Calvados Busnel


It's at the Hoxton Pony in Shoredich that the final took place with a total of 22 bartenders.
The generals rules were to make two different recipes with Busnel Calvados the home-made ingredients had a serious honor and the Calvados reborn trough delicate potions.
Each competitors ahd to offer to our palate one "Martini Style". No rules were surrounding the second recipe in term of style, so the candidate created some outstanding after dinner, before lunch, long and fancy drinks

The first price was a trip to the Busnel distillery during the spring 2009 plus the chance to represent the UKBG at the Nouvelles Vogues International Calvados Trophées in France.
The second price was a trip to the Busnel distillery during the spring 2009 and the third price was a bottle of Rare Calvados Busnel.

After hours of shaker and Mixing-glass fight the result fall

Stephano Cossio
Dorchester hotel and winner of the International final in France

Pomme Allure
Mixing glass and served in an Old-fashioned glass
Dried Apple

60ml Calvados Busnel
15ml creme de peche
15ml Manzanita
peppermint bitter

Yoann Demeersseman
Akbar and CultureBar team member

Kiss from Normandy
Shaken and served in a Highball glass
Apple fan and redcurrants

Fresh redcurrants muddled
45ml Calvados Busnel
5ml toffee nut Monin
65ml organic pear juice
25ml St Germain liqueur

Richard Hunt
Quo Vadis

Solomon & Eve Alexander
Shaken and served in a Coupette glass
Apple slice and nutmeg dust

45ml Calvados Busnel
20ml White cacao liqueur
15ml Lavender Monin
30ml fresh cream
1 cardammon


History of the company

The Busnel distillery now is a merger of three different companies. The first one is the Leblanc cider company, which was founded in Cormeilles in 1910.This made mainly cider and a bit of spirit/alcohol.
The second company is the Busnel distillery which was founded in 1820 in Pont l'eveque.Finally,in 1919, a second distillery was founded , the Anée distillery around 60km from Cormeilles.After the war,the Leblanc company was part of a big group of disillery called la grande distillery Normandie Bretagne.Then, in 1975 the French group Pernod/Ricard decided to buy this group of distilleries, following which they bought the Busnel distillery in 1976 and finally the Anée distillery in 1989. These three companies were relocated in the Cormeilles site.
So since 1995, in Cormeilles they made two brands of Calvados, the Busnel and the Anée. All the production is done on this site from the crushing of the apples to the bottling of the Calvados.

The crushing wheel and the cider press

How the producers used to extract juice from apples before machines were introduced?
They needed to use two stools: a crushing wheel (meule en bois) and a cider press.They had to use two stools because it would have been impossible to get the apple juice if they were only crushed using the cider press. Consequently, the apples had to be crushed initially in order to get apples pulp ,and this was done by the crushing wheel. So the apples in an attic (grenier) of a barn (grange). In this way, they were well conserved until they were ready. Once they were mature, the crushing could take place. They push the apples down that chute (goulottes a pommes) , atfer the apples were in the containers-like part (auge) see the pictures, they were crushed by this wheel (meule en bois) which was pulled by a horse or a mule!

Once the producers had the apples pulp, they had to press it to get the apple juice. In order to do so, they had to use this old cider press that's 150yr old! So they would put 16 identical layers here, and each layer was composed of a piece of wood , on top of which they would put 10cm of apple pulp and then straw or gunny sack. Then someone would take out this piece of wood , a sort of key, and two people would turn that wheel , which is a kind of screw, and this huge wood come down and press 16 layers.
The juice was squeezed out and caught in containers on both sides of the cider press. I am sorry for this long and difficult chapter about the old method but it was really important to understand how the farmers used to work at the time . So , for one ton of apples, producers got between 250 an 300 litres of juice, using this cider press and the prssing lasted 5 hours. Today,they have hydraulic presses and as a result we can obtain approximately 500 litres of juice for one ton thanks to enhanced technology. Even 150 yrs ago , producers found that the juice they got was not enough considering all the work the put into getting it. Consequently, they practised what we called in french"la retrempe". So actually after the first pressing,they would dismount the 16 layers and take out the apples pulp and put it in water for few hours, until the pulp was 'swollen"with water, then they would redo the 16 layers and press a second,a third or even a fourth time.
As a result, more juice was obtained, but the probleme was the several 'retrempes' diluted the apple juice. Consequently, this diluted juice wasn't used to make cider. Instead, farmers kept it as a drink on the farm and that's what we call in french"la boisson".

The Appellations d'Origine Contrôlée of Calvados (A.O.C)

The cider eau de vie (Calvados) is governed by an"Appellation d'origine controlée"(AOC) system. This is a set of rules designed to guarantee and maintain the characteristics production , methods and quality of the products and it's century old traditions. There is two other conditions to get the AOC's, that is the types of apples used, and the method of distillation.
In Normandy, they make a difference between Eating apples and ciders apples. They only used cider apples to make cider and eventually, Calvados. There are over 820 diffenrent types of apples in Normandy, which are put into four categories:

Sweet apples
Bitters apples
Bitters sweet apples
Very acid apples

These four types of apples are going to made the three AOC's according to the different proportions used, which is going to completely change their tastes.
For each AOC, there is a precisely delimited area . And the distillery has to be located in the region where the apples are found.

