This past weekend, Flight Club helped celebrate the 40th birthday of one of its Alumni Members, Joe Jacumin. In advance, Joe’s wife, Erica, was kinda enough to reach out to us to assist in the selection of a “birthday bottle” for Joe to celebrate the occasion. Members Chris Crow and Scott Hill assisted Erica in picking a bottle of Armagnac that was in fact distilled in Joe’s year of birth (and not incidentally, bottled and released this year) – like Joe, this spirit is 40 years old.
That bottle selected was the Baron de Lustrac, a 1977 vintage Armagnanc, from the Bas region of Armagnac (this region is notable for its lower altitude, and sand and iron soil, that together give wine flavor that is believed superior for both young and aged Armagnacs).
For those unfamiliar with Armagnac, it is a lesser-known and often misunderstood type of brandy from the region of Gascony in southwestern France. Armagnac is the oldest distilled brandy made in France, predating its cousin Cognac by two centuries.
Armagnac’s chief differences from Cognac come from (1) the preponderance of sand in the soil, whereas Cognac grapes grow in a chalky medium; (2) its method of distillation – Armagnac is made in a single run in a special column still that allows it to retain more of the raw qualities of the grape than does Cognac’s pot still; and (3) the oak used in Armagnac is the local black oak that is much more powerful and rustic in flavor profile. This single distillation and the particular oak used to make Armagnac means that while there is plenty of flavor in Armagnac, it needs a long time in the barrel to be drinkable.
Armagnacs are made from a blend of wines prior to distillation, with many producers focusing on particular vintages at bottling versus a blending variously aged product. The Baron de Lustrac is just that: a 1977 vintage Armagnanc. Like most Armagnacs, very little information is readily available on this bottle other than its vintage.
At this weekend’s celebration, Joe was presented with his birthday gift. He was kind enough to share with those present, who collectively compiled the following tasting notes:
Baron de Lustrac 1977:
Nose: Port wine sweetness, coupled with earthy elements of mushroom, grass and potting soil (often described as the “rancio” notes); red licorice; dark fruit; green apple; maple syrup. Incredible. (4.5/5)
Palate: Notes of oxidized semi-sweet vermouth or sherry set in right away; cast iron/metal/mineral; plum skin; salted caramel and dark chocolate; musty leather. With time the oxidized wine/metallic notes softened and the fruit skin popped (3.5/5)
Finish: Continued oxidized metal; sea salt and dark chocolate; musty leather. While the notes are pleasing, the length was simply too short. (2.5/5)
Overall: The nose on the Baron de Lustrac 1977 carries this one through to an overall very enjoyable experience. From nose to finish, the age is evident but not overpowering. The initial rancio experience carries over to the oxidized wine/cast iron notes, which are both unique and intriguing. (4/5)
Value: The Baron de Lustrac 1977 is a relative bargain – both in terms of getting to experience a 40 year old vintage Armagnac and in terms of overall unique flavor. While we won’t reveal the price (it was a gift, after all), we can say that this bottle clocks in at an incredible value for a 40 year old spirit. (5/5)
“The nose on the Baron de Lustrac 1977 carries this one through to an overall very enjoyable experience.”
Scott is a co-founder of Flight Club and a frequent writer and reviewer on the Club’s blog.