Thursday, February 26, 2009

Brandy Friday: Armagnac

So far, our Brandy Fridays have exclusively explored the region of Cognac, but there is a whole world of brandy out there, even in France. Today, we will branch out and taste and Armagnac.

What is Armagnac?

Armagnac is often thought of as the other French brandy, having to share the limelight with its celebrated sister brandy, Cognac, but Armagnac should be celebrated in its own right.

Armagnac is an AOC, meaning that brandy of that name must come from the Armagnac region of France. Armagnac, the region, lies in the duchy of Gascony in southwestern France amid the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains on the border with Spain. South of Bordeaux, Armagnac is a rich culinary region which is known as home to some of the best foie gras in France.

Armagnac, the brandy, is similar but not exactly the same as Cognac. It is produced using some of the same grapes, including Ugni Blanc, though it also uses Folle Blanche and Colombard, and for a few years still, the hybrid grape Baco 22A, though use of this grape will be discontinued in another year per the regional authority that presides over Armagnac production. (Can you say "collector's dream"?) Armagnac is also known for using continuous stills to distill their spirits, as opposed to the pot stills of Cognac, though continuous stills are not universal in the region. Armagnacs are often sold younger than Cognacs, though this is also not universal.

As with Cognac, Armagnac has subregions, including Bas Armagnac to the west and Tenareze and Haut Armagnac to the East. Today, we are tasting a Bas Armagnac.


Marie Duffau, Bas Armagnac, Napoleon, 40% alcohol ($50).

Beautiful nose with more spice than fruit, like a mulled wine with clove and allspice, also some agave/Tequila scents. Very nice flavor, the sweet and spice interplay reminds me of a high-rye content Bourbon.

This is wonderful stuff and very different from the Cognacs I've been enjoying. Less fruity and more spicy, there is more going on in the glass than lots of the Cognacs I tried. I will definitely be trying more Armagnacs.

Next Friday: A Cognac, of sorts, from California

No comments: