Imbibe Ice Awards 2008 - Armagnac


The best armagnacs, from Gascony 100 miles south of Cognac, are now making a comeback, with drinkers appreciating the velvety, pruny richness that comes from the fact that the wines are distilled to a mere 52-60% alcohol, as against the 70% or so for cognacs. As a result they have more ‘congeners’ and thus need far longer to mature.

Unfortunately, in the past armagnac acquired a bad name for itself because, absurdly, the brandies can be sold when a mere year old – and the younger ones have little to offer except cheap alcohol.

Fortunately the appellation has now been drastically reduced in size and only the best soils can be planted. In return, the locals are still entitled to use Baco 22, the only hybrid variety allowed to produce a serious wine or spirit in France, which provides a great deal of the brandy’s richness.

Whereas competition among the cognacs was severe (see over), only two of the five armagnacs stood out – unsurprisingly they were both single vintage, which the armagnac producers, unlike their rivals in Cognac, have always been able to sell.

ICE winners

Janneau 1985

An all-round favourite, sweet and savoury, reminding Chris Losh of Marmite as well as ‘exotic dry spices’. ‘Really fruity and smooth; toffee apples!’ enthused Hannah Lanfear. Nick Faith agreed, finding a ‘rich, pruny nose and pure classic pruney spirit’. Mickael Perron rounded off the applause with ‘well-rounded, slightly smooth mouth feel.’

John E Fells, 01442 870900

Marquis de Montesquiou 1965

An absolutely classic armagnac, which Ken Muspratt declared to be ‘the best armagnac I’ve tasted in a very long time,’ with a ‘great spicy nose’. Hannah Lanfear agreed, enthusing over its ‘lovely texture; pruney, raisiny’. Amazingly, given its age, at least two of the tasters thought that it still needed time to reach its best!

Emporia, 01483 458700

ICE runner-up

3rd Domaine de L’Esperance 1993

There was all-round enthusiasm from the tasters for this relatively young armagnac. ‘Sweet and spicy flavour, tasting soft and smooth on the palate’ commented Chris Losh. ‘This is young, but with a strong hazel presence – and lots of hazelnut flavour’ said Mickael Perron. While Hannah Lanfear was attracted to the ‘rich, fruity and complex palate
with lovely dried fruits’.

H&H Bancroft, 020 7232 5455

Best by Taste

1 Janneau 1985
2 Marquis de Montesquiou 1965
3 Domaine de l’Esperance 1993

Best by Design

1 Marquis de Montesquiou 1965
2 Janneau 1985
3 Baron de Sigognac

Editorial feature from Imbibe Magazine - January / February 2008

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