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The history of Calvados – 20th Century War and Peace.

By the turn of the 20th century calvados production had increased from 56,300 hl in 1882 to well over 300,000hl in 1900. The area of Pays d’Auge was established as the major producing territory.  Most of the cider production remained where the orchards were but several cider factories settled in larger cities. Practically every canton had a distillery making a total of around 50 at the beginning of the 20th century and rising to 70 in 1914. The quality was enhanced with new techniques such as centrifugation and filtration which was controlled by regulations. Many merchants bought calvados at the farms and sold it to traders and shippers at the ports. In the country, travelling stills moving from farm to farm were common. Names like Paulette, Desbouillons and Toutin were known and had several stills on the move.

The First World War brought to an end to the good times for calvados. The orchards were a long way from the war zones but the government requisitioned all the apples and cider to make the alcohol for the armament industry. Even though a lot of alcohol was made, the development in the farms and the quality of the cider and brandy came to a halt.

The war spread the word of calvados. In the shell holes and trenches soldiers from all over France and from other countries as well fought their common enemy. Occasionally they got some respite and foods and drinks were passed around. For the first time in their lives soldiers got to taste the Normandy speciality and those lucky enough to survive took the acquired taste home with them. For the cider industry the war was bad as the soldiers had developed a taste for stronger drinks like wine and brandy in the trenches and after the war years the cider and calvados industry failed to address their markets needs, wines had started to take the lion’s share of the local market.  The guaranteed income generated by the sales of apples to the government had made most producers content. In 1923, parallel to the industrial production efforts, one Baron Leroy who was president of the National institute of Labels of  Origin created a label of origin for the cider and calvados industry which was to become the industry standard in the next great war.