My wife and I have just come back from a trip to Armagnac which was organised by Amanda Garnham (most of these photos are courtesy of her) from the Armagnac marketing board (BNIA). I arrived knowing next to nothing about this Gascon brandy and I left, not only full of knowledge, but also full of love (and full of booze.) I’ve taken to having a small glass after meals, ‘to help with my digestion’ just like an old Frenchman. I’ll be writing more about Armagnac soon but meanwhile here are a few photos from the trip:
My wife at the main station in Toulouse. We had arrived in Toulouse during the traditional cabbies’ strike, an annual event that dates back to the time of Charlemagne, so had to take a rather circuitous route to Armagnac country.
Vines in Armagnac country
Hand-waxed bottles at Delord.
There are some excellent dogs in Armagnac. This one at Baron de Sigognac.
At the heart of every Armagnac producer is a still that looks like something out of Jules Verne. This one is at Domaine du Tariquet. They use the most up-to-date technology for their wines, you’ve probably tried their exemplary Cotes de Gascogne, but for their brandies they use a wood-fired copper still.
Close up of still used by Baron de Sigognac (I think.) It has some plates removed so you can see inside. The process is extremely clever as the wine for distillation cools the distilled spirit making the process very energy efficient.
What interested me is that most producers in Armagnac use a continuous still like the one above. They say it produces a spirit with more character. This is the exact opposite of what whisky producers in Scotland will tell you. They say pot stills producer a spirit with more flavour. They only way I can explain this is that an Armagnac continuous still has less layers in than one used in whisky, gin and vodka production, hence why the resulting spirit contains more of the character of the wine. The still is also run at a lower temperature which will also preserve more of the non-ethanol compounds. (Probably, I am not certain of this.)
Most producers have very old vintages for sale. This one will set you back around £1000 which reflects it’s rarity. More recent vintages, say from 70s and 80s, are much more affordable.
Excellent old advert for Janneau. They should revive this. And finally my wife and I after a few old Armagnacs trying to recreate the ad.
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