I started the week with a review of a Taiwanese malt whisky and on Wednesday I had a review of an Irish whiskey. Might as well make it an all non-Scotch whisky week. In fact, no whisky at all today but a brandy. And not just any type of brandy but another of those wild and crazy marcs or French pomace brandies. I’ve had two before and like the second of those this sample came to me from Florin, Prince of Tyre.
As I hope you don’t recall, the 7 yo Jacoulot—the first marc I ever tried—put me in mind of Hampden’s rums with its wild notes of rotting garbage and aniseed but—perhaps because I have been beaten down by Hampden—I liked it well enough anyway. And I liked the second one, a 15 yo Cartron, even more. Those were both marcs de Bourgogne. This one is from the Jura region and at 10 years of age is closer to the Jacoulot than the Cartron. Florin describes it as a wild marc and you might think that I would find it to be closer to the Jacoulot in character as well; but—as you will see—I actually find it to be quite refined. I don’t know what to make of that but here are my notes anyway.
Domaine Labet 10, 2003, Marcs du Jura (45%; from a sample from a friend)
Nose: This is a pretty refined garbage heap shot through with aniseed, mint, dill and resting on a bed of orange peel and apricot jam. As it sits the sweeter fruit moves up to the top and there’s some cherry too now; some salt too now. As it sits the aniseed and mint and the garbage heap recede further and further, some notes of orange hard candy emerge, and this almost threatens to enter the “normal” brandy zone. A nutty, beany note emerges with a few drops of water.
Palate: The aniseed is the top note here, and it’s quite mellow on the whole. A good drinking strength—blind I might have guessed it was at higher than 45%—and nice texture. More herbal on the second sip and there’s also some polished oak. Mellower and mellower here too with time but the aniseed and herbal notes are still upfront. Okay, let’s add water. A few drops of water and there’s some oaky bite now but it’s otherwise mostly the same.
Finish: Long. The aniseed turns to menthol as it goes and the mint is joined by some sage. Oak and spice here too with water and it gets quite peppery at the end.
Comments: Well, I will admit I didn’t have my expectations set very high but this handily beat them anyway. I thought this was the most approachable—from a whisky drinker’s standpoint—of the three marcs I’ve had. Or is it the case that I’m just less resistant to the general profile with each one I try? Anyway, I enjoyed this a fair but.
Rating: 87 points.
Thanks to Florin for the sample!
Your marc/armagnac reviews have got me interested in exploring those spirits but it doesn’t seem Minnesota has a lot of options on that front, and of course out of state delivery isn’t an option. Do you happen to have any non-Total Wine liquor store recommendations?
Yes, Minnesota is not a good state for exploring brandy. Don’t be too quick to rule out the possibility of out of state delivery though—major stores may be delivering to us. I can’t give you names because a) I can’t remember when I last bought out of state and b) I don’t want anyone still operating in a gray zone to get shut down.
In general, good non TW stores for whisky include South Lyndale Liquor, Ace Spirits and in Burnsville, Blue Max (though their collection of interesting single malt has mostly been purchased away over the last decade).
I’m glad you liked it!
I’ve looked at my records and a few things happened.
Firstly, I can confirm it’s the 2003, not the 2007 (or the inexistent 2006). I had not opened the 2007 when I sent you the sample (September 2018), and you got some of the last drops in the 2003 bottle – I had finished it the day I put the samples together.
Secondly, this was my second bottle of the 2003. I didn’t take notes on it, but I remember it being less wild than the first one. Some of the wax was damaged on the first bottle, so some of the wild notes on it may have been due to storage – I had some discussions on Serious Brandy with another Labet lover, who did not find the 2003 wild at all.
Third, it looks like the brandy changed even in the bottle. Here are my notes from the first one:
“I have just finished the Domaine Labet Marcs du Jura 2003, and this was a crazy good bottle! The last 1/3 of it indeed had none of the craziness of the first half. Instead it’s a beautifully aged marc/grappa, with plenty of bitterness from the seeds, great depth, some estery/acidic/sour side that is well balanced by the oak, a lingering, sweet, clean aftertaste. I’m in love!” 88pts
(second bottle got 87pts)
I do remember distinctly that when I opened the first 2003 it was one of the most unexpected experiences. It was at the same time salty, sweet, oily, sour, yeasty, with some cellar mold thrown in for good measure. Very disorienting, but shockingly enjoyable – the Hampden comparison is apt. As you see, some of those fumes gradually disappeared.
The 2007 has new oak, and I liked it less, but very much still (85pts). It is sweeter, with a bit of Morelo cherry liqueur quality to it – the oily menthol still comes through. Now we are ready for the 2009, but K&L received the lot damaged so they had to return it, we’ll need to wait some more. I’ll set aside some for you, now that you’re a persuaded convert (or pervert, to coin a term).
Thanks MAO. I made a run to South Lyndale and picked up a L’Encantada armagnac as well as a calvados and the only marc they had. The armagnac is fantastic, looking forward to sampling the other 2.
Nice! Which L’Encantada is that?
“20 yr selection” which I assume means a blend though it’s labeled like a single cask. Perhaps they blend them before aging? It’s somewhere between a rum, with a touch of sweetness, and a sherried whisky. Good intro to armagnac, hoping to find something with a touch more complexity eventually, but a screaming good deal for a 20 yr spirit relative to the scotch/bourbon pricing insanity I’m used to.
There’s no specific domaine or year on the label? Would it be possible for you to send me a phone pic of the label to admin [at] myannoyingopinions.com?
Phone issues but it appears this is it:
Suspiciously my bottle is identical to this one. “Aged 20 yrs in oak casks; cask no. 134; 47.2% abv.” No other information. Ah well, it’s tasty stuff, whatever it is.
Interesting. I hadn’t realized they were putting out blends as well. I wonder if MN also gets any of their single domaine casks.