Armagnac: Lafitte, Lafite & Lahitte

We will be having an entire month exclusively with Yak (i.e. Armagnac and Cognac) soonish (Yaktober sounds good to me, eh!?) but still have some background work to do. Among others, that will feature a whole page dedicated to France’s other noble spirits – keep in mind that Rhum is still numéro un. As a small aperitif, today’s session will give you a small idea on what you can expect! And once again please bare with me – we are not experts on Yak and probably never will be. But we did try a lot lately and will taste even more in the coming weeks, so I think our verdicts, at least from a Rum-lovers point of view, are not totally out of this world. At the end of the day, these will always only reflect our very own, personal palate anyway.
On today’s agenda are three domains from Ténarèze today (without absolute certainty – see, amateurs!), which almost sound alike. Don’t make more out of it than that though. By the way, can you guess which Yak the featured image belongs to (no worries, it is a rethorical question…)?

Lafitte NAS (48%): While we didn’t start with it, we actually did end up with NAS Yaks. Like true NAS Yak. No vintage, no age, no bottling date, nothing whatsoever. But who knows, maybe it doesn’t even matter! I guess our Whiskybuddies will be in familiar territory, ha! Before we forget: Lafitte should be “only” the name of the family behind Domaine Boingnères. Nose: Slightly sharp at only 48% and given the profile, it probably isn’t too old indeed (why would you not put an age statement, right!?). I get a mix of nuts (walnuts mostly), honey, shoe leather polish, pastry with lots of cardamom, oriental sweets, sheep manure and more scents from the farm, hay, some wood, apples and a drop of vinegar. Not bad, but not exciting either. Palate: Quite sweet with a few sour notes here and there. It really reminds me of green apples that strike just that balance. Other notes are honey, hay and a continental fruit basket. It is very simple and not complex at all, but that isn’t always bad, right!? Later I do get that nice note of marzipan though, which doesn’t really match the (now candied) apple, however. Too bad. Then oranges, cherries and cinnamon perhaps. Finish: Medium long with that candied, sour apple and ideas of the cask here and there. It is nothing special, but the Armagnac doesn’t make any mistakes either! This could also very well be a Rum by the way, like a DDL era Port Mourant, say. (80/100)

Darroze Château de Lahitte 1981 40YO (46%): This one has been distilled at 55% and subsequentaly reduced naturally to 46% over time. I do not know the grape(s) of this Yak but the domain grows about 2/3 of their 25 ha area with Ugni Blanc and 1/3 with Colombard. Nose: A very intense nose with glue, forest honey, prunes, thick, almost syrupy molasses and muscovado sugar, a whiff of sweet pastry, not as much wood as you might think, spices such as cloves, pepper or vanilla, orange peel and deeper in the glass also a certain herbal note. It is a very complex and interesting nose that will keep you entertained for quite a bit. Palate: Lots and lots of ginger, orange peel, nutmeg, pepper, tobacco, a mix of nuts, something between chocolate and coffee, a hint of Cola perhaps, dried fruits and more fragile notes that are tough to keep track with. This is absolutely lovely stuff! Finish: Long with lots of oak and spices from the cask, but also the fruitiness of the distillate. Just the right degree of adstringency for me as well! A very, very nice Armagnac. The only small downside is the sharpness of the alcohol – this is clearly not what you’d expect from a 40 year old brandy. Nevertheless, it is just an amazing profile and a domaine I’ll keep an eye on. (92/100)

Lafite-Rothschild Vielle Reserve Armagnac (bottled late 1970s/ early ’80s, 43%): I think this is one of the most respected vineyards in the world, which started bottling a few Cognacs and even fewer Armagnacs for internal purposed in the 1970s and ’80s. The story goes that once again even fewer of these bottlings made it to selected wine stores since the guests of the vineyard’s events loved the quality and insisted on buying some. No matter if it is true or not, a Yak with this name on the bottle aroused our interest. Nose: Smells like an old fellow with that characteristic Rancio note. It starts with spices such as cloves, cinnamon and cardamom, dried orange peel, nuts (think very old walnuts) and leather, coffee, plums, later also grapes and Rooibos. This has to be old stuff and I cannot imagine that it has been distilled much later than the end of WWII. No matter what, it is freaking fantastic! Palate: Oh my: This has antique furniture written all over it, without being too woody or one-dimensional. Quite the opposite: This has to be one of the most unique flavour profiles I know and comes with many, many layers that slowly reveal themselves one after the other. It starts with those old furnitures and woods, furniture polish, dust, the old walnuts from the nose, cumin, cumin and more cumin, cocoa, coffee, now also peanuts, dried orange slices this time and something close to plums, dark berries and clearly leather. The texture is a little bit thin in terms of delivery but definitely creamy enough, if that makes sense to you. Finish: Just imagine the aromas of an old wine and French-Brandy cellar: The humidity, the Yaks that evaporate through the old barrels, antique furniture, a moist cobble floor with a hint of moss here and there and then a melange of what we’ve witnessed at the palate. On top of that also clearly apples and plenty of cumin. Wow! Probably not a spirit made for everyone, but if you have just a little bit of use for profiles like these, you’ll absolutely fall in love with this bottling. By the way, do you like cumin? (93/100)