My Wandering Eye: Berneroy XO Calvados

Bourbon prices are creeping up. So much so that even average products have hit the range where they compete price-wise with other types of aged spirits. A $50 750 ml bottle of Cognac or Armagnac doesn’t sound outrageous next to a $50 Old Forester 1870 or a $50 375 mL of the Jim Beam Harvest collection. So my eye has started wandering. I’ve done an Aquavit and a rum so far and now I’m about to take a walk down the brandy aisle.

For the last three years, I’ve been making a batch of hard cider each fall. I go to the orchard, buy the varieties I want and proceed to cut, chop and crush my way into 6-7 gallons of fresh apple juice. It’s good fun. I even built the cider press. It takes a few months to ferment, clarify, bottle and age but by the next spring I have enough cider to last me through the following winter.

So it isn’t entirely shocking that the first time my eye wandered in the brandy aisle it landed on an apple brandy. In this case, specifically a Calvados apple brandy. Calvados is an apple brandy made in various subsections of Normandy region of France. As you might have guessed there are plenty of laws governing what can and can not be called Calvados, but I’ll let you google those for yourself.  Because the price was right, that wandering eye of mine settled on the XO version of Berneroy Calvados. This should mean it is at least 6 years old. 

Berneroy XO Calvados

Purchase info: $15.99 for a 375 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN. (This was listed as a Spirits Direct selection at Total Wine,  which they want you to think means that it is cheaper because it is an exclusive.*) 

Details: 40% ABV

Nose: Dried fruit and caramel. 

Mouth: Thick, supple mouthfeel. Dried apple, brown sugar, clove and more than a hint of spirit flavor. Water enhances the sweetness and reduces the spirit presence.

Finish: Dried apples, clove and a little bitterness linger along with a hint of a burn. 

I smile because I like this

Thoughts: Glassware seems to make a difference on this one. My initial tasting was done neat in a glencairn and rated it a solid meh. Nothing wrong with it, but not for me. As I wrote this, I revisited it in a small brandy snifter that I picked up at Jim Beam, of all places. After trying it again and trying it with just a few drops of water, I’m upgrading it to a like. For me, the spirit flavor was accentuating the wrong portions of the dried fruit forward parts of the drink while in the glencairn. In the snifter and after adding a little water, I found that I was actually enjoying the dried apple notes. It also makes a better Old Fashioned than many of the bourbons I’ve had. I used brown sugar and aromatic bitters. 

*Not always cheaper. By a quirk of Minnesota law, liquor stores are prohibited from carrying exclusive products. This means many local stores buy the exclusives and then undercut Total Wine’s price. Which is nice since these products tend to have the highest markup at Total Wine. Everyone wins…well except the massive megaretailer. accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support, visit Thanks!