To make this Calvados , they are going to use 25°/° of each type of apples. This region is the largest Calvados making region in Normandy. It makes up 70°/° of the total production

This Calvados is made with 60°/° of apples and 40°/° of pears and have, of course a specific taste

The most prestigious Appellation
The pays d'auge territory is actually part of 3 departments: Calvados, Orne and L'Eure.
They have to use 70°/° of bitters sweet apples, 10°/° very acid apples and the remaining 20°/° is up to the producers

In Cormeilles, Busnel is situatedat the border of the AOC Calvados region and the AOC Pays d'Auge, which gives them the right to produce those two appellation (AOC auge and AOC Calvados)

The apples tree

There are mainly two types of orchards: the traditionnal orchards with trees , a tree like this is completely mature when it's about 15 years old and the apples are quite often picked manually.
The second one is a modern low-stem orchards. Today, the big producers prefer planting low-stem apple trees, because the branches are a lot lower on the trunk of the tree. Why? Simply because there are a lot of advantages: the density per hectare is greater, the trees are fully productive when they are only 5yrs and the harvest is mechanized.


Calvados is made from apple juice. However between the crushing and the distillation, there is an important process that must be done: the making og the cider.
The fermentation of the cider is completely natural and it's forbidden to add sugar or anything else. The pure apple juice contains natural yeast which transforms the natural sugar into alcohol. The minimum legal time for the fermentation process is 4 weeks but at the Busnel distillery they let the fermentation take place longer for a better quality cider. Before to be distilled the cider must have an alcohol content at least 6°/°.


Important: each AOC has a particular method of distillation

So distillation is a process whereby the cider is heated in order to separate the alcohol and the water vapours. So they're going to start off with a cider that has an alcohol content of 6°/° and they're going to end up with a spirit an alcohol at 70°/°.
To make the AOC Calvados they use column stills. The cider is pumped directly from the vats into the still using underground pipelines. The cider then crosses the two columns to get to the boiler. Once in the boiler they heat up the cider between 80°C and 100°C. At this temperature,the alcohol vapours is going to go up the first column "de barbottage" because the vapour is going to "barboter" between each layer and as goes up. It's alcohol content is going to increase. This is the simple distillation thats lasts 6 hours. When the alcohols comes out of the stills, it is clear as a water so they use underground pipelines to send it into the cellars, where they let the Calvados age slowly in oak barrels.
Now, to make the AOC Calvados pays d'auge( the most prestigious) they use pot still: the difference between the two distillation processes is that for this one they do a double distillation that lasts 18 hours (instead 6 for the first one) who explains why the pays d'auge AOC Calvados is the most prestigious, it take 3 times longer than the simple ditillation.
The pot still are lso called Charente stills because they are used in the Charente regino where Cognac is made. They distilled between January and june and that every day nigth and day except week end.

The Busnel Cellar

They try to keep teh temperature around 15°C during the summer and during the winter. The reason to keep the temperature cool is to reduce the evaporation of the alcohol, however they lose every year 2°/° of their production due to a natural evaporation. All of their barrels are made of oak from the troncais forest, situated in Allier(Champagne region) , a forest that was already famous for its oak when Louis XVI was alive. They use oak firstly because they're obliged to do so and secondly because it is the wood that's best for the ageing of Calvados. It's the contact between the tannin of the oak and the alcohol which gives the Calvados its colour.
At the Busnel cellar some of their barrels are over 100 yrs , they prefer barrels that have already been used to age Calvados. When they get new barrels, they fill them right away with cider or Calvados for the wood to absorb the apple aromas. The barrels are never washed because ther is no deposit after the Calvados, as with cider.
The eau de vie is put into small barrels a minimum of 5 yrs to have a maximum of contact with the oak in order to absorb tannin from the wood. After this long period , the master of the cellar decides if the eau de vie must go into another barrel , and if so , in which barrel. The decision depends of the taste , the colour and the odour that the master wants to obtain.
They don't ever move the barrels. To put the Calvados in other barrels they use a hose with pipelines. They see there is a bun on these barrel that is easily accessible so all they do is take out the bun, put the hose, and pump.
Each barrel gives the Calvados subtle aromas.

The bottling room

As I explained you for the crushing wheel with the old method the farmers use to work to extract the juice of the apples, in the bottling room they use to work as the farmers it means with a very old bottle machine called "La Girondine", four people needed to operate it ; they were still able to bottle around 900 bottles/hour.
In 1997 they bought a modern machine making now 5000 bottles/hours.

Few things about the Calvados around the world. In France it's really famous as a after dinner drink it's traditionnaly drink in Normandy . It's really popular in Germany, east of Europe ,UK...
and it's a really versatile spirit to think innovative cocktails.