Armagnac is a unique and distinctive kind of brand that has been produced in the Armagnac region in southwest France. While many people don’t actually know this, it is distilled from wine that is most commonly made from a blend of different grapes including Colombard, Baco 22A, Ugni Blanc, and Folle Blanche which is why it is sold amongst other premium spirits.
However, traditionally it is made using column stills as opposed to pot stills which are used in the production of Cognac instead. The resulting spirit is then moved to oak barrels to age before it is released for consumption. Production of Armagnac is overseen by the Bureau National Interprofessional de l’Armagnac, also known as the BNIA, and also the Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité, also known as INAO.
Armagnac was one of the very first areas in France to actually begin distilling French spirits. However, the overall volume of the production is much smaller than the Cognac production. This is why it is not as well known outside of Europe in regard to French liquors.
In addition to this, it is mostly made and sold by small producers whereas Cognac is dominated by many big brands such as Hennessy, Courvoisier, and Martell. In the past, Armagnac has been used for its therapeutic benefits.
Keep reading to learn more about what Armagnac is!
What is Armagnac Made From?
Armagnac is distilled from wine that is most commonly from a blend of grapes such as a blend of Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche, and Baco 22A. Usually, it is only distilled once, as opposed to Cognac which is distilled twice. Armagnac falls into the brandy family of spirits and remains the oldest of its kind in France.
However, where it differs is in the style and character of production. The process of the single distillation of Armagnac gives this pre-aged spirit its final dose of more flavor and character than cognac could ever have. The alcohol levels vary between roughly 50% and 58% at this point in the process.
Some of the producers will then age and dilute to the minimum of 40% fat bottling stage. However, many do prefer the extra few percent. While this may already sound intricate, this is only the beginning of the journey toward creating Armagnac.
Many houses do prefer to distill the different grapes separately which can be incredibly tedious. They then prefer to blend them together after the barrel-aging has occurred. This required an insane level of skill that can only be obtained through decades upon decades of experience.
Where Does It Come From?
Armagnac is essentially “the little guy” when it comes to French spirits. It is produced on tiny farms in Gascony which is in the very heart of the southwest of France. In comparison, Cognac, which is produced only 150 miles to the north with different grapes, on different terroir, has over 10 times more production.
Armagnac vs Brandy- What is the Difference?
Knowing the difference between Armagnac and Brandy isn’t hard. This is because Armagnac is derived from brandy! Armagnac, Cognac, and Whiskey are all brandies made by distillation and then aged in barrels.
In the Anglo-Saxon culture, all three of them are known as brandy. However, this is their only relationship. Armagnac and Cognac are both AOC white wine brand that has been aged in wooden barrels.
They are both produced exclusively in France. In terms of taste and texture, Armagnac has notes of dried fruit, chocolate, and caramel. It is known for its all-around mouthfeel. Brandy on the other hand will change flavors depending on the type of fruit that is used.
Usually, brandy is sweet with a taste of flowers. It is usually quite strong and dark brown in color. While Armagnac is derived from brandy, it is important to remember that it is not actually brandy and will differ in taste. Armagnac is column-distilled which is a process where the alcohol is heated continuously between two vertical columns and then switched over to age in French oak barrels, or casks, for a minimum of one year.
Armagnac vs Cognac
While both of these delicious substances come from France, they have many differences that set them apart. The first big difference is the variety of grapes used to create them. While they are both created from undrinkable wine, Cognac is mainly made up of the Ugni Blanc grape while Armagnac is made from Ugni Blanc and Baco, Folle Blanche, Colombard, and a mix of other grape varieties.
When discussing Armagnac vs Cognac, this is the top thing to remember. Another thing that sets them apart is the distillation process. For example, Cognac usually undergoes two distillation rounds in a pot still. Armagnac on the other hand only goes through the process once in a column still.
Contrary to popular belief, Cognac and Armagnac taste very different, even to the untrained eye (or mouth?). Armagnac tends to come straight up with a strong, rustic, and overly robust flavor. Whereas Cognac is more relaxed and comes through with deeper floral notes.
While they are both most certainly exceptional spirits, it is important to recognize that they are actually very different and deserve to be seen as they are. While they do hail from the same country, there are a lot of similarities there to keep in mind when selecting your drink of choice.
How to Serve Armagnac
There are many different ways for you to enjoy Armagnac. Most commonly, it is thoroughly enjoyed as an after-dinner treat liqueur. After you have finished your meal, you can serve it neat as a form of dessert. It is best to enjoy this smooth beverage at room temperature in a rather small glass, usually 6 to 9 cl.
You should also consider using a glass that has a particularly narrow rim in order to ensure that aromas remain delectable and concentrated. You can also warm the glass in your hand if you want to ensure this. After you have opened a bottle of Armagnac, it will usually last for around 1-2 years.
If it is left any longer than this, the oxidation, although very low, due to air entering the bottle, will begin to greatly alter the taste. When you first open the bottle, you should inhale and breathe through your nose and into the glass. When you exhale into the glass, it will raise the temperature of the Armagnac a little.
In return, it will deliver delicious and complex flavors every single time. Want to know how you can enjoy Armagnac in a cocktail, as an after-dinner beverage, and on the rocks? Keep reading!
Serve in a Cocktail
You can easily enjoy your Armagnac of choice in a cocktail. There are many different ways to do this and many types of cocktails for you to consider. One of the most popular cocktails with Armagnac in it is known as an Armagnac Stinger.
It is made of 60ml Armagnac, 45ml crème de menthe, 1 dash orange bitters, and a sprig of mint.
Armagnac as an After-Dinner Beverage
When we begin to speak of Armagnac as an after-dinner beverage, you usually consume it at the end of a delicious and hearty meal. If you plan to consume it as an after-dinner beverage, you should consume it at room temperature.
It is best served in a small glass with a narrow rim in order to enjoy the concentrated aromas.
Armagnac on the Rocks
Armagnac on the rocks is a delicious yet complex way to enjoy your Armagnac. It can easily be enjoyed neat or served on the rocks for complete enjoyment. Served on the rocks, you get full access to all of the flavors and scents without any interruption.
Characteristics of Armagnac
Armagnac is a complex liqueur that is usually only distilled once when we are speaking traditionally. It is very fragrant and flavorsome which is why so many people adore it as their first choice.
Armagnac is very well-known for its deep flavor. It combines interesting notes of dried fruit, chocolate, and caramel. It has a very rich mouthfeel. It is aged in French oak barrels that deepen the flavor to completion.
When it comes to the color of Armagnac, it is important to know that the shades of color will change throughout the process. The long aging process in the oak barrels softens the taste and causes the development of more complex flavors. From there, a deep brown color is made.
The very first smell you will experience with Armagnac is the smell of alcohol. However, after this scent has subsided, you will be greeted by subtle aromas such as wood, vanilla, roasted nuts, and dried fruit.
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