Nuance. Depth. Complexity. Tradition. Armagnac, once misunderstood, is now ascendant. Prices are on the rise; category adoption has reached its inflection point.
Armagnac is made from white grapes. The region’s producers are authorized to use ten different grape varieties—the main examples being Ugni Blanc, Baco, Folle Blanche, and Colombard, but also including Plant de Grasse, Mauzac Blanc, Meslier St François, Jurançon Blanc, Mauzac Rosé, and Clairette de Gascogne—ensuring that Armagnac is an extremely diverse spirit able to express innumerable different potential flavor profiles.
Armagnac is distilled on a copper continuous Armagnac alambic (still) that was patented in 1818. It is distilled annually from October to the end of the year. It is a 24-hour process which must be monitored very closely by the distiller. The eau-de-vie, as we call it when it leaves the alambic is completely clear and has an alcohol degree of between 52 – 72.4% abv (114 – 144.8 proof).
“Why haven’t I heard of Armagnac?”
Accidents of History
As the Armagnac region is landlocked, its spirits had historically always been very difficult to trade, hindered even more by draconian English laws (1224-1776) that stopped anything other than their own wines traveling on the Garonne and Adour rivers. The Dutch traders circumnavigated this by encouraging producers to distill their wines, as there were no such restrictions for spirits.
Armagnac was, and still is, made by small, artisanal, family companies of modest means. Hence, in the past they were restricted both geographically and financially in trading their products. As new, dynamic generations have taken over, and both transport and communications advanced exponentially, the notoriety of Armagnac has spread globally.
Notes From the Founders
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How to Appreciate
The preferred way to drink Armagnac is neat in a tulip glass or brandy snifter at room temperature. You can add some water if you like, but not more than a few drops in order to not disturb its balance.
How to Appreciate
In a cocktail
A young Armagnac lends itself to use in many classic brandy or even whiskey cocktails such as the Old Fashioned, Vieux Carré, Sidecar, Mint Julep, Japanese Cocktail, Brandy Alexander—and the list goes on. As a refreshing long drink, combine it with ginger beer or ale.