Armagnac, famous for being France’s first brandy, hails from the Gascony region of France, in the South-west. Some claim it may be the oldest distilled spirit in Europe, dating back to before the 14th century, though we wouldn’t like to bet the ranch on it.
Despite its impressive lineage, it’s often confused with cognac. Both are wine-based spirits, both from South-west France and both produced from similar varieties of grape – but armagnac is the finer, to our mind. Distilled from wine made from Baco 22A, Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc, using column stills rather than the pot stills used for cognac, it is a complex spirit. To produce the Armagnac, wines are distilled and aged separately in oak barrels, then combined when bottling, which allows for more flexibility when creating the final blend (just ask those alchemical cellar masters). The amber spirit has a richer depth than cognac, and a subtle taste.
Whatever your price range, from Chateau du Tariquet VSOP, at a reasonably priced £25.50, to the Baron de Sigognac Platinum XO at £80.72, we have a bottle for you.
1. Chateau du Tariquet VSOP Bas Armagnac, 40%: £26 for 70cl, The Wine Society
This caramelly armagnac is seven years old, and has a delicate bouquet of prunes and freshly baked bread. Expect a smooth, well-rounded drop with a fine oak-vanilla finish.
2. Delord 25-year-old Bas Armagnac, 40%: £59.50 for 70cl, Oxford Wine
There are hints of biscuit, caramel, and dark chocolate alongside spicy vanilla and walnut notes in this copper-coloured armagnac, which is a blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Baco and Folle-Blanche. The distillery is located in the village of Lannepax, the ancestral home of the Delord family (they know what they are doing).
3. Castarède Bas Armagnac 1979, 40%: £84.95, The Whisky Exchange
One for any armagnac connoisseur, this 1979 vintage is light on the nose with violet notes as well as peach and grape. And it’s worth it - the Castarède family have more than 175 years of experience producing the nectar.
4. Dartigalongue 2000 Bas Armagnac, 40%: £41.21 for 70cl, Univum
Dartigalongue, established in 1838, is the oldest house in the Bas-Armagnac region. This 2000 vintage is dark amber in colour, and has a complex character of spiciness combined with creamy wood and candied fruits.
5. Baron De Sigognac 10 Year Old, 40%: £38.10 for 70cl, Amazon
Vanilla, cinnamon and candied citrus fruits lead to a long finish of roasted almonds. This rich, deep armagnac is great for both newcomers and connoisseurs, a great drop for the price.
6. Baron de Lustrac 1988 Vintage Armagnac, 40%: £69 for 70cl, Fareham Wine Cellar
This rare vintage is worth savouring and makes for a perfect gift. Presented in an old-fashioned bottle and wooden box, the flavour profile is softer and more elegant than other younger vintages. Expect honey, butterscotch and prunes.
7. Janneau Grand Armagnac VSOP, 40%: £33.47 for 70cl, Amazon
There’s a certain complexity in this bottle for its price point. Prunes and vanilla give way to a hint of liquorice. A great option for anyone who hasn’t tried armagnac before.
8. Comte de Lauvia Fine Armagnac, 40%: £28.14 for 70cl, The Drink Shop
This is produced at Chateau de Champagne D'Armagnac, in the centre of the Gascony region of France. The castle's 200 acres produce quality grapes. You can expect a bright golden colour, with vanilla and lemon on the nose, and a delicate finish. Again, a brilliant price.
9. Domaine de Pellehaut L'Age de Glace Armagnac, 40%: £27.99 for 70cl, Drink Finder
Chateau de Pellehaut has produced this entry-level armagnac by blending older and younger eaux de vies together to produce a fresh, yet smooth spirit. The youngest is three years old. You can expect a soft palate here, with notes of malt, hay and a citrus edge.
10. Baron de Sigognac Platinum XO Armagnac, 40%: £80.65, Amazon
Baron de Sigognac has won many awards for its armagnacs. This XO Platinum variety is made by the Guasch family, who have been in Gascony since the 12th century - featuring eaux de vie that’s aged for at least six years. There’s an almost marmalade colour to the spirit.
The Verdict: Armagnacs
In terms of pure, drinkability, the dulcet tones of the Chateau du Tariquet VSOP are hard to beat. A boon since it is relatively inexpensive. If you want the sort of complexity that provokes chin-stroking and a flavour that is incredibly moreish, then plump for the Castarède 1979, you won’t be disappointed.
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