Winter Goes Better with Armagnac

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Armagnac: fiery, outdated hooch from the days of old or under-the-radar value for lovers of rich, terroir-focused spirits? The answer is probably a bit of both. Like the grower Champagne revolution currently taking place on the other side of France, the best Armagnacs come from small farmer/producers or micro-négociants with longstanding contracts with producers who are often too small in scale for luxuries like bottling or labeling machines. The other side of the coin is dominated by a few major houses that lead the category in sales and in modernization. Shortcuts are de rigueur such as excessive dilution to stretch out quantities, and then the addition of caramel and boisé (syrup made from boiling wood) to add sweetness and color respectively. Luckily, there are still many brilliant spirits made that showcase Cognac’s wild brother's intensity, complexity and authenticity. Here are our favorites that make a great finish to any meal, or a fantastic gift for the holiday season. For more on what Armagnac is, please see this. John Rankin

 

Ravignan 1985 (Bottled 2015) Bas-Armagnac 30 years old

This is the “new” release from one of our favorite estates in Bas-Armagnac. Ravignan spares no expense in creating France’s premier brandy. French oak barrels are air-dried for a full seven years before being filled with a spirit distilled to the very low 50% alcohol. After almost 30 years the spirit reduces in strength to about 42 percent, but gains in complexity and develops a beautiful flavor of roasted hazelnuts, wood smoke and a touch of prune. Perfect for 1985 birth years! John Rankin

  • brandy
  • 6 in stock
  • no discount
  • $109.99

Pellehaut 1989 Armagnac Ténarèze Ugni Blanc

This Armagnac shows a vibrant orange color with hints of caramel. Tastes mature, but even after 24 years in cask there is a grippy quality and some citrus-toned fruit. This is an excellent introduction to vintage Armagnac and a fabulous value.  John Rankin

  • brandy
  • 13 in stock
  • no discount
  • $69.99

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Ravignan 1984 (Bottled 2014) Bas-Armagnac

Traditionally-made Armagnac is like no other spirit. Grapes are harvested, distilled a single time, aged in a combination of new and used barrels, and then released as vintage when the Brandy has blossomed in barrel into a mature spirit with both spice and finesse. At Ravignan, the vintages are never diluted with water as many other spirits are (including some vintage Armagnacs). Instead the alcohol slowly evaporates over time from 51 percent down to 44. This process takes 30 years of resting to accomplish! The results can’t be rushed, but the reputation at Ravignan is based on patience and doing things the old fashioned way. We buy as many of these as we can, and thus are able to offer this at a very fair price. Especially when we see what the Macallan 18 is selling for these days…John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • $109.99

Seailles, Domaine des 20 year old Armagnac Ténarèze 500ml (44%)

Our favorite value in Armagnac! It certainly helps that it’s bottled in a 500ml bottle. Seailles makes fantastic table wines and a bit of Armagnac on their property in the Ténarèze region. Hard, clay soils produce spirits that can seem closed or tight for their first 10 years, but at 20 years of age they show floral, spice and citrus character with a rich texture. This is a delicious and inexpensive way to be introduced to France’s boldest spirit. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • $40.99

Domaine Boingnères 1985 Bas-Armagnac "Cépage Nobles"

Boignères came to prominence under the guidance of the legendary Leon Lafitte, who in the 1950s made it one of Armagnac's most important adresses. Leon managed to get his spirits placed in all France’s premier restaurants, and certainly brought attention to the region. At Boignères there is a high degree of new French oak used, and the effect is a delicious flavor of toasted vanilla and cocoa. The focus here is on the native French varieties opposed to interloping hybrids. The brandies are fully flavored and complex, but never heavy-handed and have beautiful texture and finesse. This is truly the benchmark. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • $249.99

Baron de Lustrac 1980 (Bottled in 2013) Bas-Armagnac Cepage Bacco

Baco is Armagnac’s most debated grape. After phylloxera (the insect that devastated many of France’s vineyards) destroyed much of Armagnac’s vines, the native varieties were grafted onto the resistant American rootstock. Unfortunately, many of Armagnac’s vines did not take well to the rootstock — the new grapes were much more prone to disease and made brandies that lacked the pedigree that pre-phylloxera vintages had displayed. Baco is a cross between the native Folle Blanche and the American grape Noah. The result is a vine that is vigorous, but also has much of the delicacy of the noble French varieties. Baco is the only American/European hybrid allowed in Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée vineyards. The flavor profile tends toward deep, nutty, oxidative expressions of rancio found in aged brandy. The 1980 Lustrac is made completely of Baco and is a beautiful testament to the grape’s ability to make delicious brandies. I found this bottle to have rich, oaky flavors and deep dried plum and fig fruit. John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • $169.99

Pellehaut 1983 Armagnac Ténarèze Ugni Blanc

This Armagnac was bottled in 2013, so it spent 30 years in oak barrels! The 1983 is much more viscous than the 1989, with rounder sweet-oak flavors and less peppery notes. The oxidation has lent some plum and soft fruit flavors. After all of these years the alcohol has dipped down to 47.8 degrees, concentrating all of the lovely flavors. A must-try for anyone with an interest in this category, and something that will surely be hard to find as fine, vintage Armagnac becomes rarer and more expensive.  John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $109.99

Intro to French Brandy 3 Pack

Three brandies from France's three premier Brandy Appellations. First, there's Calvados from the region's best producer: Camut. The six-year-old bottling provides beautiful green apple fruit framed in a supple bed of toasty French oak. Next comes the 20-year-old "Vieille Reserve" from Cognac's Dudognon family. Unlike commercial Cognacs loaded with sugar and caramel coloring, this is the epitome of grace and elegance with a pale, shimmering color and a long, complex finish. Lastly, a 1989 vintage Armagnac by the great Pellehaut estate, which (in contrast to the Cognac) is all about rustic wood tannins and the complexity that 25 years in oak casks brings.  John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • three-bottle spirits box
  • 0 in stock
  • $224.99