France

Review: Roof Rye French Whisky by Jason Hambrey

Roof Rye 2.jpg
ABV
43%
Aging
New Virgin Oak and Reused Oak
Recipe
100% Rye
Distiller Distillery Warenghem (Lannion, France)

This whisky was produced by the distillery which also brings us the French Single Malt Armorik, with 100% malted rye and matured in a combination of new and reused oak. It is about 8 years old, but, interestingly, the barrels spent about 18 months in iron boxes which lead to high heat maturation in the summer. Other than that, I know very little about this...


Review (2018)

  • Batch: 1

  • Bottling Code: L331 15 10:51

  • Bottling Date: 2017

The nose is very fruity, with a ton of dried fruit and lots of oak. Apples, raisins, hazlenuts, grassy spiciness, brown sugar, prunes, currants, fruitcake, commercial candied citrus peel, vanilla, and caramel.

The palate actually reminds me more of a rye-flavored single malt than a single malt, other than a good bit of oak. I suppose I mean the body feels more like a single malt than a spicy rye. There is still lots more dried fruit, custard, chocolate, and the myriad rye spices – but the piece unique here for me is the amount of dried fruit, but, more importantly, a distinct spicy earthiness. The finish seems to have a slight spicy edge that almost feels sulphuric. Creamy finish with a bit of coffee.Nice whisky – I wonder if it would appeal to single malt drinkers more regularly than other big flavored ryes.

Value: Low, based on $155 CAD/700 ml.


Review: Dartigalongue 1975 Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
38 Years
Recipe
Distilled from wine from Baco, Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni blanc
Distiller Dartilagongue (Nogaro, France)

Dartigalongue was founded in 1838 when Pascal Dartigalongue moved to Nogaro and founded his Armagnac house. Armagnac became established in large part because of the Dutch merchants, who would export large quantities of Armagnac and typically dilute them before drinking them as a wine - because Armagnac didn't spoil and is more concentrated than wine, you get more for less. When Dartigalongue started, the market was still controlled in large part by export - and he sent casks off to Holland and England. The business is still in the family, now in the 5th generation, and they own surrounding vineyards from which they are able to make their component wines to be distilled.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: Bottled 2013, distilled 1975

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2013

Lots of oak! Interestingly, a good tinge of pomegranate here. Fresh berries, oak, oak, oak…rancio, raisins, currants – all woven together terrifically. Brilliant. A good leap from the 25 year old in terms of complexity. Still dry, too…potpourri, dried flowers, and even some starfruit. The palate is subtle, elegant, and exceedingly complex. The dried floral notes continue, alongside dried fruit and nuts, orange peel, with the rancio taking over and combining with rich dates and prunes and oak to take the finish. Lots of oak, but not too much rancio. On top, you have citrus and caramel, in the middle your spices, and underneath – tangy rancio. Terrific.

Dry, fruity, style- not overly caramel laden. Really comes together with age.

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Low, on an absolute scale. But $165 for a 40 year old product? That isn’t bad…


Review: Tariquet Le Legendaire Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

ABV
42%
Aging
13 years
Recipe
Distilled from wine from 30% Baco, 40% Folle Blanche, and 30% Ugni Blanc
Distiller Tariquet (Gers, France)

This armagnac is one of the rare ones bottled above 40% - at 42%, and bottled also at natural color, and, though not prominent, is an Hors d'Age Armagnac - though this is one level above Tariquet's Hors D'Age Armagnac. This has done quite well in a number of competitions, and is worth seeking out if you like Armagnac.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

A very different character than laberdolive. Bright, with caramel, fig, and lots of toffee – and also some wax. Apple seed, vanilla, orange juice, apple juice, and spice – mainly cinnamon and some cloves as well. Oak doesn’t hide out either. Complex! Brown sugar and rancio emerge with time. And the oak continues to emerge, with some white grape, too. The palate carries on with a touch of acidity, and pleasing levels of toffee, dates, rancio, oak, and orange. Pleasing earthiness is in the mix, too. It isn’t the richest of Armagnacs (it’s not light either) – but it is very nicely integrated. The finish is lightly tannic with a terrific mix of citrus, rancio, and caramel. And not a bad kind of caramel…

Assessment: Very Highly Recommended.

Value: Average. But it’s creeping up to high, if you don’t mind paying $95.


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.


Review: Darroze 12 Y.O. Les Grands Assemblages Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

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

A blend of Armagnacs, of which 12 years is the youngest in the mix. From the terrific producer Darroze, who notably bottle most of their products above 40%.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: ~2015

Rich, oaky, and spicy. Raisin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and loads of clove, alongside vanilla and a bit of eucalyptus. Quite classic stuff that I very much enjoy. A bit peppery and vegetal too. The palate has loads of spices, with some rising, rich, and dry spice and impressive flashes of rancio. The finish is slightly sour with lots of dried nuts and dried mango, and vanilla. Developing, and at a terrific strength (43%) that really performs wonders.

Assessment: Highly Recommended. I quite like this stuff.

Value: Average. Not a bad price for something this good.


Review: Armagnac De Montal VSOP by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
~7-8 years
Recipe
Distilled from Wine from Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni blanc
Distiller De Montal (Bas-Armagnac, France)

This Armagnac is readily available in Ontario - in fact, it comes from the largest Armagnac producer in the world. Armagnac de Montal is located in Nogaro, produced from a union of about 60 grape growers in the Bas Armagnac region. The product is specifically produced for the export market.


Review (2016)

  • Batch: N/A

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: N/A

Fruity, with vanilla and spice – somewhat typical of a young and approachable Armagnac, still holding a bit more earthiness and heaviness than the other brandies and cognacs I am tasting in this flight. Light rancio, fig preserves, generic red wine, dried apricots, and prunes. The palate, once again, is somewhat heavy, with lots of dried fruit but also some oak and vanilla. The spices are not as present as I expected. It’s reasonable as an entry level product, but not spectacular. There are also some dried berries in the mix, which lift it all up a bit. Also – on the nose – some floral white wine characteristics.

Value: Low. While not terribly expensive, there are much better Armagnacs out there at a cheaper price, if you can find them (can be hard in some areas).


Review: Marie Duffau Napolean Bas Armagnac by Jason Hambrey

ABV
40%
Aging
>10 years
Recipe
Distilled from Wine from Colombard, Folle Blanche, and Ugni blanc
Distiller Marie Duffau (Bas-Armagnac, France)

The highest selling Armagnac in the USA. According to the back label, Prosper Delord (born 1975) started the company . He gained a reputation for his dedication and expertise by carting his traveling pot out to the farms in the Bas Armagnac region. He married Marie Duffau and in 1925 they officially founded company with son Gaston. Today, they own 35 hectares of vineyard in the heart of Bas Armagnac – and the company is run by their great grandsons. The armagnac is produced from a single distilling process and matured in a combination of limousine and gascon oak. While not directly stated, natural colour is implied for this product (i.e. no caramel coloring added to product).


Review (2016)

Batch: N/A

Bottling Code: N/A

Bottling Date: ~2016

It smells a bit immature on the nose. It has some spicy, peppery notes, caramel, and some interesting fruit – dates, mainly and some vanilla.  The palate continues on, a bit dry, with those spicy peppery notes (it is in some ways akin to tequila), the lightest touch of caramel, and light raisin. It’s ok…nothing special. The tannins from the oak are present, and linger on to the finish. The finish is woody, with typical spices of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg and a touch of bitterness.

You can do a lot better with Armagnac. But, if you have a bottle, and need something to do with it - put 2 vanilla beans (each sliced in half lengthways) in the bottle and leave for a month, and then this will work magic in cocktails...

Value: Low. It isn’t that expensive in the world of spirits (~$50), but I don’t really like the stuff, so I can’t say it’s value heavy.