- Armagnac is a French brandy with a longer history than its famous cousin Cognac
- Single distilled in continuous alambic to lower abv for richer, more full-bodied spirit
- Bas-Armagnac area has 57% of vineyards and the most complex eaux-de-vie
- Free UK shipping on Comte de Lauvia Bas-Armagnacs (or £5 off elsewhere)
- Try Armagnac with a Drinks by the Dram Armagnac Tasting Set
Armagnac is a fantastic spirit that many savvy drinkers, including many whisky fans, have begun exploring with enthusiasm in recent years. The good news is that there’s never been a better time to dip a toe in the Armagnac ‘eau’, as we’re offering Free UK Shipping on your *entire* order (or £5 off elsewhere) when you buy any bottle of Comte de Lauvia until the end of July. That includes their Fine, Réserve and Hors d’Age expressions, newly launched in the UK!
Armagnac is found in Gascony, further south than Cognac (the other side of Bordeaux) and without the access to sea trade that was key to Cognac’s rise from the 17th-19th century.
Armagnac is a French brandy that actually has a considerably longer history than its famous cousin Cognac. In fact, the earliest records of brandy, dating back to 1411, come from Gascony.
Similar grapes are used for each (Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard), so what are the key differences? Well, in Armagnac the the robust Baco Blanc (Baco 22A) grape is also utilised, but one of the biggest differences comes at the distillation stage. Armagnac is generally single distilled in a continuous alambic still, and to a lower abv than Cognac (which must be distilled twice). Throw in different soils and climate (terroir), a different approach to blending (eaux-de-vie in Cognac are blended throughout maturation, which is why you see fewer vintage releases) and even different casks for ageing (in Armagnac the local ‘black oak’ is still sometimes used) and you can start to see how these are quite distinct spirits. Both are complex and delicious, but Armagnac offers a richer, more full-bodied and more rustic character as well as (whisper it) rather good value indeed… It’s also distilled and sold by smaller producers in more modest artisanal quantities, all of which has increasingly appealed to whisky fans in recent years.
The three Armagnac districts.
The Bas-Armagnac area accounts for around 57% of the vineyards and produces the highest quality and most complex eaux-de-vie. Bas means ‘low’ (as in altitude) and the area is known for its fine, sandy, siliceous soil with pockets of clay. Armagnac-Ténarèze accounts for another 40% and is known for its more stony clay and limestone soils, producing a strong, generous and more perfumed style. Haut-Armagnac (high) is the largest geographically, but is by far the smallest in terms of production.
Ways To Try
Appetite suitably whetted? Here are some suggestions for delving into the wonderful world of Armagnac, starting with a bit of a no-brainer. When it comes to exploring new spirits, a Drinks by the Dram tasting set of 5 x 3cl drams is always a perfect option! (As well as an Armagnac Tasting Set, they also produce an Armagnac Advent Calendar – due to return for 2016.)
As mentioned, you can also Enjoy Free Shipping on your entire order with any bottle of Comte de Lauvia until the end of July! Founded in 1932, their Bas-Armagnacs are still aged in local black oak casks. They’re filled into fresh casks for 9 months before being moved to second or third fill casks for a further couple of years and subsequently to older casks (this movement from newer, more active casks to older casks is a common process for Armagnac). Maître de Chais Eric Durand oversees the maturation and blending process at their cellars (dubbed ‘The Cathedral’) in Euaze, with the new Hors d’Age expression being made up of vintages from 1973 to 2000.
Tasting Note for Comte de Lauvia Hors d’Age:
Nose: Chocolate and Mississippi mud pie with marmalade developing, becoming increasing zesty. Fig rolls and vanilla custard emerge with hints of menthol and cigar box.
Palate: Earthy butterscotch and Toffifee crossing into nutty, slightly mushroomy rancio notes.
Finish: Sweet with mixed peels, orange oil and light hazelnut.
Overall:Rich, round, tasty and well put together.
For a third option, how about a vintage Armagnac? Delord trace their history back to 1893 when, as was common at the time, Prosper Delord took his still from farm to farm to distil the wine. Based in Lannepax from 1932, a fourth generation of the family is now involved with Jacques and Sylvain Delord selecting and blending the eaux-de-vie. Their vintage releases are single distilled, often in a still that dates from 1900.
Tasting Note for Delord 1976 Bas-Armagnac:
Nose: Rich and concentrated with dried and stewed fruit sweetness balancing pleasantly musky rancio and white pepper.
Palate: Thick dried fruit, plum and peach notes shine, and yet more chewy rancio goodness.
Finish: Long and syrupy, still so concentrated, fresh blackcurrant and a herbaceous edge.
Overall: Perhaps a more rustic option than the Lauvia, well-aged with great intensity.