Armagnac,

Spanish Brandy, American Brandy and Other aged grape brandies.

Armagnac

Armagnac is Cognac’s older, rustic kin to the South.  It's made in Gascony France, where the three musketeers got into all their trouble. Armagnac predates Cognac by a few hundred years, beginning as early as the 1400s, and while today Cognac has a much bigger profile globally, in France Armagnac is the spirit of choice.  65% of all Armagnac made is consumed in France as opposed to only 3% of Cognac.  While on the surface, the two are is similar.  Armagnac tends to be more fragrant and fuller bodied compared to the light and floral Cognac.  Primarily because of the traditional armagnac barrels impart stronger oak flavors.  For this reason, Armagnac is often sipped as a digestif.

 

 

 

Recommended Brands

There aren’t any big name brands, like in Cognac.  Most Armagnac is made by small producers.  Here are a few:

 

  • Larrasingle

  • Laubade

  • Tariquet

  • Cerboi

  • Marie Duffau

  • Darroze

 

 

 

 

Armagnac Production Basics

 

  • Grapes - Ten grapes are permitted but the most prominent are Ugni Blanc and Baco-22a. The latter is a hybrid of Folle Blanche and Noah and is largely responsible Armagnac’s signature full body and spice.  Folle Blanche and Colombard were historically prominent but are used to a lesser extent today.

 

  • Regions - 

    • Bas-Armagnac - Produces about 57% of all Armagnac. It is considered the best, specifically “Grand Bas-Armagnac” an unofficial designation for an area in the Northwest. It has the best soil and growing conditions.   Thus, it contains the highest concentration of quality producers.

    • Ténarèze - Prodcue the seconds highest amount. The soil is similar to Cognac so these can generally be aged a bit longer.  Considererd by some to be the Borderies of Armagnac.

    • Haut-Armagnac - Produces only 3%, despite being the largest region.

 

  • Distillation - Armagnac is traditionally distilled once in a pot/column hybrid still, basically a short column on top of a pot.  Most Armgancs producers are small scale operations and don't own a still so there are traveling still the go from house to house.  This hyrid style is more transportable.  Though many of the more affordable brands are adopting cognac’s twice distilled copper stills.  

 

  • Aging and MaturationBlack Monleuzon oak from the Gascon forest is traditional for Armagnac aging, but Limousin and Troncais are more common today.  Armagnacs are aged as long as Cognac.  The best being 30-40 years old.

 

  • Vintage - Many Armagnacs are released as vintages, which is rare for Cognac. These bottles contain brandy all from one distilling season.  For some recommendations check out this article from Doug Frost.

 

  • Non-vintage blends follow aging labels similar to Cognac.  See above.

Categories by Age - As with Coganc, the ages refers to the youngest brandy in the blend.

  • V.S. ("very special")  - Aged for a minimum of two years

  • V.S.O.P. ("very superior old pale") - Aged for a minimum of five years.

  • XO ("extra old") - Aged for a minimum of six years.

  • Hors d'âge ("beyond age")  - Aged for a minimum of ten years.

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tom@socialhourcocktails.com Brooklyn, NY

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