Continuing with review of things that are not whisky, here is a review of a brandy, more specifically of an Armagnac. And if you want to be even more specific, a review of an Armagnac from the Ténarèze region. I note this latter because the vast majority of Armagnacs I’ve had are from the dominant Bas-Armaganc region. Exceptions include a Pellehaut that I liked a lot and a couple of Grangeries that I had a more variable experience with (here and here). All those were brought in by K&L as is this one. It’s no secret that I find the K&L marketing style exhausting and often ridiculous but it must be said they have done more than any other store in the US in expanding brandy horizons here. Pouchegu is, or rather was, a micro-producer even by the rustic standards of Armagnac. In fact, as per the K&L notes, they never produced on a commercial scale or with a commercial market in mind. And with the passing of the proprietor, Pierre Laporte, there may not be any more Pouchegu being made. There is something melancholy about drinking a spirit with such a backstory but it’s also an opportunity to celebrate the skills of its maker. Well, if it’s good, I suppose; but as per the source of my sample—the outsider artist, Sku—it is very good. He does note “huge oak notes” though—Laporte believed in using new Limousin oak casks, apparenrly—and that’s rarely my speed. Let’s see.
By the way, at least one of those Grangeries was made from the Ugni Blanc grape; and the Pellehaut from the Folle Blanche grape. I’m not sure what grape was involved here.
Domaine de Pouchegu 27, 1986 (45%; Armagnac; K&L selection; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: Big rich fruit—um, brandied raisins, cherry, apricot—off the top along with a big polished and varnished oak frame around it. As it sits the apricot is the main fruit note and the oak gets a bit dusty. A couple of drops of water bring out brown butter and pastry crust and the apricot gets quite jammy (with a bit of dried orange peel in there too).
Palate: The fruit is sweeter here with tropical edges and the oak is far more restrained than I expected it to be. Very nice texture at 45%. As it sits the oak gets a little more pronounced and a bit spicier (cinnamon) and there’s some caramelized sugar as well—think caramel custard; the fruit is still very rich. Not much change with time but why would you want it to change? Water brightens it up and pulls out some acid—more citrus now.
Finish: Medium-long. The fruit gets richer and more tropical (mango, pineapple, fried plantains) and at the end. More oak here too with time but there’s nothing tannic about it. Much longer with water and the brighter fruit that pops up on the palate keeps going and going—candied lemon, tart-sweet mango, a bit of passionfruit.
Comments: Man, I wish I had a case of this. As per Sku’s review this sold for $110 in 2014. Even then you’d have had to pay a lot more for the malt equivalent of this lovely marriage of rich fruit and oak. Dessert in a glass. Interestingly, Sku does not note the exuberant fruit that I found. I wonder if those notes developed in the sample bottle as I held on to it for many years.
Rating: 90 points.