Poor Artie Bucco. In season four of The Sopranos, the luckless chef and restaurateur was suckered into a bad business deal. He borrowed $50,000 from the Mafia only to be fleeced by his French partner, who took Bucco on as an investor for his scheme to buy distribution
rights for a little-known style of French brandy. “Armagnac!” Bucco exclaimed to his mob backers, parroting his partner’s claims. “It’s the next vodka!”
The quest was quixotic from the start—after all, when could an esoteric type of brandy from
a remote region in France ever replace vodka as the next hot spirit? “We’re still waiting,” says Julien Ducos, export manager for Château du Tariquet’s Armagnacs, after I ask him the question as he steers through the streets of Bourdeaux en route to Armagnac’s Gascony home. It’s a joke, of course—as a small-scale spirit requiring tremendous time and patience to produce, Armagnac will never see sales on par with those of vodka—or even other aged spirits like bourbon or single-malt scotch. But as the whiskey market booms and prices rise (especially in the U.S.) and drinkers increasingly look for spirits with a sense of not just quality, but authenticity, Armagnac is finally drawing more attention.
CHÂTEAU DE LEBERON TÉNARÈZE SINGLE CASK 1986 VINTAGE
This big, bold Armagnac is robust with toasted nuts and spice, and a gorgeous toffee-rich character.
Every spirit has its ardent fans, but Armagnac’s apostles may be key to the spirit’s ascent. “If you go to a bartender and ask him what’s his well Armagnac, more often than not, he doesn't even have one,” says Nicolas Palazzi, owner of Brooklyn-based PM Spirits and importer of several Armagnacs, which he added to his portfolio based largely on interest from groups of collectors, not bar and restaurant trade. “If anything, the consumer may care more for Armagnac than the professional.”
DOMAINE D’ESPÉRANCE BAS-ARMAGNAC 2000 VINTAGE
This single-cask Folle Blanche is vibrant and deeply layered with anise, toffee crumble, roasted nuts and toasted spice.
DOMAINE D’AURENSEN TÉNARÈZE 20 YEARS
This intense, robust Armagnac is dense with brown butter and sautéed almonds, with a lingering depth of spice and a rancio flourish.
Thad Vogler largely agrees. “I definitely see the interest coming from the public,” he says. “There’s no amount of marketing that can do that. We watched it happen with rye whiskey and mezcal, and now it can happen with this. Armagnac’s like K Records or Sub Pop—it’s defined by what it’s not, which is being big.”