Cognac sometimes is seen as an old man’s drink, which is probably mainly a consequence of the shadow that the growing enthusiasm for whisky has cast over the French spirit genus since many years. Although we are familiar with the adventurously expensive prestige bottles that are often displayed in duty-free shops at airports, outside of France, apart from a small clientele, at times perhaps it have been older people indeed who were interested in cognac. Although this has changed somewhat in the meantime, cognac has always been a classic ingredient behind the bar – albeit one that only regained its reputation during the cocktail renaissance. (provided test products)*
Why am I telling you this when the title of today’s article doesn’t say anything about cognac, but about Armagnac? Well, because Armagnac is much less known, sometimes even considered the little brother of cognac, although historically this is actually a rather strange perspective. Armagnac has been proven to be much older and was already mentioned in documents in 1461. Today Armagnac – just like cognac – is enshrined and protected in European law by the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée rules. It may only be produced in the departments of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. Unlike cognac, Armagnac is not distilled twice but only once, however, it is also a brandy made from white wines (sometimes from the same grape varieties as cognac). Armagnac is bottled at a minimum of 40% vol. after maturing in oak barrels. There are the categories V.S. or ***, which stands for Very Special and indicates that the Armagnac has been aged in oak barrels for at least one year, V.S.O.P (Very Superior Old Pale) for at least four years and X.O./Hors d’Âge (Extra Old) for at least 10 years. There is also the Millésime category for vintage Armagnacs.
So much for a brief outline of the Armagnac category. But now to the actual product or products, because there are two bottles I would like to talk about today. The Armagnacs come from the Château de Laubade in Bas Armagnac production area. On the land of the Château, which was built in 1870, 105 hectares of land are planted with vines for the production of Armagnac, making Château de Laubade the largest Armagnac vineyard. Four traditional grape varieties are used for production: Ugni Blanc, Baco Blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard. The wine is distilled on the estate’s own pot still and matured in Gascony oak barrels.
The first bottle that is to be the subject of today is the Château de Laubade Signature with 42% vol. If you are wondering to which of the above mentioned categories this Armagnac belongs, it should be said that it is a blend that does not carry any categorization on the bottle. An exact age specification is not available here. It consists of the grape varieties Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche as well as small portions of Colombard and Baco Blanc. A part of the blend was also matured in second fill barrels, which previously contained dry white wine.
Tasting Notes “Château de Laubade Signature”:
Aroma: Honey and a very full-bodied vanilla make up the prelude – and continue to form the basic program of this armagnac. These are joined by fine herbaceous notes, I can find especially heather, plus a very nice fruit component of apricots, peaches and ripe, sweet apples.
Taste: On the palate, I also find lots of fruit: apricots, peaches, pears, plus another fine, very delicate vanilla, which is clearly different from the classic vanilla note in Bourbon whiskeys (creamier, milder). Added to this are apple wood, cinnamon and somewhat spicy oak.
Finish: medium-long with vanilla and oak
This Armagnac is accompanied by the Château de Laubade Intemporel Hors d’Âge. This bottle belongs to the category X.O./Hors d’Âge and consists of Armagnacs with an age between 12 and 20 years of age. It is based on 15 different eau-de-vies. This Armagnac is finally bottled at 42% vol.
Tasting notes “Château de Laubade Intemporel Hors d’Âge”:
Aroma: You can scent the advanced age immediately. Complex, dark and vinous notes make the start here. I have to think of stewed plums, then again of oak wood and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Coffee, chocolate and nuts are also part of it, plus some fig. As strange as it sounds, meanwhile I came to the association of cola syrup, as I have sometimes made it for cocktails.
Taste: Spices (cinnamon, cloves), black candied cherries, dark plums, a rich vanilla and oak wood form a very appealing, complex and really very convincing aromatic play. The alcohol is wonderfully integrated and harmonizes perfectly. This is truly a great spirit!
Finish: long with spices, oak wood and prunes
Of course, Armagnacs are excellent for use in cocktails. But if you specifically research Armagnac cocktails, you will soon discover that only a tiny fraction of what has been written down about cognac cocktails exists. But this is exactly where the great opportunity of Armagnac lies! Of course, it can be used as an alternative to cognac – and also as an alternative to sherry whisky or dry rum. Sometimes you even get a real bull’s eye and don’t really want to go back to the original.
I definitely wanted to use the Château de Laubade Intemporel Hors d’Âge in a drink that I got to know a few years ago in London. It was developed by Guy Butler at Muddlers in Sydenham in 2015 – and to my great delight, diffordsguide.com now lists it as number one of the 30 best cognac cocktails. Well, this ranking is neither mine nor representative, but I’m still happy about it. The drink is called “The Addington” and instead of a generic VSOP cognac the Château de Laubade Intemporel Hors d’Âge here works just fantastic. But just because it brings this fantastic vanilla, I have also used the Château de Laubade Signature proportionately in the cocktail.
The Armagnac Addington (adapted version):
3.5 cl Château de Laubade Intemporel Hors d’Âge Armagnac
2 cl Cocchi Vermouth di Torino
1.5 cl Château de Laubade Signature Armagnac
1 Dash The Bitter Truth Bogart’s Bitters
Preparation: Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass on ice until cold and strain into the pre-cooled glass. Finally spray with the oil of a lemon zest.
Garnish: lemon zest
Buying sources: In specialized trade or online
*The fact that these products have been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.