Google Armagnac for maniacs

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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

November 15, 2020


Armagnac for maniacs

Is it really the first time I’m doing that silly joke? Where are the armaniacs, by the way? We’ll do all this at random, because Armagnac not likes rules anyway, madame monsieur.

Aurian ‘Hors d’Âge’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, 2019)

Aurian ‘Hors d’Âge’ (40%, OB, Armagnac, 2019) Four stars
A nice old brand from Condom that’s been recently revived I think, let’s see what happens given that they seem to have gone with some meagre 40% vol.  Love the flat ‘basquaise’ bottle having said that, traditions ought to be preserved, don’t you agree! Colour: mahogany/office coffee.

Nose: oh total old school indeed! This is like listening to Bachman-Turner Overdrive, you love it but you do feel guilt. Old toasted wood, coffee, mint oil, marzipan and puréed chestnuts, then coffee liqueurs, walnut stain, prunes, raisins, figs… So it’s all very fine, I’m just afraid the palate might be flattish and drying at 40%. Like listening to BTO on a 2x10 watts stereo (remember?)…Mouth: this is even before old-school. Menthol, liquorice, thyme oil, pine resin, eucalyptus extracts, tar liqueur, pine-and-lemon cordials, coffee, coffee, coffee… There really is something charming to this, I’m sure there’s room for ueber-tradition once Covid is over. Back to the good old days! Finish: short, and that’s the low strength. But coffee, chestnut purée and pine resin may work. Comments: some bone-dry, very old-school Armagnac. I have to say I’m rather a fan, but then again, I’m French.
SGP:261 - 85 points.

Fontan 2000 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2018)

Fontan 2000 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2018) Three stars
Full ugni blanc from an intriguing house. Colour: red mahogany. Nose: this one’s ten times more aromatic, shock-full of stewed red fruits (damsons, raspberries, strawberries). Then figs and prunes, raisins, chocolates, ganaches, fig liqueurs… In short, it feels pretty rich, thick and jammy on the nose. Also rather a lot of menthol, mint lozenges, Dutch liquorice… I have to say I enjoy this thick, heavier style. Sure it is not Glenkinchie – it’s not even Glenfarclas – but yeah, I enjoy this pretty molassy style. Now… Drum roll… Mouth: hey, I like! Same profile, rich, very chocolaty, with some tar and liquorice, prunes, menthol, an obvious terpene-ish side, resins… The only little problem is that 42% vol. aren’t quite enough in this heavy-ish context. 50% would have worked better IMHO, but there, I find it very good anyway. Finish: long, mentholy, rich, chocolaty, coffee-ish… Comments: it sure is an intriguing bottle. It’s perhaps a little more brandy-ish (Armenia, Jerez etc.) than pure dry Armagnac, and indeed some ‘Sunday morning cooking’ may have occurred at some point, but there, I like it. Some slightly pirate-y Armagnac on the palate.
SGP:551 - 82 points.

Baron de Sigognac 25 yo (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2018)

Baron de Sigognac 25 yo (40%, OB, Bas-Armagnac, +/-2018) Three stars and a half
The decanter looks a bit like that of a crooky old Macallan by Sestante, no? (just asking). Seriously, we wouldn’t touch such decanters, but you never know… Colour: amber. Nose: yeah, the main problem is that these liquids are irresistible. Fantastic honeys, small fruits (sorb, cormier, jujube) then old cigars, precious woods (the dashboard of a jaguar when it was still a Jaguar), various jams (eglantine), moist pipe tobacco, black cherries, fig wine… Well, this nose would just make for the eighth capital sin, if you ask me. Mouth: that’s the thing, the arrivals are always pretty brilliant, but thanks to the lower strength, they lose steam and get dry and uninspiring after just ten seconds. Very frustrating, some really get away with murder. Yeah there, ripe figs, chocolate (forastero), black berries, Corinth currents.. All good but then nada, niente, nothing, rien, nichst, it just gets too thin. Finish: short, sadly, but the core, the heart is superb. Comments: what shall we do? This is like a stereo that’s playing Frank Zappa but only goes to 5. Highly frustrating.
SGP:651 - 84 points. (89 guaranteed at 45% vol.)

