Calvados is a rare and expensive apple brandy made in Calvados, in the Normandy region of northern France. It is considered one of the world's finest brandies, after only cognac and armagnac, and is distilled from apple cider and then aged in oak for at least one year, often longer. The highest quality calvados bears the designation applellation contrôlée. Applejack is an inferior American version of this luscious apple brandy.
The story goes that Charlemagne decreed that Normandy farmers had to grow apple orchards as well as grape vineyards. By the sixteenth century brandy was coming into vogue, and the enterprising local farmers, long plagued by a surplus of apples, began to distill their cider. Thus calvados was born. Apparently many modern French people in the Normandy region start their day off with a shot of young calvados to get their blood flowing; in the rest of the world, calvados is often used in cooking, added to chicken, pork, and veal dishes.