Chateau de Pellehaut 17, 1996 (Armagnac)

Chateau de Pellehaut 17, 1996
Chateau de Pellehaut is in the Armagnac-Ténarèze appellation/region (Bas-Armagnac is the dominant one of the three; Haut-Armagnac is the third). Not knowing very much about the regions or their characteristic styles, I can only parrot what I have gleaned from other sources: brandies produced in Armagnac-Ténarèze are said to be more rustic and robust than those produced in Bas-Armagnac. This was made entirely from the Folle Blanche grape, which is historically the most important grape in Cognac and Armagnac production. I’m afraid I don’t know enough to be able to tell you how Folle Blanche Armagnac might differ from that made from other grapes—perhaps someone with more experience can fill us in on this in the comments.

This was bottled by K&L in California a few years ago. They’ve really done a remarkable job of promoting Armagnac in recent years. 

Chateau de Pellehaut 17, 1996 (50.4%; from a sample from a friend)

Nose: Rich with spicy and oaky notes  alongside dried orange peel and a hint of apricot jam. Gets drier and leafier as it sits but the spice is still the top note (cinnamon, clove). With more time it gets a little stickier (Grand Marnier with some cocoa powder in the background) and a little leathery here too.

Palate: Fruitier on the palate (orange and apricot again) with the wood and spice right below. Lovely texture. On the second sip there’s a lovely leatheriness as well. With time there’s a bit of toffee and brown sugar and more of the oak and cinnamon.

Finish: Medium. The sweeter notes dry out but the oak and spice don’t get too insistent even as they get more dominant with time.

Comments: Excellent stuff. At first sniff I’d worried this was going to be too oaky on the palate for my liking but that wasn’t the case. It presents a perfect balance of oak, spice and fruit. I liked it better than the 30 yo Domaine de Baraillon. This went for just $60 three years ago? I wish I’d started in on Armagnac then! A little more complexity/development and I’d have been in the 90s. Now, is the new Pellehaut 15, 2001 that K&L is selling as good?

Rating: 89 points.

Thanks to Florin for the sample!

2 thoughts on “Chateau de Pellehaut 17, 1996 (Armagnac)

  1. Pellehaut can be amazing, and at prices that make even the Bas-Armagnac houses look overpriced. I picked up four bottles, one now has been drank, of the Pellehaut 1979 vintage bottled in 2013 from the Oregon LCC for $75-$95 each. That’s insane. Top notch 34 year old spirit for under a $100. Get Pellehaut while the prices are still insane.

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  2. When I opened this bottle, my first reaction was: “So this is what Sku had been going on and on about, all this time!” This was the best Armagnac I’ve had, by some distance. Admittedly, that’s out of a total of only seven or so, of which the bottom half I found somewhere between uninteresting and undrinkable (assorted VSOPs, Napoleons and 5 year olds). This confirmed for me others’ wisdom that good Armagnac is from a certain vintage, from a small house, at >40% (cask strength is quite low, 42-55%) and ≥15 years old.

    I really like your notes, I think you nailed it with the apricot, Grand Marnier, and cocoa! I hate myself for saying this, but I do mean it quite literally: this is the Pappy of Armagnac – elegant, extremely balanced, with great depth, polished but still with personality – and a little understrength.

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