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Calvados in NJ?

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I've tried several liquor stores, large and small, in my area (Central NJ/Princeton) and none of them seem to carry Calvados from France, which I need for a recipe. They do, however, have plenty of Laird's Apple brandies and liqueurs (Made in NJ)...As much as I'd love to support local industry, I find these to be unpalatable on their own. I wonder if they can be used as a successful substitute for Calvados, which, I assume, would be much smoother and flavorful than this domestic product.
I already have a big problem with NJ's big lobby of distributors, who have successfully kept residents from being able to order wines, etc. via internet/mailorder...Is this another example of their stranglehold? Am I missing something? Has its import been prohibited? Or is Calvados just difficult to find due to lack of demand? I didn't expect to have a problem finding it at all.

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  1. I've seen Calvados in Jersey City, so I don't think it's a NJ regulation thing, surprised the Princeton area doesn't carry it. If you feel like a trip to Highland Park the Rite Aid there has a surprisingly good spirits section, I've found things there I have a hard time finding in NYC sometimes. If you do go the Laird's route I'd suggest the Bottled in Bond version, I find it much more enjoyable for drinking and cocktails, plus the apple flavor comes out a little more. Probably not as smooth as Calvados but easily as flavorful - you might be able to add something to it to smooth it out a little.

    1. I say go for the Laird's. You're lucky to be able to get your hands on one of the true native spirits... I've only had the bonded apple brandy, which I picked up on a trip home to NJ. For cooking/mixing drinks, I'd take Laird's in a heartbeat over Calvados, which is expensive and apparently hard to find in your area. "Smooth" and "flavorful" are usually mutually exclusive in spirits...

      5 Replies
      1. re: craigasaurus

        I agree that you should support Laird's (take a look at their history and another try at their products) -I entirely disagree with your opinion that Laird's spirits are "unpalatable" and wonder at your motivation.

        Too bad that you can't find Calvados in central NJ, but I'd bet that if you asked your local store for Calvados you would quickly find it provided.

        1. re: steinpilz

          I have to say I agree with the "unpalatable" sentiment. Coincidentally, I happened to test this just last night.

          I was in the mood for some straight spirits and poured myself a small glass of Laird's 100 proof. I found it to be undrinkable in that state (far too hot) and poured it in my measuring cup to make myself a Jack Rose (which was very, very good). After that I tried a very small taste of some of the 7 1/2 year old brandy, which I'd also never sampled straight before, and although it was smoother than the bonded stuff it was still not something I would want to sip straight on a regular basis.

          This is coming from someone who appreciates straight bourbon, rum, and cognac on a regular basis so it's not like I can't handle alcoholic taste -- I think the Laird's just doesn't work in that regard. I don't know about their older brandies, which I have not yet had a chance to try, but for me these two Laird's formulas work best in cocktails. The "smooth blend," I wouldn't even mess with (for cocktails or anything else for that matter -- why bother?)

          For straight consumption of an apple-based spirit, at least for now, I will definitely stick with a higher end Calvados.

          1. re: davis_sq_pro

            Ok davis_sq_pro, I sat down tonight and tried some Laird's applejack to see if I violently disagreed with you.

            It is "hot," I guess, but "far too so"... well I wouldn't say that. But I agree that you are more pro than I, other than wine and beer my liquor choices could be counted on one or two hands.

            I am a loyal and sentimental son of NJ though - my grandmother's favorite drink was a Jack Rose, my grandfather liked rye and "Irish" whiskies, and several members of my family live today quite near the Lairds empire. So I like "jack" and am enjoying rye, both good with cider (another sentimental favorite of mine).

            (Thanks for supporting Laird's BTW) :-)

            Something I like to do with brandies is to hold the alcohol in my mouth until it is diluted and not "hot," don't know if there's a standard brandy/whisky term for this technique but it makes drinking these distilled alcohols quite enjoyable.

            1. re: steinpilz

              I'm certainly not a pro when it comes to spirits, but I am working my way there a sip at a time... for now my opinionated nature will have to be good enough :-)

              So which Laird's did you try tonight? There are several varieties and I notice that you're in the Boston area as well; the only one I've seen for sale around here is the so-called "Smooth Blend", which is as far as I know a watered down rendition of the BIB version, mixed with grain neutral spirits (i.e., Everclear type stuff). But if you're from Jersey, perhaps you got the good stuff? I had to order it on the net from a place in Jersey and have them ship it to my in-laws in RI. Nice to have understanding in-laws in a neighboring state!

              I'll try your technique sometime, but are you sure it's not just making your palate numb?

              1. re: davis_sq_pro

                Hey, are you saying my palate is numb? :-) The one I have is the "Smooth Blend" (80 proof) but you've got me interested in the other ones now. I agree that Calvados is much better.

      2. Calvados is available at:

        ShopRite/Laurenti Wines
        3161 Quakerbridge Road
        Mercerville, NJ 08619
        Phone: 609-587-2849

        3 Replies
        1. re: joshekg

          Thanks Joshekg! One place I haven't gotten to!

          As for Laird's being local you all--I've since found out it is no longer manufactured in NJ...

          1. re: choco_lab38

            I'm pretending that I didn't see this choco_lab....

            1. re: choco_lab38

              No, but Laird & Co. is still headquartered in the same place they've always been, since before the American Revolution, in Colt's Neck NJ