Both Cognac and Armagnac are brandies made in France that conform to strict appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) standards regarding grapes, production, barrel aging, and geography.
Irish pirates, among others, helped make Cognac a global trade good, and thus a casual synonym for brandy. Fortunately, the fame of Cognac - and its occasional ignominy - have cast a long shadow, allowing Armagnac to persist unknown and unchanged.
What is Armagnac?
The Pinnacle of Craft
With no demand for mass production, craft remained king in Armagnac. As it always was, Armagnac is today made with wood-fired alembic stills using each season’s best Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Baco, and Colombard grapes, with their unrivaled terroir. The stills are carted through the vineyards, meaning only a matter of minutes elapse between harvest and production.
The art of distillation, and the alchemy of aging, have been passed down through the generations with a quiet pride that comes from doing something precisely the way it is meant to be done. Our cellarmaster Bernard, for example, is a third-generation artisan. Any bottle of BHAKTA bearing a vintage statement from 1972 to the present has been under his watchful and demanding eye since it came off the still, and reflects the work of a lifetime. It is no wonder Armagnac is the ne plus ultra of brandy. Compared to Cognac, and indeed all other brandies, a properly aged Armagnac yields far more complexity and depth of flavor.
Terroir of the Armagnac Region
The region is blessed with rich marine soils that support a polyculture that has persisted for millennia. The landscape is a bucolic mix of valleys, forests, farms, and meadows. Grapes arrived with the Romans, as this greatest of empires felt that farming and wine were so inseparable that their Bacchus is god of both.
The Grape and its Environs
The flavor of the grapes reflects the gentle climate, with its hints of humid sea air and southerly winds. Summer days are hot, but the nights are cool, generalities that are modulated by complex combinations of slope, aspect, and even reflected sunlight. These, too, influence the flavor, as do the soil, nutrients, minerals, and drainage. One can imagine that in the many wars that have swept across the plains that are today called France, wine of some years bore a hint of ash, the grapes having breathed the acrid smoke of sacked villages.
The Franco-American Alliance
You’ve made it this deep into the website, so we suspect you’ll forgive a historical addendum. Since the devastating Phylloxera plague of the 1850s and 60s, French grapes - and indeed most European grapes - have grown from American rootstock, for it was an American vine that proved resistant to the tiny but destructive insect.
The Bhakta Method
The BHAKTA Method was at first the ultimate gamble: Raj invested a good chunk of his fortune in acquiring ancient brandy, only to start experimenting with the aging process. Cellarmaster Bernard nearly resigned in protest, but Raj’s hard-won expertise in spirits – and, admittedly, his higher-than-average appetite for risk -- proved a smashing success. Behold the BHAKTA Method: