Darroze

Review: Darroze 40 Y.O. Les Grands Assemblages Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

Darroze 40 2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
40 years
Recipe
Distilled from Wine from Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni Blanc
Distiller Darroze (Bas-Armagnac, France)

I'll give an introduction to Armagnac here, since I love the spirit and this one in particular is worth seeking out. Armagnac is solely produced in a region in southwest France - Gascony (south of Bordeaux) at the foothills of the Pyrenees. Generally, it is brandy produced from wine from the region using a single distillation process. This results in a spirit which comes off the still at a lower proof, and, consequently, contains more of the base flavours of the wine which was distilled - resulting in a heavier and earthier spirit than brandy which is distilled twice, like Cognac.

Armagnac is the world's oldest spirit, distilled as early as the 14th century (1411 is the earliest recorded production of the spirit, predating cognac by at least 200 years) when it was touted for medicinal purposes. The spirit really started to become popular as the result of dutch traders in the 17th century who promoted the spirit because it could be easily transported without spoiling and diluted down to a wine level of alcohol to be consumed back in Holland.

Traditionally, Armagnac is distilled once, to about 52% before being put into casks. Thus, the spirit is more floral and flavorful than cognac. 10 different grape varieties are used for production. Traditionally, it is aged in local Monlezun black oak. Because it is a bit more robust and raw than cognac, it requires longer aging to mellow properly.

There are three different regions within Armagnac: Bas Armagnac (the most prestigious), Armagnac Teneraze, and Haut-Armagnac.Unlike whisky, which sources grain from anywhere, Armagnac spirit must be produced from Armagnac grapes, thus enabling distinct terroir to be associated with the spirit. Interestingly, too, because Armagnac is not close to the coast (and thus easy distribution networks), it hasn't developed commercially the way that cognac has (which is dominated by 5 massive companies), and is dominated by a countless number of small family producers. It is a fascinating spirit to explore, particularly because old expressions can be had for a relatively small price.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Oak, oak, oak reigns supreme on the nose, as one might expect. But, lots else – grape skins, rancio, dried berries, marmalade, dried blueberries, cherries, gooseberries, leather, spicecake, toffee and even some light notes of celery – but all quite impressive…the oak is held in balance by the jammy and dried fruit, which packs an equal punch. The nose is exceptionally intriguing and continues to fascinate.

The palate is silky, with a very nice mix of spice, oak, and fruit. Rich flavourful raisins (as if they are even more concentrated), oak, rancio, and still lots of berries in the mix. Wow. Just don’t sip it fast or you’ll lose so much here. There are light waves of milk chocolate, too.

A drying finish as the tannins make their mark felt – still holding a fair bit of weight. This is an absolutely fabulous spirit, and one that I would take over most whiskies any day. The finish is a touch short, and light – my only critique. A little, also, goes a long way with this one.

Assessment: Exceptional.

Value: Low, as this commands a fairly decent price. But, a great armagnac, and 40 years of age - that is hard to find at this price…


Review: Darroze 30 Y.O. Les Grands Assemblages Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
30 years
Recipe
Distilled from Wine from Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni Blanc
Distiller Darroze (Bas-Armagnac, France)

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

The spices have started to shift now with age from more clove into some of the more volatile menthol notes of cardamom and anise. Rancio, brilliant nuts, old candle wax, and a plethora of dried fruit add in a beautiful background to the spicy and rich center. This does not disappoint! The palate is complex, light, and elegant, with no shortage of spices, pralines, roasted nuts, oak, sandalwood, and dried citrus peel.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Low. At this price, you can get better Armagac, but, as above, this is very nice stuff still.


Review: Darroze 20 Y.O. Les Grands Assemblages Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

ABV
43%
Aging
20 years
Recipe
Distilled from Wine from Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni Blanc
Distiller Darroze (Bas-Armagnac, France)

Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2015

In the 20 year old, some of the density begins to lift off the rich, oaky, and spicy younger sibling the 12 year old. We still have lots of dried fruit and spices, but it is more open – the fruit is a bit lighter and brighter, with some fresh citrus (orange, particularly) and berries coming in and rancio coming as well. Oh…and oak. Lots of it. The palate is full of dried fruit and oak, and some nice spices (cardamom and saffron) and, unfortunately, is a bit flat after such a beautiful nose. Still, however, terrific. The finish is rich, and oaky.

Assessment: Recommended.

Value: Low. This commands a decent price, and there are better armagnacs out there for the price.