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VS Armagnac

VS (Very Special) Armagnac is a type of brandy produced in the Armagnac region of Gascony, situated in the southwest of France. It's one of the world's oldest distilled spirits, with a history that stretches back over 700 years. The "VS" designation refers to the youngest spirit in the bottle being aged for at least two years in oak, although often, the blend might contain older brandies. Here, we delve into the complexities, history, production, and cultural significance of VS Armagnac.

History and Cultural Significance

Armagnac, first distilled in the early 15th century, has a rich history intertwined with the culture of Gascony. The spirit has been celebrated over centuries in literature, gastronomy, and art. It was traditionally consumed for its purported medicinal qualities and has always been a symbol of Gascon pride. VS Armagnac, being the youngest category, represents an entry point into this historical spirit, offering an introduction to the traditions, craftsmanship, and heritage of the region.

Production and Distillation

VS Armagnac is produced using a column still in a single distillation process, unlike its cousin Cognac, which is distilled twice in pot stills. The wine, made from a blend of approved grape varieties such as Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Baco Blanc, and Colombard, is distilled after the harvest season. This single distillation preserves more of the original fruit character, leading to a robust and complex spirit even at a young age like VS.

Ageing and Blending

After distillation, VS Armagnac is aged in oak barrels, typically from the local Monlezun forest, although Limousin and Tronçais oak are also used. The ageing process is crucial, as the interaction between the spirit, wood, and air will define its final character. The oak barrels impart tannins and allow for the slow oxidation and concentration of the spirit, enhancing its aromatic complexity and softening the palate.

Despite the minimum ageing requirement of two years, VS Armagnac often contains older eaux-de-vie to balance and round out the blend. Master blenders skillfully mix different batches to achieve a consistent house style, a task requiring a deep understanding of the ageing process and the evolving sensory characteristics of the spirit.

Flavour Profile

VS Armagnac is known for its freshness and vibrancy. On the nose, it typically displays lively aromas of fresh grapes, flowers, and a hint of vanilla from the oak. The palate is robust and fruity, with a fiery youthfulness tempered by subtle wood notes. The finish is often crisp and warm, with a lingering fruitiness. It's this bold character that makes VS Armagnac not only enjoyable in its own right but also a versatile spirit in mixology.


Traditionally consumed neat, VS Armagnac serves as an excellent digestif. However, its robust character and depth of flavour have made it a popular choice in cocktails, providing a complex base that can stand up to a range of ingredients. Classic cocktails like the Armagnac Old Fashioned or modern creations using fresh fruits, herbs, and spices showcase the spirit's versatility.

Cultural Impact and Global Market

While historically overshadowed by Cognac, Armagnac has carved out a niche among connoisseurs who appreciate its artisanal production methods and rich character. VS Armagnac, accessible in price and rich in history, serves as a gateway to this storied spirit, appealing to younger drinkers and mixologists looking for an authentic, quality ingredient.

Globally, there's a growing interest in regional craft spirits, and VS Armagnac fits perfectly into this trend. Its unique production, ties to Gascony, and the emphasis on tradition and craftsmanship resonate with modern consumers seeking an authentic, story-driven experience.

Challenges and the Future

The Armagnac industry faces challenges, including climate change, fluctuating global demand, and competition from other spirits. However, producers are adapting through sustainable practices, modern marketing strategies, and innovations in product offerings while preserving the spirit’s heritage.

VS Armagnac, with its rich history, artisanal production, and vibrant character, has a promising future. As global consumers increasingly seek authenticity and quality, the spirit stands poised to capture the hearts and palates of a new generation, continuing the legacy of the oldest French brandy. Whether enjoyed neat, as a digestif reflecting centuries of tradition, or mixed into a cocktail representing the spirit's adaptability and modern appeal, VS Armagnac offers a unique and timeless drinking experience.

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