Category Archives: Armagnac

Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for Christmas

You’re full of meat and pie and perhaps meat pie. Now it’s time to think of your loved ones. Were they naughty? Nice? Do they deserve a fancy tipple when the giving season arrives?

For your most favored loved ones, Drinkhacker offers this collection of our favorite spirits from 2012, just a small sampling of the most worthy products on the market. Dig through the category of your choice for other ideas, and please chime in with your own gift ideas!

Also check out our 2011, 2010, 2009, and 2008 holiday guides.

Want our gift guide in glorious, full-color, printable-magazine style, complete with the original reviews for all of these products? YOU GOT IT!

four roses 2012 small batch limited edeition 192x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 2012 ($90) – This bad boy’s been topping “best of” lists all season, and for good reason. Perhaps the best Small Batch from 4R since the distillery re-entered the U.S. market, it’s a huge crowd pleaser. Can’t find it (don’t be surprised…), try Elijah Craig Single Barrel 20 Years Old ($130), Woodford Reserve’s unique Four Wood ($100), or Smooth Ambler Yearling ($62), straight outta West Virginia.

Scotch – The Balvenie DoubleWood 17 Year Old ($130) – I’d love to pick Glenfiddich 1974 or Balvenie Tun 1401 Batch 3 here, but both are long gone from the market and were absurdly expensive, to boot. You’ll have better luck with the new, older DoubleWood — which, by the way, is replacing the highly-beloved Balvenie Peated Cask on the market — which is in wide distribution now. More ideas? I love Arran Malt’s The Devil’s Punch Bowl ($130) and Ardbeg Galileo ($95). But my real connoisseur’s pick is a stealthy one: Gordon & MacPhail Linkwood Cote Rotie Finish 1991 ($80). Yes, it’s available, and yes, this is pretty much the only thing I want for Christmas.

greenhook gin 200x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasGinGreenhook Gin ($33) – No knockouts this year, unlike 2011. Greenhook’s elderflower kick makes it a lot of fun. Cardinal ($29) is also a creamy, delicious gin. Update: And due to a tragic oversight, I failed to note the quality of The Botanist ($33).

VodkaSquare One Vodka ($33) – Rock solid, though hardly new to the market. Other excellent choices: Belvedere Intense Unfiltered ($40) or Bully Boy Vodka ($28).

Rum – Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 ($130) – My pick for the most exciting rum of 2012 isn’t sold in the country, but this vintage agricole from Rhum J.M. makes an exquisite gift, too. Lots of great options out there for lower budgets, too, including Blackwell ($30), Ron Fortuna ($22), and Plantation 3 Stars ($24).

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO 214x300 Drinkhacker’s 2012 Holiday Gift Guide – Best Alcohol/Spirits for ChristmasBrandy – Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial ($130) – There’s never much new brandy coming out in any given year, and the good stuff costs a pretty penny. At the top of the list for 2012 is this Armagnac, with Camus’ Extra Elegance ($395) close behind. For more affordable selections, check out Camus’ Ile de Re series.

Tequila – t1 Tequila Blanco Ultra-Fino ($40) – In a year of top tequila and absurdly expensive bottlings, these two affordable blancos stood out. t1 looks a little snazzier, if you’re giving a gift. The amazingly balanced Z Tequila Blanco ($30) will save you 10 bucks. Many excellent choices out there this year, as usual.

Liqueur – Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao Ancienne Method ($25) - Turn the Grand Marnier fan in your household on to this, the best orange liqueur on the market and a pittance at just $25 a bottle. For a different fruit effect, check out Germain-Robin Pear de Pear ($24, 375ml), a spirit that will quickly make you forget about lackluster Poire Williams.

Need another custom gift idea? Drop me a line or leave a comment here and I’ll offer my best advice!

Looking to buy any of the above? Give Master of Malt a try!

Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop-Up Tour, October 2012

whistepig 111 300x224 Notes from Domaine Select Wine Estates Pop Up Tour, October 2012Our friends at Domaine Select Wine Estates (which handles a lot more than wine) are on the road, “popping up” in a half-dozen cities to let their producers show off their wares. I recently dropped in on the San Francisco installment to experience a few wines that were new to me (1982 Borgogno Barolo, yes please) and some spirits, including a line of Armagnacs from Castarede that are slowly making their way to the States, and WhistlePig’s new limited edition “111” Rye Whiskey. Notes follow!

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Review: Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac VSOP and XO

Montesquiou… man, that is a lot of vowels.

