Jean-Roger Groult represents the fifth generation of the Groult family, which started distilling Calvados from cider on their farm in Normandy, France, in the mid-1800s.
The property, where some 5,600 trees produce a wide variety of sweet, bittersweet and acidic apples, is about a one-hour drive from the beaches of Normandy where Allied troops landed during World War II to liberate Western Europe from the control of Nazi Germany.
In an email from France, Groult says he learned about the historic event in school and heard stories when he was growing up about the wartime experiences of his grandparents.
His grandfather Roger Groult, who gave his name to the distillery, was driving a truck for the French Resistance when he was wounded and captured by the Nazis. His grandmother was daring enough to tell the Nazi soldiers who had commandeered and occupied part of the family property that the Allies were nearby, when in fact they were 20 miles away. Her bold lie frightened the Germans so much that they retreated.
Groult, who heads the House of Roger Groult, says his father created special editions of Calvados for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of D-Day, and he wanted to continue the family legacy by creating a limited edition of the apple brandy that is available this year as a tribute to the 70th anniversary of D-Day ($65).
"It is part of our culture, so I want to commemorate those young soldiers that we call our liberators," he says.
Groult developed a blend that is reminiscent of the Calvados that Allied servicemen in Normandy in 1944 would have been drinking. In tribute to D-Day, June 6, 1944, the special edition has been aged six years and produced in a limited edition of 1,944 bottles. The label is a reproduction of a vintage, hand-drawn map depicting Allied planes and ships headed toward the Normandy coast.
Groult says the Calvados has a flavor of fresh fruit with subtle spicy notes of vanilla and cinnamon.
Although Calvados is traditionally served as a digestif after a meal, Groult suggests drinking the new release as an aperitif. He recommends swirling ice in the glass for a few seconds and removing it before pouring the Calvados.
"The coolness of the glass," he explains, "will enhance the fresh apple aroma of this special edition."