It’s been a while since my last armagnac review. That was a 23 yo Lous Pibous. This one is almost twice that age: it was distilled in 1974 and bottled a few years ago. Like the previous this was also bottled by L’Encantada, the French independent bottler who’re more responsible probably than anyone else for raising the profile of armagnac among whisky drinkers, at least in the US. This particular armagnac is from a small producer that is no longer around. As per the L’Encantada website, there were only three distillations, in 1973, 1974 and 1976 and all the brandy was aged for 40 years or more. Presumably this was never meant for commercial release. My understanding is that the L’Encantada team wanders the countryside on the weekends in their jalopies, raiding the cellars of old country houses. Did they find a good one here? I was not super impressed by the last similarly aged armagnac I reviewed (a 50 yo Chateau de la Grangerie) but perhaps this one will be better. Let’s see.
Le Sablé a Lagrange 1974 (40.1%; L’Encantada; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Rich fruit: plum, apricot, raisins, orange peel. Mixed in with it is some cinnamon and a hint of camphor. Brighter as it sits (fried plantain and lemon) and some oak as well. With more time it’s sticky sweet. A lot of time and a few drops of water later the oak backs off and the apricot comes to the fore.
Palate: Loses some oomph here: the texture and flavour are both a bit thin. That said, it’s still very tasty indeed. More oak here from the get-go than on the nose but everything else is here too. Time doesn’t do the thinness of texture or flavour many favours. Let’s see if water brings out some depth (as it often does with older lower-strength malts). Water brings out more of the cinnamon and camphor but doesn’t do very much else.
Finish: Long. The oak is the dominant note here, turning bitter as it goes. As on the palate with water with some added sweetness.
Comments: This was gangbusters on the nose but less so on the palate and then again on the finish. A few more ticks of abv (perhaps if bottled a few years previous) and this could have been great. As it is, it’s pretty good. I always think of armagnac as a bourbon alternative but at this age it has more crossover notes with similarly aged malts from sherry casks.
Rating: 88 points.