It is also the producer of a lot of Armagnacs. Formerly part of the Pernod family, it’s now being imported by ImpEx, repackaged, and expanding into broader U.S. distribution. We tasted both the VSOP and XO bottlings. Both are 80 proof and made from eaux de vie from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, Colombard, and Baco. Thoughts follow.

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac VSOP – Very nutty, with aromas of nougat, honey, and fresh cut grass. On the palate, flavors of chocolate malt balls, sweet apple and citrus, vanilla, caramel, and a moderate but well-balanced finish. A classic brandy, richer than young Cognacs and arguably more enjoyable. A- / $50

Marquis de Montesquiou Armagnac XO Imperial – Immediately more intense on the nose, and huge in the body, this tastes like a classic old Cognac. Really rich with smoothed fruit, marzipan, milk chocolate, more nuts, and a fantastic balance of sweet and smoldering. Exceptionally drinkable, though the price might be a bit hard for some to swallow. A / $130

impexbev.com

Review: Single de Samalens Armagnac 8 Years Old

Good armagnac can be elusive, but Single de Samalens makes a compelling case for its revival.

This armagnac is “single distillery, single grape” — Samalens is 100% ugni blanc, aged 8 years — and is designed to be dry (like whisky) instead of sweet.

Sure enough, Single de Samalens has an intensely woody character, not cloying like so much younger brandy. It’s not so much “dry” — it still has a light sweetness to it — but it has a drying finish that makes it more complex than most armagnac. Maybe that’s because it’s missing the funk of most young armagnac, offering a creamy attack and austerity that is surprising for an 8 year old, intense with notes of brandied pastry, butterscotch, cedar and leather, and dried apricots.

I have mixed feelings about the spirit: I like the intensity but it lacks gravitas. For your typical brandy drinker, though, it’s certainly worth exploring as an alternative to everything else out there.

80 proof.

B+ / $40 / singledesamalens.com

Single de Samalens 8 years old armagnac Review: Single de Samalens Armagnac 8 Years Old

Review: Domaine du Tariquet Armagnacs

Arguably the oldest spirit-making region in France, Armagnac is Cognac’s bigger, sometimes crueler brother. Armagnac is located just a bit south of the Cognac region in western France, and like Cognac, it is the home — and the only home — of a distilled spirit that bears its name.

Like cognac (the spirit), armagnac brandy is distilled from grape-based eaux-de-vie (using mostly the same grape varietals) and is aged in oak barrels, but there are key differences between the two brandies. First, armagnac is distilled once instead of twice (as cognac is), and it’s done so in a column still (the type often used for vodka production) instead of pot still (as is used for cognac and Scotch whisky). These differences, along with the variation in growing and aging conditions, are why armagnac is usually considered less refined than cognac.

So, with a little background out of the way, we turn to Domaine du Tariquet, which sent along three armagnacs from its portfolio of 15-plus expressions.

Tariquet Blanche AOC is instantly unique: It’s a white, unaged armagnac from 100% Folle Blanche grapes. Said to be a difficult grape, this spirit immediately reminded me of unaged bourbon, with a grain-like character on the front of the palate. It gives way to some fruit notes, like a good grappa, and overall it makes for a very unusual way to enjoy fine brandy — you know, before its time. Intended to be served chilled. 92 proof. B / price n/a

Tariquet Green Label 15 Years Old is also a 100% Folle Blanche armagnac but it’s aged… for 15 years, of course. It takes on a surprisingly light golden hue, but at 103.8 proof it’s not exactly wanting for flavor. The body is very hot to start with, but reveals a light caramel finish with a kind of apple kick. The heavy alcoholic heat makes it tough to get to the spirit’s charms, however. Cognac and armagnac brandies are not supposed to be cut with water, but try it anyway — it really brings out that caramel note, though it of course leaves you with a more gossamer-light brandy. B+ / $65

Tariquet XO is composed of 60% Ugni-blanc grapes and 40% Baco grapes, and aged a minimum of 15 years before bottling. At 80 proof this is darker and more approachable than the cask-strength 15 year, and the flavor profile is wholly different. Aromas and notes of exotic spices — cinnamon, cloves, and dark wood notes — are immediately apparent, and the finish is long and hot like a Moroccan bazaar. Lots of that trademark armagnac bite here, but fun to get lost in it. Very charming and quite unique, with a baked bread character that you catch once in a while. A- / $100

tariquet.com