Calvados is a brandy made from apples in Calvados, Normandy, France. Calvados is the name of the region.
It can be a blend of apple brandies that can be from any of the areas in Calvados.
There is a single-blend version called Calvados Pays d’Auge from a small area of a valley called “Auge”.
VSOP versions are aged for up to 15 years. Older versions, aged 15 years or more, are called “Hors d’Age.”
All versions are distilled in copper and aged in oak. Mobile stills travel throughout the production area, visiting orchards over the four month period of the harvest season. These are called “calva”, or “alembics.” As of 2010, there are about 40 travelling stills in the La Manche area alone.
Farmers bring their dry cider to the stills. The cider is poured into a chamber in the still, which distills it from being 5% alcohol to to being 60% alcohol.
You can produce as much Calvados as you like, by law, though it is taxed (heavily) when you make beyond a certain amount. And, it can’t be legally sold unless it is watered down to a minimum of just 43% alcohol, or aged for around 15 years, which will do the same.
When Calvados is 5 years old, it will have a honeyed-gold colour; at 20 years of age, it will have the colour of burnished gold.
Calvados is particularly good for cooking with when it is younger, around 5 years old, when it still has some cidery-freshness to it. At 20 years of age, it has more the properties of Armagnac.
To flambé Calvados, put some in a metal ladle, and heat over a flame. When it ignites, pour it slowly and steadily in to the pan where you want it; don’t dump it.
Many dishes in Normandy call for both Calvados and cider.
Bell, Annie. Apple brandy: The culture of Calvados. London: Daily Telegraph. 11 November 2010.