Maker: Christian Drouin, Gonneville-le-Theil, Manche, Normandy, France (Drouin family).
Place of origin: Pays d’Auge AOC, Calvados, Normandy, France.
VSOP: at least four years old
XO: at least six years old
VSOP: $67(Party source)
XO: $80? (From memory. Not listed on the websites of Binny’s, TPS or anywhere else I looked.)
Thanks to Amy & Pete for picking the XO up for me!
VSOP: Bright orange.
XO: A little darker, burnt orange.
VSOP: Cut apple, alcohol, leather.
XO: Oak, sweet apple cider.
VSOP: Full-bodied. Caramel apple (no nuts)
XO: Full-bodied. White chocolate-covered apple.
VSOP: Fruity and chewy. Pinch of celery leaf.
XO: Bitter oak, a little caramel.
Parting words: Christian Drouin (not to be confused with Joseph Drouhin, the Burgundian négociant) has not been in business very long for the producer of a spirit that’s been around for five hundred years or more. It was founded in 1960 when Rouen industrialist Christian Drouin (the elder) purchased a farm in Gonneville, Manche, near Cherbourg. Since then, the brand has expanded rapidly and is one of the most widely distributed lines of Calvados in the world. It is currently run by Christian Drouin the younger with the elder’s grandchildren also working at the family business. Drouin currently produces (in ascending order of age) an unaged apple/pear eau de vie (Blanche de Normandie), Sélection (reviewed back in April), Réserve, VSOP, XO, Hors d’Age, 25 y/o, and a range of vintage Calvados.
I purchased the VSOP in Indianapolis and when FotBs Pete and Amy stopped off at The Party Source last spring, I asked them to pick up a bottle of the Réserve. The Réserve was not in stock but the XO was, so they picked that one up instead. I was surprised but not disappointed.
Both of these brandies are delicious. If I had to pick one over the other, I would pick the VSOP. It retains more apple aroma and flavor than the XO does and makes a refreshing, but still somplex summertime sip. The XO does retain some spple character but it takes a back seat to the rich, dessert flavors that come with age and use of different types of cooperage, a point of emphasis for Drouin. It is said that as Calvados ages it slowly loses its apple character and moves closer the flavor of aged grape brandies like Cognac. The XO seems to exemplify that phenomenon.
Christian Drouin VSOP and XO are both recommended.