If you go:
-arm yourself with a GPS with European maps,
-the basics of French (you’ll need it when you get lost), and
-make an appointment ahead of time with the Camut brothers, Emmanuel, Jean-Michel and Jean-Gabriel.
When we began planning our recent vacation to France, the first problem was not insignificant; how could we decide which wine regions to visit? France offers the ultimate in choice for the wine and spirits geek.
Eventually we decided to visit the Loire, Brittany, Normandy and Champagne – which meant it would be possible to find some Calvados along the route.
But if we were going all the way to Pays d’Auge, a commercial Calvados distillery was not going to cut it. We needed to find the best recolant possible.
Meet Emmanuel Camut – one of the three engaging brother-owners of the Adrien Camut Calvados Distillery at Domaine de Semainville, La-Lande-Saint-Leger in Pays d’Auge, Normandy.
The homestead and distillery were a challenge to find – despite our GPS we relied on a friendly local (‘Suivez-moi!’) – but it was well worth the effort.
The Camut brothers are proud 6th generation owners and producers of about 20,000 bottles of Calvados per year from 26 different varieties of bitter and sweet apples. They export extremely small amounts to the US and about one case per year to Canada. Most is sold at the finest restaurants in France and the EU.
Emmanuel Camut greeted and showed us the organic orchards, an impressive collection of foudres, clay pots and barrels, the two alambic stills (specially patented by his grandfather), the ‘new’ 25 year old press and had hands-on exposure to several of the important production steps including ‘pumping over’ to oxidize the cider and rid it of excess volatile alcohol.
Emmanuel also shared a tour of his personal project – aged basalmic vinegar made from cider in a custom-built shed beside the centuries-old family farmhouse once occupied by his grandparents.
Appley, lightly sweet and delicious with cheese, it has been distilled over the course of 3 months by wood fire and aged for 12 years in a variety of different barrels including acacia and oak, some ordered from Modena, Italy. He intends to market it starting next year and is just waiting for it to become slightly more viscous.
Take a moment to pause and think about the time and effort taken – a gentle and constant wood fire for 3 months to distill 10,000 litres of cider into about 1,000 litres of balsamic vinegar – and then barrel-aged for years… Barrel tasting the Camut basalmic vinegar is a treat not to be missed.
The same love and attention has gone into the Calvados; no filtering, no added sugar, no added caramel for colour – no short cuts. And to top it off, approximately 5% is lost to the angels annually.
This, explains Emmanuel, is good for concentration. He also rightly points out that the commercial distilleries do not age as extensively; they add caramel for colour instead of relying on the oak and time – to maximize profits and sell as quickly as possible.
Not so at Adrien Camut where passion, integrity and patience are of greatest importance.
The tasting was extensive and generous – we were offered everything from the 6, 12 and 18 year olds to the Reserves de Semainville and de Adrien and the Prestige. The pièce de resistance though was the Rarete – a medium amber, smooth, viscous, complex and fresh, ripe red apple, vanilla, hazelnut and beurre sale concoction with 39-40% abv aged in the family Solera since 1898.
Kind, thoughtful and exceedingly generous with his time, Emmanuel repeatedly expressed his desire to ensure we ‘…have the best possible experience in Normandy’. He showed such genuine interest in us – and in learning about Canadian icewine. We will be sure to send him some.