This whisky made from Spanish malt was aged in a single solera cask that previously held very old oloroso sherry.
Like a lot of the cognac I've bought, the Navarre cognac was an impulse purchase. It’s a blend of 40-50-year-old cognac, non-chill filtered, not colored, not boised…just raw, from-the-cask cognac (maybe a little water). It's only released every couple years and there is not a ton out there. So, how is it?
Nose: tropical fruits galore...Guava, papaya, mango, citrus, pineapple...some light flower petals, too
Palate: the tropical fruits and citrus translate but with kiwi, too...coconut milk, honeysuckle, and a little cocoa powder.
Finish: fantastically long and fruity, rich, delicious
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.
It used to be that cognac was made pretty much all the same by big-named négociants—Courvoisier, Hennessy, Martell and Remy Martin—that blended the products of vineyard distilleries all over the French region. Not anymore. While all cognac remains a spirit made by twice-distilling the wine of certain white grapes and then cask-aging and blending the resulting eau de vies, the commonality stops there.
Today, cognac has diversified, as producers large and small experiment with production methods, yielding a multiplicity of fascinating flavors and styles. Single-cru, bourbon-barrel-aged, estate-bottled, made with rare grapes and from unique terroirs, eschewing the traditional additives—you name it. more
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From a large farmstead producer in Cognac’s top growing region—the Grande Champagne cru—this single-estate spirit is aged for six years, three times longer than required for Very Special cognac. That time in the barrel yields a pale-hued yet smooth sip with a touch of spice and ample fruit, especially banana. It makes a great mixer. At Tom Colicchio’s Temple Court in New York, it’s used with Suze, Benedictine and dry vermouth in a John McComb cocktail.
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Dating to 1619, Cognac’s oldest house is still one of the smallest, and their methods are among the most rustic. The 15th-generation distiller Pierre Goursat Gourry stokes the wood-fired still to make this potent spirit, which is bottled unfiltered at a high 55-percent alcohol. It’s got notes of butterscotch, grass and a big bouquet of wildflowers, and at Brooklyn’s Sauvage, they’ve found it works awfully well in a classic Stinger.
Once a mysterious distilled beverage from south of the border, tequila is a favorite for any occasion—from fraternity parties to business dinners at Michelin-starred restaurants.
The agave plant is a unique thing, though. Unlike grains and grapes, it doesn’t have an annual growth cycle. A piña, the sugar-rich inner heart of the blue agave plant that’s roasted and milled to produce the juice, can take up to 12 years to mature. For purists, the production of tequila is best when it’s done like Texas barbecue—the slower, the better.
Five Fine Extra Añejos
...Fuenteseca 21-year-old is an argument for aging tequila over an extra-long period. Made by Enrique Fonseca, this super-premium tequila was distilled in copper double-column stills from mostly 1984 plantings harvested in 1993. After being stored for 10 years, they were moved to a higher, cooler climate for an additional 11.
This limited run of 8-year-old bourbon is bolder and better than its younger counterparts.
Mic.Drop. Straight Bourbon Whiskey ($100), from Brooklyn-based PM Spirits, has arrived on the scene with an attention-grabbing moniker and a pretty face (the label was designed by comic book artist Chris Batista)—ripe for becoming beloved by hipsters and cult-brand connoisseurs. The curious name has its origins with PM Spirits founder Nicolas Palazzi, when he witnessed a friend trying to convince his daughter to drop her toy microphone—in case you were wondering.
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This whisky is the result of a partnership between Nicolas Palazzi, founder of Brooklyn-based PM Spirits (self-described “provider of geeky spirits”), and Spanish winery Equipo Navazos. Bota Punta was released at the very end of 2017. It’s a ten-year-old malt whisky distilled in Spain from 100 percent Spanish barley and aged in Oloroso sherry casks. The name refers to the first cask in the bottom row of barrels in the solera aging system, which supposedly ages faster because of the amount of light and air it gets. This is a rich, creamy, sherry-forward malt whisky that would make a nice after dinner dram. $100