L’Encantada appear to be the major independent bottlers of Armagnac these days, or at least the ones who thrill the hearts of whisky geeks the most. They are a group of brandy enthusiasts themselves who some years ago began to purchase and bottle casks of Armagnac from small producers in Gascony. You can read a little more about them on the K&L blog. (That write-up is by Sku, who now writes occasionally for K&L and who is also the source of this sample.) These Pibous releases established the L’Encantada reputation in the US, coming at a time when many American bourbon mavens were, if not making a move to Armagnac, beginning to drink it in a bigger way. There were a few of these Pibous casks selected by and bottled for a private group of brandy geeks; a small number of bottles from each cask made it to retail at K&L, who’d facilitated the sale (given the laws in the US, private citizens cannot purchase spirits directly from importers or distributors). Sku was a part of this group, I believe. Since then a number of other L’Encantada casks have hit the American market (see, for example, this one). Anyway, I’ve been meaning to taste and review these Pibous casks ever since Sku passed these samples on to me; here now are my notes on cask 187, a 20 yo distilled in 1996 and bottled at cask strength.
Lous Pibous 20, 1996, Cask 187(54.3%; L’Encantada; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Lovely notes of caramel mixed in with dried orange peel, apricot and brandied raisins; a bit of drying oak too. Gets richer and fruitier as it sits. With a bit of water there’s a bit of pencil lead and some red fruit (cherry).
Palate: Brighter on the palate but it’s more or less the same complex of notes. A little thinner texturally than the strength had led me to expect but good depth of flavour. The oak is more pronounced on the second sip but it’s not tannic at all and works well with the richer, stickier notes. With more the citrus is more pronounced. Red fruit here too with water and the oak gets more drying.
Finish: Long. Gets richer and darker again as it goes, getting quite sticky at the end. Quite a bit brighter with water and the oak gets spicier (cinnamon, clove).
Comments: This is big lizard-brain stuff; the closest analogue in the single malt world I can think of is a non-flabby PX cask Glendronach: sticky, rich but stopping just short of being cloying. Very easy to like, very easy to ignore the lack of complexity. Not sure how much this went for but I do wish I had a bottle (assuming it didn’t cost the earth). And, oh yes, like most Armagnacs, this basically checks the bourbon box on my palate (I certainly couldn’t afford a 20 yo bourbon though).
Rating: 88 points.
Thanks to Sku for the sample!