Monday, September 29, 2014

Armagnac Tasting With J!


Well, it's not quite bourbon season just yet.  All the big releases of the year should be hitting the shelves in the next month or so.  So as we officially say goodbye to summer, enjoy our last long sunsets of the year, and get ready for the serious whiskey months of fall and winter, we figured now would be a good time to branch out a little bit.  Admittedly, we know nothing about brandy.  It's liquor made from grapes?  Distilled wine?  It looks like whiskey, and it's aged like whiskey, so will we like it?  As a first stab into brandy we called in a friend and Armagnac lover, Jayson Orozia, to educate us with some gems from his personal collection.

J with some of his fav's
Armagnac is in fact distilled from wine.  It comes from the Gascony region of France and is aged in oak barrels just like whiskey.  Armagnac is often described as earthy and mellow with tastes ranging from sweet and fruity to woody and spicy.

We tried two bottles from the western Bas Armagnac region which is famous for their sables fauves (aka tawny sands) varieties with robust acidic, tannic flavors; and three bottles from the northern Ténarèze region, which is known for the strongest, fullest flavored varieties.  All were well-aged, with vintages ranging from 1973 to 1982 and ages from 29 to 40 years in the barrel.  Well, what are we waiting for??  Let's jump in for our first try at some Armagnac!

Bas Armagnac Marie Duffau  1973/2003



Ok this is pretty much what we'd expected from Armagnac.  A lot of big grapes, almost like a very mellow Speyside malt with a ton of sherry barrel influence.  On the palate some stone fruits come out: plums, cherries, also a little maple syrup.  The finish goes a bit sour with a lot of tannins.



Bas Amagnac Domaine D'Ognoas  1973/2012


Wow now this one is surprising.  We've got a lot more oak this time, the grapes are hiding in the back and the big wood barrel flavors are way out front.  Beautifully balanced dram showing off the maturity of 39 years in the oak without going bitter or stale.  On the palate there are a lot of floral notes.  On the finish it all comes together with a little berry sweetness, strong spirit warmth with no burn, and a good leathery grape eaux-de-vie thing going on.  This one was Jayson's favorite and that's no surprise, a real gem.

Armagnac Tenareze Chateau de Pellehaut 1973/2013 Ugni Blanc



The eldest of the bunch, at a full 40 years in the barrel, this one sort of combines the characteristics of the first two.  Like a deep wood with red wine soaked into the cracks.  It's right in the pocket, not too sweet, not too woody, but very enjoyable.  The D'Ognoas is still the favorite, but this one would definitely go nicely with a good cigar after dinner.



Armagnac Tenareze Chateua de Pellehaut 1983 / 2013 Ugni Blanc



The one was most bourbon-y of all of them.  Big oak, wood, just a little sweetness.  The palate carries through the combination of bourbon and grapes, very sweet, kind of like a port finished whiskey.  Surprisingly even though this was the most whiskey-like of all the armagnac, it was probably our least favorite.  Still a lovely drink, but it doesn't feel quite in the same league as the others.

Armagnac Tenareze Chateau de Pellehaut 1978 / 2014


Holy spice!  Now we're into almost a rye flavor profile, really interesting.  Rye + grapes, big wood, spice, some grassy flavor.  On the palate it's very interesting with lots of layers of flavor.  It starts sweet, then woody, then vanilla and pepper.  The finish goes quickly from the spice to wood, and then finally is very sweet, the grapes lingering the longest.  A very unique drink.  We could see how the D'Ognoas is J's favorite, and it is probably the all-around best, but this one is really unique and just has a certain something that may get us into this whole Armagnac thing after all!

Thanks J for an awesome tasting, and don't worry we'll be back to whiskey in a big way next week!

Cheers/SB