Armagnac producer Chateau de Laubade got its start in 1870 in Gascony, and today it farms 260 acres of grapes used for its brandies. Laubade’s claim to fame — one of them, at least — is that it is one of few properties producing all four grapes allowed by the Armagnac appellation: ugni blanc, folle blanche, colombard, and baco. It happens to be the largest producer of baco grapes in the entire region. The distillery also notes that its blends are aged twice as long as required by regulations.
We received a smattering of Laubade releases, including two of its classics and various special editions. Let’s dig in.
Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac VSOP – This entry-level bottling, aged 6 to 12 years, is nothing out of the ordinary, presenting as an unfinished, rough, and rather astringent spirit. Tight on the nose with notes of lavender and linen, it’s both floral and industrial in equal measures. The palate’s more enticing, showcasing caramel sauce and fresh apricots, before retreating to its more astringent notes that linger too long on the finish. 80 proof. B / $40
Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac Signature – Another very young brandy; this one’s unique in that part of the blend was aged in second fill barrels previously used to age dry white wines from Bordeaux. It’s also slightly higher in proof. Quite perfumed and floral, this is a fresher, brighter spirit with more fruit evident on the nose. It’s also noticeably hotter on the tongue, though it’s still quite gentle, which helps to focus one’s attention on the bigger, brighter florals in the mix. Violets are curiously strong here, and the caramel character is more aggressive. There’s a bit of spice on the finish, which is otherwise youthful, fresh, and lively — albeit rather simplistic. 84 proof. B+ / $30
Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac XO – 15 to 25 years of age. Here we see Laubade really coming into its own, and while the brandy remains rough around the edges, its nose still just a bit astringent, spicier notes are really starting to emerge, offering aromas of baking spice and incense. Chocolate notes and plenty of pepper give the palate some punch, as the body meanders its way into a more traditional composition of golden raisins, perfume, and heady incense on the lengthy finish. This isn’t an incredibly complex brandy, but its representation of well-aged armagnac is spot-on. 80 proof. A- / $75
Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac Intemporel No. 5 – Made from a hefty 45% baco grapes and bottled from casks predominantly from the 1980s, this was named the best brandy in the world back in 2007 at the SF World Spirits Competition. (Intemporel means “timeless.”) Both more intense and austere, the nose here is engaging from the start, with notes of strawberry, chocolate, vanilla, all filtered through an edge of leather. The palate is soft and sweet, evoking fruity shortcake, vanilla cream, and cola notes all at once — touched just so with the peppery character that’s visible here and there in the Laubade lineup. Lush and sweet but never overbearing as the finish approaches, this is an iconic (yet reasonably affordable) example of armagnac at its best. 80 proof. A / $140
Chateau de Laubade Bas Armagnac L’Unique Single Cask #2 – So here’s a wacky thing. Bardstown Bourbon Co. recently released a killer bourbon finished in Laubade casks. This is the flipside: Bardstown sent the barrel back and Laubade finished an armagnac in it. The initial brandy is a blend of two 8 year old single casks of baco and ugni blanc armagnac, distilled in 2011. The finishing time is 8 months. There might be a point of diminishing returns on this experiment, though the use of a relatively young brandy in this is probably more impactful. It’s tight on the nose, with some astringency and a blunt petrol character that overpowers the florals underneath. On the tongue, a clearer raisin note emerges alongside notes of lavender, jasmine, and a pinch of baking spice. The silkiness of Laubade’s older marcs is absent here, however, and for what it’s worth, the only impression of bourbon provided is a gritty punchiness on the back end that evokes a touch of woody barrel char — though the high-proof bottling could be doing some of that talking. 698 bottles produced. 96.8 proof. B / $70