Château de Gaube 1962/2020 (48.6%, OB, for Wu Dram Clan, Ténarèze, lot #6220, 144 bottles)

Château de Gaube 1962/2020 (48.6%, OB, for Wu Dram Clan, Ténarèze, lot #6220, 144 bottles) Four stars and a half
Fully ugni blanc and a small domaine that’s usually rather to be found at Darroze’s as a 100% bacco Bas-Armagnac. But this is different and by the way, I love Ténarèze, which is the locals’ preferred drop if I believe my friends down there in Gers (not sure I should, having said that – la bise les amis!). Colour: deep amber. Nose: eminently old-school, this is the kind of armagnac you should quaff after a corrida, with good friends. It’s really rather all on black raisins, chocolate, prunes, peonies, reheated coffee, roasted chestnuts and walnuts, then some meaty notes, cured ham (I say Spanish but don’t tell our friends down there in the Armagnac region), marrow and bouillons, oloroso (good oloroso and good armagnac are very close on the nose in my book), parsley and chives, some earthy chocolate… That’s all pretty rustic, and brilliant at the same time. There, proper Armagnac! Mouth: yeah, this is typical ‘family Armagnac’. In every house they keep a few bottles for special occasions (but like with champagne in your fridge, having such bottles stashed away just makes for such a special occasion anyway). Lovely coffee, marmalade, chocolate and raisins mix, this time with a smallish amount of sulphur added to the mix. We shall call that ‘a Mortlach side’ if you don’t mind. Finish: long, with pretty much the same flavours. Comments: some extremely rustic armagnac, but it hasn’t quite got what I’m usually finding in other extremely rustic armagnacs: a huge tannicity. That’s good news. And rather rugby than crochet.
SGP:562 - 89 points.

A quick note: in French you always write armagnac, or cognac for that matter, without any capital letters. So please bear with me…

Now, this week we celebrated WWI’s armistice on November 11, so we could well further commemorate that and celebrate peace with some incredible armagnac distilled in… 1918!


Domaine de Baraillon 1918/2019 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac)

Domaine de Baraillon 1918/2019 (42%, OB, Bas-Armagnac) Five stars
That is right, over one hundred years old in theory, but I’ve got confirmation that it was actually lying in demi-johns when they bottled it last year, so it’s not ‘technically’ a 100 years old. However, some Scottish brands would hire near-bankrupt crystal makers, reawaken obscure photographers or painters, activate embedded influencers and hungry PR people, and slap a price tag with six figures on such juice. But Baraillon would never do that, they would just use a most regular bottle and let the spirit speak for itself. I would add that as WWI only ended on November 11, the men were still at war (or dead) when this vintage was harvested. Which means that 1918 was a women’s vintage – while women’s vintages have just always been the best. Ever. Sexism in spirits, indeed!


Warehouse at Baraillon. On the left, old ramagnacs resting in demijohns (dame-jeannes) - (source : Charles Neal Selection)

Colour: deep gold. Nose: shh, quiet please… Oh what a beauty… First some juicy red peaches, some black earth, some wild mushrooms (Caesar’s mushrooms, best in the world), some precious little sultanas, a little tamarind perhaps, artisan guignolet (bigarreau cherry liqueur)… Oh how subtle this is! Then we have anything herbal, old chartreuse perhaps, some old pipe tobacco, bits of bergamots, a little caraway and juniper, chestnuts and prunes, wee touches of chen-pi (sun-dried tangerine skin) and  a little hoisin sauce (plums), something slightly miso-y (right, osmazôme), game, mint, liquorice… Oh wow oh wow oh wow! I really feel privileged, I don’t think there’s a more glorious way of celebrating the end of the worst war ever. Mouth: boy I was afraid this would be too dry. And indeed it is dry – how and why wouldn’t it be dry -  but feeling, in the deepest centre of your being, these tiny apricots, raisins and peaches still alive and singing is just extraordinary. Now indeed, wood spices and oils are rather having the stage, but without ever getting drying or just ‘too much’. No over-infused black tea whatsoever! Some adorable notes of chestnut honey, raw cocoa, black teas Russian-style (again, not over-infused), touches of roses, saffron, black tobacco – they were smoking Gauloises or ‘gris’ in 1918, chicory coffee… Well we could go on and on and on. Incredible drop. Finish: amazing. I’ll leave it at that. Comments: this is life. All the rest, except family and friends, is totally superfluous, including f****g politics and b****y religion. No I don’t feel like I should apologize. Remember, WWI, 20 million deaths.
SGP:461 - 94 points.

(Merci 20 millions de fois, Jürgen!)

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