Apologies as I jumped the (Armagnac) gun by reviewing a rare Armagnac for my first Armagnac review. There may have been basic knowledge, but I didn’t really help with what brands or bottles you can start with. Thankfully, K&L’s David Othenin-Girard, started a series of informative videos called “Day Drinking with David”. One of the sessions just happened to be with Marc Darroze of Darroze Armagnac.
Over the years, I’ve only known Darroze as one of the go-to Armagnac houses for beginners. They have a good reputation and are fairly easy to get a hold of… as long as you have access to a liquor store that caters to geeks. In an era where geeks tend to prefer the smaller guys over the bigger guys, I should be clear that they are considered easy to get access to, they are only big in Armagnac standards. When compared to the size of Cognac brands like Hennesy, they are small. Darroze only currently has 3500 barrels. It’s said to be worth 20 years of stocks. I’m pretty sure the big Cognac companies have way more than them.
From what I could gather online, Darroze has been sourcing bottles of Armagnac from neighboring producers for a long time. But they’ve only been sourcing casks to bottle them since 1974. Their blending only started in 2011 when one of their clients asked them to. They decided to continue this as it was easier for the labels of their Armagnac to be understood.
According to the video, Marc says the Darroze are a restaurateur family. His grandfather owned and ran a 2 Michelin star restaurant in Gascony in the 1960s. The idea was to present products of the region and spirit of the region. Gascony may be known for its wine and brandy but the farmers there grow many things just to get by. The best example of their food will be the duck. I’m sure you know how good foie-gras, terrines and pate’s are. Of course, they have their own fruits and vegetables. Those would present the food of the region. At the end of the meal, Marc’s grandfather would present single-estate Armagnac selected from growers nearby.
As mentioned above, the Darroze family eventually started buying casks to be bottled and sold as single-estate releases. They currently have partnerships with 30 different producers. Most being exclusive agreements. Half of them only produce wines, so Darroze distills it themselves. Half of them distill their own Armagnac in which are selected by Darroze. Marc said he’d take pictures of those single-estate bottles during his travels and show it to the growers. He said he does this to show the growers how far their products have traveled.
Marc, then, talks a bit about the grapes used in Armagnac. He says that a bad year for wine doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad year for brandy. Acidity is the main thing to look at when choosing a grape for brandy production. He says that the Baco grape works better with newer oak. If you want to mature your brandy for a long time, choose Baco. Folle Blance is an elegant grape. So, it does better in used oak. It’s also said to be the oldest grape in Armagnac. It was also the most used grape until phylloxera hit Europe. Because of the grape’s fragility, more growers started planting Baco and Ugni Blanc. Marc didn’t talk about the Colombard grape as he’s not a fan of it.
As mentioned above, Darroze only started blending in 2011. This 8 year is the youngest of their blended releases. It’s bottled at 43%. And unlike the better-known Cognac brands, this doesn’t have any additives such as sweeteners and boise. I am not sure if there is e150 added to this, but I’m sure water was added for dilution. You can get this 8 year in The Whisky Exchange for £47.95 and Master of Malt has it for £47.90. I wish I could help with US pricing. I usually get my brandies from K&L Wines but they don’t have any stock of it now.
Darroze Les Grands Assemblages Ans D’age 8 – review
Color: oolong tea.
On the nose: Initially a bit hot and fruity. But the heat quickly dissipates and gives way to the fruity notes. I get medium scents of dried apricots, butterscotch, stewed apples, pear cider, prunes, leather and cinnamon.
In the mouth: Not as hot as on the nose but more like peppery. I get light and slightly lasting tastes of leather, vanilla, a flash of prunes, stewed apples and pears, French oak, cinnamon, pear cider and honey.
This is something to drink after a meal, to pair with a cigar or with desert. The heat on the nose can become a hindrance but it only needs a little time to open up. The fruitiness really comes out more. There’s not a lot of layers in this but the flavors are pretty solid, coherent and lasting. Just a side note that I don’t see the heat as a bad thing. A lot of the younger Cognacs and Armagnac I’ve tried all have this. I’ve been told it’s mostly from the acidity.
If you or someone you know is looking to get into Armagnac, this is a good brand and bottle to start with. There are other well-known brands like Chateau Laubade and Delord but I find Darroze to be better than them. But Darroze’s labels do a better job of communicating to whisky drinkers.
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