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Producers

Armagnac

Armagnac, "crystalline, golden liqueur, fragrant to the lips, warm and unctuous, in which a thousand virtues are concentrated, that of earth and sap, that of wood and the heart of the oak. Of course, you have to know how it is savoured: moderately and both wisely and devoutly, line by line in the glass" Joseph de Pesquidoux

The spirited brandy of southern France produced in the region of Gascony, home of the "Three Musketeers". The armagnac region is divided into three growing zones: Haut-Armagnac to the east, Tenareze in the center, and Bas-Armagnac to the west. One sub-region omitted in the legislation is, what used to be called the Grand Bas Armagnac.

True connoisseurs insist that this small north/west corner in Bas-Armagnac produces the very best and it shows in the price, often double.Further on you will read more on Grand Bas Armagnac, represented in our range by Lacourtoisie and Francis Darroze's various small producers.

Armagnac is the most noble and most ancient of brandies. The still, introduced bye the arabs, was first used in the region in 1411. In 1411, "alchemist Recipes", the famous manuscript by Auch, describes some thirty uses of brandy as a medicine. Thus was born Armagnac.

Unlike Cognac, Armagnac undergoes a single distillation. Armagnac is also distilled at a lower temperature than cognac. This gives armagnac a fuller, more earthy aroma and lavor. Following distillation, the armagnac is aged in Limousin or Monlezun oak.

Various geological, pedological, historic and climatic factors explain why the Bas-Armagnac region produces and always has produced the finest, the most complex and also the most unpredictable brandies.
All attempts at classification have noted this superiority in the soil of Bas-Armagnac. Why ?

  • The particularly undulating land, enabling alternating vineyard and forest, in which each has its rightful place. The tops of the hills for the oak woods, the mid-slopes for the vines.
  • On a geological level, the ocean has played a vital role in the quality of Bas-Armagnac. The to-and-fro of the tides has deposited the marine sand now called the "tawny sands of Bas-Armagnac", marvellous soil for the region's vines.
  • The pedology and structure of the soil are also important factors. The land is mostly silicious clay, often lacking in chalk, sometimes acid and covered with the famous tawny sands so beneficial to the growth of the Bas-Armagnac vines.
  • The Landes forest, very close to the Bas-Armagnac vineyards, forms a natural barrier regulating temperature and precipitation.
  • Finally, the people of Bas-Armagnac have selected vines very well suited to the production of white wine for distillation, in perfect osmosis with the various soils.

The development of Armagnac

The choice of vine types is closely linked to the soil and the climate in defining a winegrowing area. Armagnac, unlike Cognac, has a range of vines, all different, giving the balance of flavour so typical of our region :Bacco retains a dominant role, especially in Bas-Armagnac. It contributes to the structure of the alcohols, and gives full, rich, full bodied flavours which require long ageing to express all their fullness, their smoothness and their flavour.

Folle blanche brings freshness and fruitiness in the first years of ageing. Along with bacco it is part of the cultural heritage of Armagnac.

Ugni blanc, an ideal variety for distillation, and Colombard complete the list of the most widely used varieties in the region.

Distillation in the Bas-Armagnac is a single continuous process, that is the wine is only burned once. This method, noticeably different from that used to make Cognac, allows the brandy to improve, and in particular to take on a typicality which is the glory of the land. But distillation is not a technique. It is an art which only certain experts have fully mastered.

The Armagnac still

Armagnac is the most noble and most ancient of brandies. The still, introduced bye the arabs, was first used in the region in 1411. In 1411, "alchemist Recipes", the famous manuscript by Auch, describes some thirty uses of brandy as a medicine. Thus was born Armagnac...

"The construction of our ageing cellars was completed in 1985. "Magnificent structures in light wood, on two floors, one cool and damp on beaten earth, the order dry under the roof, at the time they held 420 barrels in the process of ageing." Claude Jeanloz, Gastronomie et Tourisme, November 1992.

Ageing, or the effect of the time

It is in these ageing cellars that Armagnac will develop, straight from the still. The Armagnac/oak vat pairing is indivisible, and their evolution is closely linked. Here patience is the order of the day. Each Armagnac is placed in a more or less new vat, depending on its tannin requirements.

During the first years of ageing, the extraction of tannins is rapid. Harsh and astringent at first, they soften during ageing. The appearance of colour is also rapid, and intensifies between 5 and 10 years. These first years are critical, determining the destiny of the Armagnac, and it is essential to taste the brandy regularly, to judge its evolution.

It is to achieve a perfect balance between flavours, tannin and alcohol. Long years of experience enable the producers to achieve this balance after 12 to 15 years. It is generally at this time that they decide to decant the alcohols into older barrels which will soften them and provide the viscosity which can be observed on the glass when drinking. The total ageing process, which can last 40 to 50 years if followed to full fruition demands a lot of patience. Only time can provide this evolution.

The art of tasting Armagnac

The tasting of brandies is not particularly different to that of wines. Nevertheless, the first impression when one puts an Armagnac in the mouth is the "heat" of the alcohol, which briefly anaesthetizes the taste buds and masks the flavour. It is necessary to "obliterate" the sometimes invasive presence of the alcohol, by allowing the brandy to breathe for a long time, and above all by taking time to taste and appreciate.

