The dining room at the historic Château de Briat, complete with hunting scenes painted on the walls. Photo: John Rankin

Two New Chambers Street Selections: Calvados and Armagnac!

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Following on the heels of our recent whiskey barrel acquisition, we are thrilled to offer two new Chambers Street Selections — brandy style! Selected by none other than our friend and former colleague, John Rankin, on a trip to the famed brandy producing regions of France (Calvados, Cognac, and Armagnac), these are some of our most exciting new arrivals this holiday season. 

Apple trees at the Huard estate. Photo: John Rankin

In the village of Caligny, we begin at Calvados Michel-Huard. The Huard family has lived on the Le Pertyer property for five generations. Jean-Michel Guillouet is now at the helm of the estate after his grandfather retired and oversees 15 hectares of hautes-tiges plantings (standard rootstock apple trees grow to be around 30 feet tall and normally don’t produce a useable amount of fruit until they are around 20 years old, as opposed to the dwarf variety that can produce fruit at around 3 years old, can be planted at higher densities, and usually result in inferior fruit) as well as a large number of dairy cows who help to fertilize and aerate the soil. There are about 1,800 trees planted on the property, with around 30 different types of apples, most of them of the bittersweet or sweet varieties, in loamy soils with silt and clay. 

Loading wood into the traveling still at Huard.
Photo: John Rankin

Once harvested the apples are pressed into cider that is fermented and aged for about 8 months before being distilled in a primitive traveling column still that goes from farm to farm twice a year and uses local hardwood to fire the still. The spirit then goes into barrels that range from 220L to 7,000L, some of which have previously held Pommeau (a delicious spirit made of cider with Calvados blended back into it) or cider before. By using this method of production, the Huard estate makes the most respected Calvados in the AOC Calvados, admired for their quality much like Camut is revered in the AOC Pays d’Auge or Lemorton in the AOC Domfrontais. 

Moving south to the historic region of Armagnac we arrive at Château de Briat. This property boasts an impressive history beginning in 1540 when it served as the hunting manor for Queen Jeanne d’Albret. The queen’s son, Henri de Navarre (later Henri IV, King of France), would often stay in the castle and eventually gave the property to a fellow officer in 1587 as a reward for saving his life in battle. The property changed hands numerous times after this and eventually was acquired by Baron Raoul de Pichon-Longueville of the famed Pauillac estate in 1864. When the Pichon-Longueville family sold its Bordeaux holdings, it transferred ownership to Baron Raoul de Pichon-Longueville's maternal ancestors, the de Luze family.

The modern era of Château de Briat did not truly begin until Gilles de Luz, who spent most of his adult life working at an editing house in Paris, moved back to his family estate in the early 1990s when his father retired. He took it upon himself to continue the tradition of Armagnac distillation and even created a group called the Cru Légendaires with other independent producers to commit fully to high-quality, single-vintage Armagnac production. This was all to be tragically short lived when Gilles and his wife, Adeline, were both killed in a car accident on their way home from an expo in Paris, leaving their son, Stephane, in charge of the entire estate. Luckily, Stephane enlisted the help of his cousin, Jean de Mareuil, and continued to make Armagnac the way Gilles had perfected.

The barrel room at Château de Briat.
Photo: John Rankin

Château de Briat has 7 hectares of Folle Blanche, Colombard, and Bacco planted in iron-rich, sandy soils — relatively small compared to many other producers. They are also one of the few producers in the region who strive to keep yields low, even cutting fruit to achieve this goal. Each variety is distilled separately a single time in a traveling alambic column still to 52% ABV and is then individually barrel-aged in new oak before being transferred to older casks after a few years. These barrels are then blended together after about four years, although sometimes not until after ten years.  To promote evaporation, oxidation, and concentration, topping up is not practiced here (nor is dilution with water), resulting in a more decadent and less aggressive spirit. 

Not only do these brandies offer a relative value compared to aged whiskey for what is in the bottle, they are two world-class, distinctive spirits are truly worth exploring. We urge you to try them, whether you’re a longtime connoisseur  of Calvados or Armagnac, or just beginning to scratch the surface. You won’t be disappointed. Tim Gagnon

 

Huard 2002 Calvados Le Pertyer Hors d'Age

Our Chambers Street selection of Calvados was distilled in 2002 and was aged in a barrel that previously held cider and Pommeau (cider and Calvados blended together). From the diary of John Rankin: The barrel that we bought has candied apple and toffee cream flavors and is surprisingly juicy and fruit-forward, even with a fair amount of age and alcohol percentage. It shows the influence of Pommeau and cider more than barrel, along with richness and a long finish of exotic citrus and dark-toned flowers. Tim Gagnon

  • brandy
  • 10 in stock
  • no discount
  • $84.99

Chateau de Briat 2000 Bas Armagnac Bacco

The 2000 Bacco fully exudes the traditional Château de Briat house style: decadent, yet complex and structured, with a focus on new oak. Again, from the diary of John Rankin: On the nose it is luscious with sweet caramel, the chewy soft kind, and orange zest rising from the glass. On the palate it is rich and silky – very drinkable – with a touch of spice and a sugary milk chocolate finish. With this flavor profile and the château’s affinity for new oak, this would be a fantastic crossover spirit for Bourbon lovers! Tim Gagnon

  • brandy
  • 18 in stock
  • no discount
  • $63.99