Calvados Distillation


Cider is turned into Calvados by the distillation process whereby the alcohol is separated from the water: when the cider is heated, having a lower boiling point than water, the alcohol it contains is boiled off first.
The still is the instrument used to collect this alcohol-charged vapour and condense it in order to obtain a brandy in which are found the volatile substances making up the main elements of the bouquet.

Two types of stills for making Calvados:

Pot-still or reflux still (alambic à repasse)

Required for making AOC "Calvados Pays d'Auge", it is the traditional still made of copper elements and involves a double distillation.

The cider is heated in the pot (boiler). The alcohol vapour rises, is collected in the onion, olive or Moor's head-shaped dome, goes along the swan neck then through
the coil which plunges into a tank of cold water. On coming into contact with the coolant, the vapours condense into a liquid. The "heads" and "tails", the vapours at the beginning and end of distillation which are very rich in higher alcohols and will be redistilled with the next cider, are eliminated to obtain the "brouillis" or "petite eau" containing 28 to 30% alcohol.

The second heating is to distil this "small water". The heads and tails are also separated off to preserve only the heart of distillation called "bonne chauffe". This should not exceed 72% on leaving the still.
To save energy, the cider to be distilled in a later batch is introduced into the cider heater which helps to cool the alcohol vapour passing through it and in the process it is preheated to 65°C before being sent to the heater chamber.

Reflux column still (alambic à colonne "de premier jet")

Mandatory for making Domfrontais Calvados, it is also used for AOC Calvados.
It comprises three elements: the heater chamber, the stripping column which comprises 15 or 16 bubble-up plates and the condensation column made up of 8 enrichment plates.

The first column receives the cider in its upper section. On the way down the cider passes from plate to plate. The application of heat causes the most volatile substances (water and esters) to vaporize. The water vapour produced from the depleted cider rises up again and is enriched as it bubbles through the cider with the volatile elements – alcohol, esters and aroma components.
They are finally concentrated in the smallest column which delivers brandy directly at maximum strength 72%. The column still has to be fitted with three draw-off taps to separate the "heads" and the "tails" and keep just the "heart" of the distillation.
 Distillations made using a pot still or a column still produce a colourless eau-de-vie with a surprisingly floral and fruity flavour which will take its colour and open out with the complicity of wood and time.



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L' Idac

Interprofession Des Appellations Cidricoles, Producteurs de Calvados, Calvados Pays d’Auge, Calvados Domfrontais, Pommeau de Normandie, Pommeau de Bretagne, Pommeau du Maine, Cidre Pays d’Auge, Cidre Cornouaille, Poiré Domfront.