On the Trail

MICHEL HUARD

Jean-François Guillouet is the man running the show these days at Michel Huard. He’s not only well-dressed and good-looking, he’s making some of the best Calvados in the region today. His attention to detail is truly admirable and the efforts are palpable when you taste his brandies. They have richness and depth, but never at the expense of the fruit. There’s a refined balance in the Huard Calvados that is the result of sheer dedication to proven, traditional methods of production. When you like the person making the product as much as the product itself, everything seems to taste that much better.

It can surprise customers when we tell them that many of their favorite French "distillers" don't actually own a still or a distillery per se. Many Armagnac and Calvados producers are simply farmers who grow a number of different crops, fruit being one of them. When it's time to actually distill the fermented cider at Huard, Jean-François calls up Pierre who drives his still over on a flatbed and feeds the wood-burning fire himself while monitoring the process, a cigarette dangling from his lower lip as he fuels the oven. It's exactly the type of idyllic scene that larger industrial distillers today are attempting to present in order to appear more down-home traditional to visitors, but at Huard it's simply the way things are. These are classically-distilled, rustic apple brandies that don't actually taste all that rustic. They have pure fruit, grace, and nuance.

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