Armagnac: Cognac’s Lesser-Known Cousin and Rising Star

Image credit: NUVO Magazine
Image credit: NUVO Magazine

So here is a subject near to my heart as a student (and more-than-occasional consumer) of wines and spirits.

In its Autumn 2013 issue, Canadian lifestyle publication NUVO Magazine takes a look at the AOC spirit known as Armagnac. Produced in France’s  Armagnac region found southeast of Bordeaux, this lesser-known cousin to Cognac is often described as more rustic, with fuller flavors and aromas, as well as a smoother, rounder texture. Though Armagnac is produced in a more artisanal fashion that Cognac, these two oak-aged spirits adhere to the same general guidelines regarding distillation and fermentation, albeit with some differences.  Armagnac, for example, is typically made using a version of the continuous or column still, whereas Cognac traditionally uses a copper still.  Furthermore, as NUVO’s article written by Rod Philips explains:

“One significant difference between Armagnac and Cognac is that the former is distilled just once, using a relatively low percentage of alcohol, as opposed to twice-distilled cognac, which uses a higher percentage of alcohol.”

As the oldest brandy distilled in France, and with up to ten different grape varieties permitted for usage in its production (though of these, only four are commonly used,) Armagnac’s history is a rich one of which distillers remain respectful even as they look to the future.  Philips writes:

“Armagnac producers take pride in its historic roots; it was first made about 700 years ago—many years before cognac, they point out—and the adoption of the alembic distilling apparatus reflects the influence of the Moors in Gascony . . . But being conscious of history does not rule out innovation. Apart from regular amber Armagnac, there’s a new clear style: Blanche d’Armagnac, the newest distilled spirit officially recognized in France (in 2005), widely used as a base for cocktails. And producers are customizing some Armagnacs for new markets, including slightly sweeter versions for Asia.”

Learn more about the distinctive and flavorful oak-aged brandy known as Armagnac by checking out the informative full article in the Autumn 2013 issue of NUVO Magazine.

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