Armagnac – just the name evokes an air of mystery and intrigue.  Of course, most cognac drinkers have heard of it, but perhaps not given it much thought or even tried it, being as it has no major names or production such as you have with cognac.

Armagnac Haut Baron

So what is it, and where does it come from?

Armagnac, like cognac, is brandy distilled from grapes and aged in oak barrels.  However, it is traditionally only single distilled, unlike cognac, although there are some which are double distilled.

Armagnac is produced in South West France, from a region west of Toulouse and extending between the rivers of the Adour and the Garonne, in the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains.  Although it is a large area, there are only around 37,000 hectares of vineyards which produce somewhere in the region of 6 million bottles of Armagnac per year.

The Armagnac region was granted AOC status in 1936 and official production is divided into three districts:

  • Bas-Armagnac
  • Armagnac-Tenareze
  • Haut-Armagnac

Each of these areas is controlled by separate appellation regulations.

Map of Armagnac

Similar to cognac, Armagnac is sold in different classifications which mainly refer to the age of the brandy.

  • Trois Etoiles – aged for a minimum of one year
  • VS – aged for a minimum of two years
  • VSOP – aged for a minimum of five years
  • XO – aged for a minimum of six years
  • Hors d’Age – aged for a minimum of ten years

There are no big names such as Hennessey or Remy-Martin when referring to Armagnac, so most are labelled with the Chateau of their production.  One of the brand leaders is Janneau, who are based in the town of Condom in the Gers.  Their Armaganacs have been the recipients of more awards than any other Armagnac.  Other notable producers are Chateau de Laubade, who are the largest Armagnac only producer and Chateau du Tariquet.

Sources: www.janneau.net, www.winewriting.com, www.wine.lovetoknow.com
Pic: www.brouquere.com

Get articles like these and more:
Subscribe to our mailing list

Get our Cognac Guide in form of an e-Book for free. Weekly updates about our stories, new products and deals.

Author

Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

7 Comments

  1. This stuff is even harder to find in the USA than decent cognac.

    I hear great things about it, and that it’s supposed to be earthier and richer, but after a bad experience with a particular VSOP that shall not be named (tasted like a mouthful of perfume), I’m wary of buying more without some guidance.

    I’m wondering if there is a decent, reasonably priced, mid-level armagnac available online in the US that other readers feel would be an accessible and good introduction to the spirit. You know how it is – there are some cognacs that are not exquisite or adventurous, but are solid and good examples of cognac that can help introduce people to the spirit without breaking the bank. I’m looking for an armagnac equivalent.

  2. There are some important differances between the cognac market and the armagnac market that are worth mentioning. First of all (and the thing that lured me from the glory of cognac to the obscure reaches of armagnac): vintage bottles are very common. Harvest year and bottling date grace every armagnac on my shelf. They are often single cask and cask strength (and because of single destillation even young armagnacs are fine to drink, around 50 % alcohol).

    Vintage armagnac comes with a heftier price tag than the VS, VSOP, XO vareities. But compared to cognac and whisky it’s still relativly cheap. And you can find everything. It’s not all that rare with vintages from the 1910s, 1920s, for example (and even from the 1800s).

    Producers that are worth looking for, other than the ones mentioned in the article:
    Darroze
    Castaréde
    de Montal

    I don’t really have the experience to recommend a “solid and good example” since I’ve only tried vintage armagnac (and everyone different in some significant way). I’ve never been disapointed, though. And the older vintages (my wallet can reach the 1970s) have been magnificent and ranks among the best spirits I’ve had the pleasure to taste.

    Sadly, not many people drink and enjoy armagnac. I find it a perfect brother (or sister) to cognac, and I can not imagine my life without either of them.

  3. This is a response for both Eric and Daniel from Sunny South Africa

    I have been a keen folower of this blog for quite some time and I am glad at last to see that there is more to this great discussion that just cognac..

    South Africa, like Armanac, also produces some of the worlds finest (and award winning) brandy, in fact, South African brandy has a legacy of brandy making dating back to 1672 and is governed by stict laws regarding aging… here it is a mandatory 3 year minimum – cognac is two and a half. I wont type out the whole history here so check out http://www.alchemyofgold.co.za – the website is due for an upgrade, but it will give the basics. Enjoy

  4. steve,

    thanks for the recommendation! I had no idea that brandy had such a grand tradition in South Africa. I couldn’t find anything here i Sweden (surprise…), but I’ll be sure to search for a bottle or two whenever I leave the country.

  5. Here is a good entry level Armagnac that does not break the bank and is easy to find (especially online) – Larressingle VSOP.

  6. Ralph Kocan

    What is the distance in km between Cognac and Armagnac?

Write A Comment