Because the key, above all, to tasting, is pleasure. Do not get hung up with a technique which take all your attention, and distract your from the joy which the tasting of your Armagnac should bring you.

It is after 15 years' ageing that Armagnac develops all the qualities which make it an inimitable brandy. A blend of gentleness and violence, these Armagnacs have extremely long lasting aftertaste. The flavors of hazelnut, orange peel, cocoa and quince combine with the odors of rose, verbena, leather, vanilla and even cinnamon.

These Armagnacs have a body and fullness which exalt the land. After 25 years. Armagnac brandy loses its strength, softens, becomes mellow, very smooth. The original character is diluted by the oak vat. The aftertaste becomes remarkable, noticeable over a day later, suppleness and elegance definitively taking over from warmth.

After 35 years, the conditions of production become vital. The brandy's past, the quality of the oak in which it has developed are very important factors. Brandy which has stayed too long in the same cask without attention paid to id becomes worn out, over-softened. But fortunately one can find products which are so strong in their youth that they lose little over the years.

Tasting an Armagnac should be a moment of true pleasure. An Armagnac may be unique in its category and will not be less so in its character or constituents.

  • Visual phase: this is the initial contact with the brandy. The taster will examine its clarity, brilliance and colour. Gently swirling the brandy in the glass produces "tears" running more or less rapidly along the side.
  • Aroma: do not put your nose into the glass otherwise certain aromatic sensations will be lost. Swirl the brandy to release its most subtle fragrances. Seven main aromas may be distinguished, resulting from the natural ageing the brandy: nut, peach, violet, lime blossom, vanilla, prune and pepper. Once the tasting is over, do not forget to inhale the residual aroma in the glass as this provides the aromatic richness of the brandy and completes the tasting pleasure.
  • Taste: test the freshness, the balance and the subtle roundness. The longer the brandy has aged in wood, the lower its tannin content. The longer the brandy's finish, the greater its quality.

The Darroze selection

"Thanks to our diligence and the consistent quality of our selections over more than twenty years we are proud today to be on the tables of all the 3-star Michelin restaurants in France."

At present we have in our ageing storage cellars some 50 different estates located in various parts of Bas-Armagnac. The villages of La bastide d'Armagnac, Arthez d'Armagnac, le Freche, Villeneuve de Marsan, le Bourdalat, Lacquy, Perquie, Hontanx, Maulzon d'Armagnac and du Houga have vineyards producing the best brandies. This area is what was used to be called "Grand Bas-Armagnac". It is in this area of 15x25 kms that we focus with determination our never-ending quest to expose and hopefully acquire yet another small quantity (acask here, a dame-jeanne there) of the characterful Armagnacs so typical of the region. Chateau de la Brise, Domaine de Capdepont, Domaine de Touja, Domaine de Mahu, Domaine de Cavaillon etc, have made the reputation of our company. Today they are replaced by the estates of Au Martin, Peyron, Jouzanchicot, Saint-Aubin, Hourtica, Juliac, Lascourts, Picpout and Peyrot, but all from this magic triangle of the "grand" Bas-Armagnac.

All age in their own vats. They will never be mixed, and will retain their initial character all the way to your glass. At present we offer 45 different vintages from the beginning of the century to 1995.

In the Armagnac region, when it is decided to sell a product under its original vintage, the law imposes a minimum ageing period of 10 years in oak vats. The desired balance between flavour, tannin and alcohol is in fact reached after 15 years.

Our entire stock of Bas-Armagnac is kept in wood barrels. Only upon receipt of orders we bottle them. This prolongs the ageing process as much as possible. Once bottled, unlike wine, Armagnac no longer ages. This is so for all spirits. For that reason we always show the date of bottling, which gives the true age of the Armagnac.

The Darroze selection 

Restaurant Troisgros (Troisgros) in Roanne, les Prés d'Eugénie (Guérard) in Eugénie les Bains, Louis 15 (Ducasse) in Monaco, Lucas Carton (Sanderens) in Paris, Restaurant Janin (Robuchon) in Paris, la Côte d'Or (Loiseau) in Saulieu, Restaurant Paul Bocuse (Bocuse) in Colonges-au-Mont d'Or, Restaurant Lameloise (Lameloise) in Chagny,Juan Arzak in San Sébastian, Restaurant Enoteca in Florence, Restaurant Girardet in Crissier (Switzerland), Restaurant de la Tante Claire in Londres, Restaurant Daniel Boulud in New-York, all establishments for whom we are proud contribute in our way to the quality of their services.

"Respect for the products, the passion with which these chefs create for our pleasure, the balance of flavours aimed at in their cooking, all these are points in common with the development of our Bas-Armagnacs."

We refuse

To blend our Armagnacs together, even two casks from the same Domaine, which could diminish, even eliminate all the characteristics of the soil, the climate and the varietals. each Bas-Armagnac we offer is different, and we respect the work of the vine grower by putting the name of the estate on the bottle.

To blend together different vintages. Each year gives Armagnac different characteristics. This is why we reproduce the original vintage so as to keep the diversity of products of the region at a maximum.

To add water to our spirits to reduce the degree of alcohol. By diluting Armagnac with water (a perfectly legitimate practice) one also dilutes the potential flavors and erases the differences between one soil and another. One remove all the impact of the earth on the product. One removes the interest from the Armagnac.

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