Armagnac is the oldest wine-based eau-de-vie, with a history of several centuries. This 700-year-old drink is produced in the heart of Gascony, South West France. It is in fact, France’s first brandy! The production process involves a single distillation of white wine in an Armagnac alembic, which is then left to age over many years in oak barrels before it can be sold.
Cognac is a well-known and popular variety of French brandy. But that isn’t the only French spirit that is consumed by eager connoisseurs of French spirits. There is its lesser-known cousin- The Armagnac, something you might want to try out, or you definitely missing out on something great.
However, Cognac typically only makes use of the Ugni Blanc grape, while Armagnac uses three additional grape varieties: Folle Blanche, Colombard, and Baco Blanc. There are actually 10 different grape varieties that can be used in Armagnac production, although these four are the most commonly used ones. The most commonly planted is ugni, at around 55%.
The second is baco at 35%, then folle and colombard Agnac only goes through one round of distillation in a column still, while cognac goes through two rounds of distillation in a pot still. This may be one reason why an Armagnac has more flavor and depth than a Cognac.
We have gathered some of the best Armagnacs for you to try out. They pair really well with whiskey and rum. These are some of our favorites and we’re sure you will love them too!
#1 Castarede XO Armagnac 20-years-old
This drink is produced by the Castarede Family, who have been into making Armagnac for over 175 years in Bas-Armagnac in France. It has been voted as the best Armagnac at the World Armagnac Awards. This Armagnac has been aged for a minimum of 20 years, which is much beyond the XO requirement of 10 years. This drink packs a punch and is a little oily and nutty. It has tinges of chocolate, plums and cinnamon flavors. It is indeed a rich, full-bodied drink to relish and savor!
#2 Marie Duffau Hors d’Age
This variety of Armagnac is from the renowned Marie Duffau House run by the Delord family. The Delord house bottles Armagnacs under 2 different labels: Marie Duffau and Delord. Delord was their grandfather and first distiller of the family, while Marie Duffau was their grandmother, who was the owner of the vineyards. The family has kept alive the tradition of armagnac distillation since 1893.
This is a 12-year-old expression, white the Hors d’Age requires to be aged to 10 years. This is made with a blend of all the 4 grape varietals: ugni blanc, baco blanc, colombard and folle blanche. On the nose, it is dusty and floral, with a bit of rancio and oloroso sherry. To taste, it is oily and tannic, with the flavor of grapes really coming through and Szechuan peppercorn. It is such a delicious and compelling sipper!
#3 Delord Bas-Armagnac
This variety is a blend of very old Armagnacs and is aged for at least 30 years in oak barrels. This is bottled at 45.9% alcohol by volume. It smells like creamy vanilla, coffee, golden raisins and walnuts. When you sip, you get a fruity banana flavor, prunes, creamy fudge, and roasted tones. It has a lovely flavor and balanced finish, and we highly recommend this drink if you are a lover of brandy. This is just yum!
#4 Chateau de Laubade VSOP
This is a blend of 20 different eaux de vies from ugni blanc and folle blanche, finishing with colombard and baco. It is typically aged for 6 to 12 years and comes with 40% alcohol by volume. When you take a sniff, you get the aromas of vanilla and violets, with a sweet, fruity taste and comforting notes of spiced fig, honey and bittersweet chocolate.
#5 Chateau de Lacquy XO
The Chateau de Lacquy has been making Armagnacs since 1711 and till today it has remained with the same family. The current owner is Gilles de Boisseon who is the 10th generation owner at the helm!
This is a 17-year-old BAS Armagnac made with 60% baco, 30% ugni blanc and 10% of Colombard grapes. It has 43.5% ABV. Though XO expressions need to be aged for only a minimum of 6 years, they have labelled it as XO. The result is complex, creamy and rich with notes of vanilla, oak, dried fig, spice and chocolate. A real treat indeed!
#6 Domaine D’esperance BAS-Armagnac XO
This Armagnac is produced by a small family operation, with only around 8 hectares of a total of 22 dedicated to grapes that go into Armagnac production. It is made from the baco 22A grape. Made with a blend of 4 vintages, the youngest is 10 years old.
At first, it is aged in new Gascon oak for around a year. It is then transferred to used Gascon oak for the rest of the aging process. Typical of Domaine d’Esperance Armagnac, it is made without sugar, additives, caramel coloring or boise.
On the nose, it smells of honey, rich caramel and Italian plums. On the palate, it tastes of spice and dry fruit. The flavors are rich and full of spice with a nice, lengthy finish of round fruits and salted caramel. This is a perfect Armagnac for those looking for and appreciative of nuance.
Armagnacs are non-frivolous and offer real value for money. This spirit is extremely evocative, with wide-ranging flavors, each of them unique and delicious. Whether you are a casual drinker or an aficionado, it definitely deserves its place in your drink pantry and glass! Try them out yourself-there’s no going back!