A nice starter Armagnac for those unfamiliar with Armagnacs charms
Notes: The oldest brandy in France – dating from the monasteries in the 15th century, and easily the most misunderstood. Castarède has the distinction of being the oldest Armagnac house in existence founded in 1832. Castarède has a number of expressions available both in France and the United States including a number of vintage years- something you don’t see much of in their sister spirit cognac. There are some similarities and many differences in armagnac from its northern cognac a excellent explanation of which is provided here.
A quick and dirty analogy would be the difference between say, rye – real rye not the Canadian stuff- and bourbon or mezcal and tequila in terms of flavor profiles. Using more grape varieties, lesser proof at distillation and different wood for aging, Armagnac is a sadly undiscovered gem – especially among cognac drinkers who seem to suffer the delusion it is just a peasant brandy – nothing could be further from the truth.
Castarède uses only grapes from the premier Bas Armagnac region not any from the lesser 2 regions (Ténarèze and Haut -Armagnac) .
Appearance: Attractive light amber/gold color, leaves uniform coat on swirling with long supple legs. Could be mistaken for a bourbon in color.
First Impression: Apricots, vanilla, caramel, and oily nuts and some oak. A sweet, almost sherry or jam like-like smell to it. Very distinctive, somewhat heavy nose fruity nose to it .
Taste: Lovely oily entry, like a spiced oil, delightful mixture of sweetness balanced with acidity to give it structure, with intense dark fruits, tobacco, leather,saddle soap, notes of vanilla, citrus, mango, papaya, and a slightly warming finish. An interesting mixture of being more rustic and more plush than a.
Drinks: Worked well in one of our standards the Black Pagoda (basically a brandy Manhattan -see Gary Regan’s Bartenders Bible) and a number of both cognac and brandy based cocktails. We found it could also be used in Mezcal or some whisky cocktails and gave a wonderful complexity and depth of flavor to any cocktail it was used in.
Cigars: A good complex cigar – anything less would be an insult to the brandy (and a waste of your time and money), a Natural Wrapper or Connecticut Shade Ashton maybe?
Bottle: Simple cylindrical clear glass cognac/brandy bottle with simple paper labels and graphics – very much in the French style – the money was spent on the production of what is on the inside of the bottle – not on the outside.
Other: This spirit is part of remarkable portfolio of the Domiane Select Classic and Vintage Artisanal Spirits Collection along with the following spirits we have already reviewed Averna Sambuca , Averna Limoni , Deaths Door Vodka , Deaths Door Gin, G Vine Floraison , G’Vine Nouaison , Rhum J.M Blanc , Rhum J.M. Gold , Rhum J.M VSOP , Rhum J.M. Vieux , Stranahan Colorado Whiskey, Suprema Grappa along with others we have not yet reviewed but hope to in the future, given the quality of what we have already reviewed.
We applaud Domaine Select in spearheading a conscious decision to assemble a portfolio of artisanal spirits and to provide distribution and access to such a group of spirits to the trade and consumers. If only other companies did such a thing we would all be drinking in a better world.
Also there is a very interesting study showing that armagnac is helpful for all sorts of medical conditions and even losing weight! I will enthusiastically test this in the coming months!
Final Thoughts: A very lovely and charming armagnac especially given it’s young age. Complex, full of flavor and easy to drink or mix.
A quick-loading, informative website with large amounts of history, pictures, etc., Straight-forward and easy-to-navigate.
An excellent armagnac resource can be found here: http://www.armagnac.fr/index.php