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. Continue reading
More Armaganac. At the end of January I had a review of a 33 yo Baraillon distilled in 1985 that I thought was just okay—drinkable but nothing special. After reviewing that sample I realized that I actually owned a bottle of another 33 yo Baraillon, this one distilled in 1984. I’d purchased it about a year ago along with some other Armagnacs and forgotten all about it (and the others too). I have to admit the 1985 did not make me feel very enthusiastic about opening the 1984 but, as you know, I am committed to positivity. And so here we are. Unlike the 1985, which was a K&L exclusive, this 1984 was a general release. Or so I think anyway. I bought it from Astor in New York and I don’t remember the listing trumpeting it as an exclusive cask. Will this bottle restore my confidence in Baraillon or will it shake it further? Let’s see.
(It strikes me that I am going backwards in time with my Baraillon reviews. The very first one was of a 1986 cask—that was also a K&L exclusive. Alas, I don’t have any 1983 casks lined up and nor do I know of any available in the US.) Continue reading
It’s been almost two and a half years since my last Armagnac review. I think that’s a pretty good allegory of how my almost-love affair with brandy has gone in the last few years. I’d say that it’s a pretty good allegory of how the average whisky geek’s relationship with brandy has gone in that period as well, but that would be too presumptuous. Maybe it’s because Sku retired his blog but it hasn’t felt for a while that whisky geeks are still excited about brandy in general and Armagnac in particular. Am I wrong? (And if not, is that true of rum as well?) Well, to tell the truth, it’s not that I haven’t been buying any Armagnac in the last two and a half years—it’s more that I don’t seem to get around to opening any of what I have bought. Maybe I should do that before buying any more. Speaking of which, I was going to buy a bottle of this K&L exclusive Baraillon, but when I was in L.A recently, Sku suggested I taste a sample first and passed one on to me (along with a few others). Let’s see if I should have ignored him. Continue reading
Last week I posted my first Armagnac review, of the 30 yo Domaine de Baraillon bottled for K&L in California. That one is long gone. I remarked that at $80 a bottle it had seemed like an unthinkable value for someone like me who is reeling from the sharp increase in single malt whisky prices over the last few years. (Truth be told, it has been a very, very long time since any officially bottled 30 yo single malt whisky has been available for less than $100, leave alone any that were actually of high quality.) Well, today’s Armagnac is slightly younger, but only slightly at 25 years old, but it is an even better value on the face of it: it is available for close to $60 in a number of markets. Unlike the de Baraillon, it’s also widely and seemingly continuously available. As such I am hoping that I will like it a lot too.
Given the fact that they have a very snazzy website Delord is obviously not a small-scale farm producer. I have to admit I have a knee-jerk inclination to favour the idea of farm producers when it comes to Calvados and Armagnac—I have to constantly remind myself that almost no Scottish distillery fits that bill. Anyway, let’s see what this is like. Continue reading
Okay, let’s stay in the brandy family for Wednesday reviews but let’s mix in some Armagnac with the Calvados. I know even less about Armagnac than about Calvados, if such a thing is possible. I blame Charles Neal for this: unlike his great book on Calvados, his book on Armagnac is out of print (and the reviews for it are not as strong). I know it is a grape brandy like Cognac: I know that unlike Cognac, and like a lot of Calvados, it is single-distilled; I know that it hails from Gascony; and I know that it has three sub-appellations, of which bas-Armagnac has the status that Pays d’Auge has in Calvados. That is more or less where my knowledge ends. I know very little about the producers and about which have stronger reputations than others. This is a bit of a shame as the variety of Armagnac available in the US is greater than that of Calvados and the prices are much better. If you know of a good guide to Armagnac producers please point me in its direction. Continue reading