Armagnac by L’Encantada & a Cognac

Armagnac has been overlooked by me for quite some time and the reason is as simple as it is stupid: I thought Cognac was very boring so why bother with Armagnac even!? What a folly! Armagnac can be really good and offer great value for money and as this tasting shows, even Cognac has its gems. Needless to say, all of the following spirits come from France. The reason for not given you the label pics with the L’Encantadas is simple as well: they all look alike. Sorry guys!

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L’Encantada’s tasting set. A good investment if you want to get into the world of Armagnac!

L’Encantada Sélection 20 ans (Bas Armagnac, 44,5%): As a starter, we have a very typical Armagnac which is a blend of three Bas Armagnac domaines, the youngest of which is 20 years old. Nose: After the initial alcohol I get lots of sweet notes such as honey, beeswax, fresh sugar and pistachios. Then a slightly herbal touch and woody aromas from the cask. I just hope the alcohol won’t be as sharp at the palate, but it is quite strong, especially since this is not even 45%. It’s not a big deal but it could have been better. The profile is about as typical as it gets with Armagnac without any distinct rough spots. Very balanced and harmonious. I get autumn-like flavours such as fallen leaves and branches and the last ripe fruits of the year. Finish: Relatively short with dry, tannic elements. It’s solid stuff and a decent start but we can do better. I would never turn it down, but not rebuy it either.

L’Encantada Domaine La Parre 1990 (Gascogne, 47,2%): The nose awaits with dried fruits, pastry, turkish delight, vanilla pudding, citrus fruits and apricots. An interesting combination! The palate is a lot sweeter than the nose with a mix of unripe fruits such as plums or pears. Then soft peaches and apricots as well. With the second sip I also get drier, oaky notes. The finish is medium long with oak and resin. Not bad but once again I am missing some more rough spots. Nevertheless, it’s good juice with a general flavour profile that’s pretty much to my liking.

L’Encantada Domaine del Cassou 1988 (Arthez d’Armagnac, 46,9%): Having been distilled at the domaine, it was subsequently put in a barrique. In the nose, I find yellow plums, mirabelle, puff pastry, sweet croissants, quince, mixed fruit jam and butter. Given that his is almost 30 years old and has been ageing in the small barrique, there’s surprisingly little oak and almost no dark and dry cask notes. This seems to be typical with these brandies. Palate: Woah, quite dry and adstringent. I did not expect that. I can find notes of grape branches (like the very end of a freshly picked grape, you know!?) and plenty of other, woody notes. The fruits have vanished almost entirely, leaving only notes of butter (now salted) and green grapes. It’s simple but good. Finish: Medium long and bitter, which is not surprising after the palate. With this one, I like how the palate is so different from the nose in particular.

L’Encantada Domaine Les Bidets 1986 (Grand Bas, 44,1%): Les Bidets didn’t distill Armagnac since 1990 so this is some sort of rarity. Nose: Cut branches and autumn leaves paired with floral, more spring-like notes. Then banana and herbs of the Provence. Palate: Very dry and adstringent. Banana, chocolate, leather, the herbs of the Provence and hints of liquorice. The finish is long, dry, oaky, herbal and, well… quite good! It’s a nice Armagnac and more interesting than the Cassou, for instance.

L’Encantada Domaine Le Sablé à Lagrange 1974 (40,1%): Ooold stuff. What’s special about this is that there have only been three distillations at the domaine ever, one in each of 1973, ’74 and ’76. The nose is quite different from all other four Armagnacs of the sessions with notes of Cola, caramel, crème brûlée, vanilla and different sorts of wood. In the background we can find fragile fruity notes such as physalis. The palate comes with a mix of cocoa and bitter-sweet chocolate, salty notes, the crème brûlée and again, plenty of wood. However, the texture is quite smooth and creamy and the Armagnac is not too woody if you ask me. Finish: Medium long with red grapes and oak. Strange juice!

gr77Jean Grosperrin Grande Champagne 1977 39YO (France, 52,7%): Cognac, Armagnac’s big and if you ask me, less flavourful brother. But the rare cask strengths (or >50% rather) we get are always interesting. The nose is full of  rum-raisins, various nuts, and even sherry-esque notes. Dried berries, leather and middle eastern pastry are further impressions. Then, after a while, very clearly ripe, green grapes. Wow. Palate: Now that we have it, again the ripe green grapes. It’s difficult to think of anything else, even though this Cognac is more nuanced than that. Images of slate, raisins and Provencal herbs pop into my head but the grapery profile is always present. In the long finish we can find more fruity notes and lots of branches. Yes, this works. It is like my favorite, fruity white wine. I am really starting to like this. Oh my, I should never have started with this…