Often bolder in profile, Armagnac has benefitted, in many ways, from being the in the shadow of the France’s far more tony grape brandy, Cognac.
When Armagnac is discussed—if it is discussed at all—it’s typically presented as a sort of rough-and-tumble, bargain-bin alternative to France’s other, far more tony grape brandy, Cognac. It’s true that prices on Armagnac do not climb to quite the heights. Nor do the luxury marketing ploys; there are no diamond-encrusted or Lalique crystal-encased bottles of Armagnac...(continued)
To get a sense of just how much $100 or less buys you in the world of Armagnac, PUNCH’s editorial staff was joined by two bartenders with a long affinity for the spirit: William Elliott, of Maison Premiere and Sauvage; and Claire Sprouse, of Tin Roof Drink Company. We blind-tasted 16 Armagnacs ranging in price from $30 on up to $100. Here are our favorites.
This small (only about eight hectares of their total 22 hectares of vines go to Armagnac production) family operation is responsible for some of the best value, lofi Armagnacs in the market. This bottling, made from 100 percent Baco 22A grapes, and aged in a combination of new and used Gascon oak, is bottled without the addition of sugar or caramel coloring (though both are legal here and in Cognac). It’s lean and high-toned with notes of hay and white flowers, and a yeasty savoriness. Fine-boned and wine-like in texture, one taster dubbed it an “aperitif Armagnac.”
While we did our best to not repeat producers in the tasting, two houses—Delorde/Duffau and Esperance—had numerous bottles in the top ten. This expression, like the 5 Year, is distilled from 100 percent Baco 22A, then aged in Gascon wood for 14 years. High-acid and mineral with notes of candied mushroom and butterscotch, it’s backed up with a mouthfeel that one taster described as “narrative.” This was easily the most texturally complex Armagnac in the tasting and a testament to how the spirit’s somewhat nonlinear profile can be its greatest asset.