Let’s talk about two of the most special brandies we’ve ever purchased that have finally arrived on our latest container. These two incredible spirits took us over a year to acquire, and there is precious little available for the moment. We’re doing our best to get another drop, but we likely won’t have any more until November at the earliest. In 2014, during our last trip to Armagnac, we discovered that Montreal du Gers (the town where we stay each year in Gascony) had its own brandy producer; a fact that completely shocked us considering it was our fourth trip to the region.
"Why the hell have we never visited them if they're right here in town?" we asked Charles incredulously.
"Because you're going to love them, but they'll never bottle anything for you; and they're expensive," was his reply.
Nevertheless, when we heard that Ladeveze was producing Armagnac in Montreal, we wanted to check out the scene (of course, Charles's comments only made us more curious). Jean and his son Alexander are doing some very interesting things at Ladeveze, including higher warehouse maturation (evaporating more water to increase the proof of the spirit) and the planting of ultra-rare grape varietals for distillation. For example, they have a 1998 vintage made entirely from Plant de Graisse (apparently allowed by ancient appellation doctrine).
We were stunned by the quality of the Armagnac at Ladeveze, so much so that we tasted through just about everything they had available. They're much more interested in cask strength brandy than any other producer we visited, which is right up our alley. The spirits had character, a certain liveliness, and lots of gusto. Whereas the Pellehaut brandies are soft and graceful, the Ladeveze brandies have punch and power. They were a little pricey, but we think the Plaint de Graisse is so good it doesn't matter. The question we had to ask ourselves was: do our customers care enough about artisinal Armagnac to pay a little extra? Considering we've almost sold out of this Armagnac in less than two days, I'll take that as a yes.
1998 Ladeveze Plaint de Graisse 16 Year Old Tenereze Armagnac $119.99 – Distilled from a rare varietal of grape called Plaint de Graisse, the character of the Ladeveze is both exotic and intense, with wacky aromas that range from earthy, almost cheesy accents to pencil shavings and brandied cherries. The palate is a wave of soft fruit that goes from green mango to an earthy papaya flavor, but with a rich and warming finish of vanilla and soft fruit. There’s a mineral note and a vinous accent at the back end, making this brandy much more about the wine than the wood, but there’s enough richness to balance it all out. This is not a Bourbon drinker’s brandy; it’s a wine lover’s brandy. What makes this Armagnac incredible is the rollercoaster ride of flavors from front to back, that never go too high, or dip down too low. It’s a complete and balanced experience from front to back and, man, is it delicious. The flutter of cinnamon at the end goes on for a good five minutes. Completely unique and unparalleled when compared to anything else we have in stock. Bottled at 45%
Special brandy number two is a 1965 vintage Cognac from Stephane at Famille Vallein Tercinier, a larger Bon Bois producer who has multiple stills and sells much of his liquid to Courvoisier. He has piercing, sky-blue eyes, intensely-dark pupils, and some very-defined incisors. He could have been the next Christopher Lee, but he decided to marry into a large Cognac-distilling family and take up a quiet existence making fine spirits. We sampled a large number of brandies from various properties owned by Vallein, which had been distilled and matured separately into different expressions. We managed to get 36 bottles of the Lot 65, from which we’ve already sold twenty to people who have been eagerly anticipating its arrival (that's how on the ball our customers are these days).
Vallein Tercinier Grand Champagne Tres Vieux Lot 65 Cognac $259.99 – If you’re going to splurge for a bottle of Cognac, this is it. Bottled at 47% “Brut de Fut” this is an exceptionally old Cognac that brings the goods in every way possible. Decadent on the nose with deep, dark rancio aromas of caramel, toffee, brandied fruit, and burnt sugar. The palate is a revelation: a concentrated core of crème brulee and toffee, but balanced by oak spices, bits of earthiness, and the power of the proof. It never gets too supple or too sweet, and it’s by far the most youthful Cognac of 50 years of age that I’ve ever tasted. A true masterpiece of the genre.