All Armagnac is brandy, but not all brandy is Armagnac. Armagnac is the oldest wine spirit produced in the south west region of France in Gascogny.
Distilled from grape brandy in a unique continuous single distillation process in traditional copper stills known as "Alembic Armagnacias."
The major difference between Armagnac and Cognac is the distillation process. Armagnac is distilled once in a continuous copper still. Cognac is distilled twice. Armagnac is often aged over 10 years, usually longer than Cognac. Preferred Armagnac is between teenage years to mid-20s.
Armagnac must be made from grapes and wines produced solely in the Armagnac region of three districts: Bas-armagnac, Tenareze and Haut-Armagnac. Most Armagnac is produced by small estates, most are run by families who pass along the artisinal secrets of distillation from generation to generation. The first production of Armagnac goes back to the 14th century according to the Armagnac National Association Bureau.
Distillation process takes place during the winter season, often at the estate. It usually begins in November and ends in February.
Armagnac is aged in oak barrels stored in wineries. Under the supervision of cellar master, Armagnac gains its amber golden color and flavor from inside the barrel.
When the cellar master determines the spirit is ready to be taken out of the casks, he begins blending various spirits of different origins and ages. Vintage Armagnacs are sold at their natural degree of aging, which is generally between 40% to 48% by volume.
READING A LABEL:
With the exception of vintages, the age statement refers to the youngest blend contained. This is the same for blended Scotch whiskies. If the bottle indicates 10 years, it means the youngest component of the blend has been aged in wood for 10 years. You can also find young Armagnacs such as
"Three Stars" (over 2 years old), VSOP (over 5 years old) and XO (over 6 years old).
Aged minimum of 10 years, vintage Armagnacs correspond exclusively to the year of the crop indicated on the label such as 1940, 1960, and 1975 etc.
Three Starts or V.S (Very Superior) - Aged a minimum of 2 years
VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) - Aged 5 years minimum
XO (Extra Old, including Napoleon and Vielle Reserve) - Aged 6 years minimum
Hor d'age - Aged 10 years or more
1) In a ball shaped glass or a tulip-shaped glass, pour 1 ounce of Armagnac.
2) See the color, golden, amber or mahogany. Color of the spirit develops during the aging process.
3) Nosting: Smell the spirit gently. The first impression may be forceful as the alcohol rises out of the glass. Swirl around the spirit inside your glass. The aromas can be categorized as following: