Depending on the appellation, the Calvados cannot be put on sale before a minimum 2 or 3 years of barrel ageing. So it has to be matured and its alcohol level brought down to the standard consumption strength (minimum 40% by vol.).
Certain types of Calvados delight the angels over many years. In contact with the air, their alcoholic strength and volume gradually decreases as some of the alcohol evaporates (this is known as the "angels' share").
The Calvados ages in very dry oak casks, the contact with the wood passes on the elements needed to bring it to perfect completion. The tannic material in the wood gives it its natural colour and through the ongoing exchanges between the young brandy, the wood and the surrounding air, the Calvados acquires its subtlety and plenitude.
At some producers, the young Calvados is first matured in 250 to 600 litre barrels made of new wood highly charged in tannins, to give it a little colour and nerve before transferring it into casks that are older, sometimes a hundred years old.
Other producers prefer to put the Calvados directly in already used 1,000 to 10,000 litre tuns, providing storage as well as ageing.
Little by little, the flavour of the Calvados intensifies, as does its colour, going from golden to a deeper amber. The aromas of fresh apples so present in a young Calvados, develop into more complex flavours of cooked apples and wood, along with a hint of vanilla, honey, spices or nuts, signs that it is maturing nicely.
Blending, the work of a master craftsman
The chief cellarman's work is more than just leaving the Calvados to age. Like an alchemist, he is skilled in blending brandies of various ages, from different crops or areas, in order to combine the complementary qualities of each.
Blending is a delicate operation that chiefly involves tasting and calls for great skill in striking a balance between woodiness and fruitiness.
Before bottling, these blends need to be brought to perfection over a period of many months during which the different bouquets will combine and enrich each other.