Cormeilles, France: How d'ya like them apples?
When it comes to consuming calvados, a little goes a long way.
Actress Helen Hayes nailed it when she wrote (in her autobiography) that "veteran French boozers limit themselves to a tablespoonful, and at that, end up licking policemen and setting fire to the Arc de Triomphe." (We've seen it happen.)
Here at the Distillerie Busnel—the largest distiller and one of the oldest in the Pays d'Auge, which by any account produces the finest calvados in Calvados (it's all in the apples)—each such tablespoonful represents as many as 40 varieties of apple.
The brandy starts out as cider, is distilled into eau de vie and is then aged into glorious, golden calva in coppered casks that are older than most U.S. cities—in some cases, they've been in use for more than 200 years. (New oak messes with the flavor of the apples.)
So when you find yourself staring down row after row of casks here at Busnel, you're looking at a lot of history, terroir, and future hangovers. Good thing the dégustation comes at the end of the distillery tour, or you might not remember a thing.