June 2019 Tasting Event: Cask Strength Armagnac

Cask Strength Armagnac  Hosted by Eric Schroeder 

Cask Strength Armagnac

Armagnac is the oldest distilled brandy made in France, predating its cousin Cognac by two centuries. There are three distinct regions in Gascony in southwestern France that produce Armagnac: Bas, Ténarèze and Haut.

Each region has its own respective characteristics that find their way into the distillate.

For Bas-Armagnac the vines grow on poor and acidic clay loam soils with pockets of iron elements in places that color it reddish brown.  This zone produces light, fruity, delicate and highly reputed eaux-de-vie.

Armagnac-Ténarèze is a transitional zone with ‘boulbènes’ and ‘terreforts’ (Gascon name given to clay-limestone soils that are heavy yet fertile). These eaux-de-vie are generally more full-bodied and reach their peak after long ageing.

Haut-Armagnac is a sprawling region in southeastern France. The hills are made of limestone and clay, while the valleys are sometimes covered with boulbènes. The vineyards there are quite sparse.

What makes Armagnac’s different from Cognac? There are three primary differences: 1) the preponderance of sand in the soil, whereas Cognac grapes grow in a chalky medium; 2) the 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 there is plenty of flavor in Armagnac, but it needs a long time in the barrel to be drinkable.

Cocktail: Le Grande-Pere

Ingredients: 2 oz Armagnac, ¼ oz port prune syrup , 6 dashes Scrappy’s chocolate bitters,

Recipe: Add all the ingredients to a chilled glass holding a single large ice cube, then stir to combine. Garnish with orange twist.

Port-Prune Syrup: Using a kitchen knife, cut 5¼ oz. (150 grams) of prunes into quarters, then cut a small knob of ginger (about 1¾ oz., or 50 grams) into thin slices. Combine the prunes and ginger in a saucepan along with 25 grams of whole white pep-per, 3 grams of whole cloves, a small piece (about 2.5 grams) of cracked nutmeg, 2 cups of ruby port and 2 cups of white sugar. Stir frequently over medium heat until the mixture has simmered for 20 minutes. Let the syrup cool, then strain it through a fine-mesh strainer into a covered container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

(credit: Zac Overman, L’Oursin, Seattle, http://imbibemagazine.com/armagnac-cocktail-le-grand-pere/)

Cask Strength Armagnac

Bottle 1: Dom. de Mounisson Armagnac (1975)

Distillery: Fitte et Laterrade

Sub Region: Ténarèze

Proof: 92.6

Price: $220

Purchase location: Astor Wine & Spirits

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Sweet walnut; dark fruit; balsamic.

Palate: Bitter caramel; leather; apricot; fig.

Finish: Prune juice; stewed apples; bitter dark chocolate.

Why this bottle is featured: This Armagnac was distilled in 1975 and bottled in 2018, resulting in a 43 year old spirit. I wanted to try a spirit that older than I am.

Cask Strength Armagnac

Bottle 2: Chateau de Laubde (1979)

Distillery: Chateau de Laubde

Sub Region: Bas

Proof: 92.4

Price: $330

Purchase location: Elixir Spirits

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Funky; blueberry; box of raisins; frogs; wet grass.

Palate: Applewood; earthy; hazelnut.

Finish: Tart blueberry; grape skin; fruit leather.

Why this bottle is featured: This is a birth year bottle for me that was distilled in 1979 and bottled in October 2018, resulting in a 39 year old spirit. It is a blend of bacco and ugni blanc grapes.

Cask Strength Armagnac

Bottle 3: Domaine Lasalle (1991)

Distillery: L’Encantada

Sub Region: Bas

Proof: 97.2

Price: $165

Purchase location: Single Barrel Project via Maison Corbeaux

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Grape skin; cologne; vermouth.

Palate: Caramel; sherry; bitter chocolate.

Finish: Bitter dark chocolate; cherry; craisins.

Why this bottle is featured: This Armagnac was distilled in 1991 and bottled in 2017 resulting in a 26 year old spirit. The L’Encantada Armagnacs are carefully selected by their cellar master and bottled at cask strength to preserve color and alcohol content. They are an independent bottler that sources unique casks from small artisan producers. Many of the farmers they work with are no longer active, meaning they represent the last expression of that particular farm and that particular grower.

Cask Strength Armagnac

Bottle 4: Delord (1994)

Name: 1994

Distillery: Delord

Region: Armagnac

Sub Region: Bas

Proof: 106

Price: $120

Purchase location: Elixir Spirits

Tasting Notes: 

Nose: Blackberry; figs; apple skin; oak.

Palate: Spice up front with apricot, oloroso sherry, and tart red apple.

Finish: Dry carmel; tart apple; faint flat cherry cola.

Why this bottle is featured: This Armagnac was distilled in 1994 and was bottled in 2018 making it 24 years old. It was hand selected the guys behind the Dads Drinking Bourbon podcast for Elixir Spirits.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *