least 2 years). The French regions of Normandy, Pays d’Auge and Domfrontais are the three protected regions.

Whisky bottlers have been looking into rum and cognac for some time now, but Calvados is still a bit of an outlier. Today we’re having two bottlings sourced from the established brand Christian Drouin by Kirsch Import (in their series of French spirits called Journal des Kirsch) and Swell de Spirits, as well as one secret Calva also bottled by Swell de Spirits.


Calvados Drouin 32 yo 1991 (49%, OB ‘Journal des Kirsch’ 2023, 84 btl.)

Nose: truly voluptuous. There’s a lot of apple here, reminding me of Liège syrup as well. Then a very aromatic hint of exotic wood oil and varnish, dried apricot and cherries (or Cherry Heering), Valverán (a great ice cider from Asturias), apple jelly and apple pastry. Nice sweet-and-sour balance.

Mouth: rich apple flavours again. Think apple pastry and tarte tatin with cinnamon. A lot of polished oak as well. A tangy hint of clove, with almonds and caramelized nuts. Dark berries, forest honey and hints of toffee, with a floral touch on top.

Finish: long, on caramel, old oak, clove and artisan apple juice.

A great spirit that far exceeds the voluptuous apple theme, with added complexity coming from the oak spices. Available in German shops for around € 200, check Kirsch Import.


Now something even more curious: spirit from a secret closed distillery, matured in Prunier’s (wet) cognac cellar. French meta-brandy, in a way.


Secret Calvados 33 yo ‘Lot 91’ (47,4%, Swell de Spirits 2022, 150 btl.)

Secret Calvados 33 Years - Prunier - Swell de Spirits Nose: baked apples with cinnamon and herbs, some toffee and light hints of artisan cider. Then truckloads of walnuts. Some tarte tatin and hints of Belgian beers. Subtle hints of cigar leaves and some dusty books. Leather bound, perhaps.

Mouth: more tarte tatin with herbal tea and drops of Belgian double. Sweet liquorice, hints of pepper, cloves and tobacco. More herbs, juniper berries and Seville oranges. Some floral notes, almost potpourri at some point, along with cigar boxes.

Finish: long, with hints of cedar, some tannins and tobacco leaves.

Again: obvious apple notes but lots of other elements. In fact the apple is far less pronounced than in the Drouin. There’s a nice old oak influence and plenty of tertiary notes that makes this pretty great. Score: 88/100


We continue with another fusion bottling from Swell de Spirits. This Calvados comes from  Drouin again, and it was finished in an ex-whisky cask from Mars distillery. Normandy meets Japan. This is similar to the official range called Expérimental, which contains Calvados aged in uncommon barrels that previously contained Rhum J.M., Caroni, Hine cognac, Calle 23 tequila, etc.


Calvados Drouin 17 yo (50,6%, Swell de Spirits ‘Wild Nature’ 2024, Mars Cask Finish)

Calvacos Drouin 17 Years - Swell de Spirits

Nose: quite a bit leaner. Pure apple and pear but also a fresh citrusy side. Then a whole bouquet of floral notes, like orange blossom, geranium and rose petals. Very subtle hints of polished brassware. A little closer to whisky perhaps, due to its ‘younger’ wood note.

Mouth: really sweet, with more vanilla than in the others. Lots of pear drops, apple sweets and pastry notes. Later also hints of coconut cream and mango. Then a rougher spirity edge, with a slightly oriental spiciness towards the end – clove, juniper and aniseed.

Finish: medium, on yellow plums, apple compote and mild tannins.

An interesting take on Calvados, thanks to the Japanese influence. Really thick fruits along with the apple theme, but also plenty of floral notes and some oriental spice. The other outclass it, but it’s a convincing Calvados on its own. Score: 86/100