French First Wave
It's going to get hot and hectic—fast. There's a ton of new K&L Exclusive booze coming in this month and I really think people are going to freak out; mainly because they're going to want all of it and it's simply too much for any one person to handle. Let's start with two old favorites and one long-awaited newcomer:
1973 Chateau Pellehaut 40 Year Old K&L Exclusive Tenareze Vintage Armagnac $139.99 - NOTE: This is the end of this vintage for Pellehaut. We drained the barrel for this last batch. While Bas-Armagnac gets all the press, and the Haut-Armagnac gets completely ignored, the Tenareze region of Armagnac is quietly producing some of the best brandies in the world. Much like the Borderies region in Cognac, the Tenareze brandies seem to have more fruit and a bit more life than the more classic Armagnac style. We visited Chateau Pellehaut on our first day in Armagnac last January and were completely overwelmed by the quality of spirit. Using only new or first fill barrels for the beginning years of maturation, the Armagnacs have richness, weight, and spice. While Pellehaut has since switched to entirely Folle Blanche grape varietals, the 1973 vintage is composed of 90% Ugni Blanc. The palate opens with loads of caramel and a creamy richness the spreads quickly. The aromas are quite Bourbon-esque, with hints of soft vanilla and charred oak drifting out of the glass. The complexity of the brandy is astounding - candied fruit, stewed prunes, toasted almond, baking spices, and earthy warehouse notes, all swirling around at the same time. For an Armagnac of this quality, at an age of more than 40 years old, the price we negotiated is amazing. I'm expecting this to be one of our best selling Armagnacs ever and I expect it to really put Pellehaut on the map stateside.
Chateau de Pellehaut K&L Exclusive L'Age de Glace Tenareze Armagnac $27.99 - Chateau Pellehaut has been one of our top direct imports for the past year here at K&L. We've visited the Tenereze producer twice over the past few years, always finding something new to bring home for our brandy fans. What really excited us this year, however, was a new project they were working on called L'Age de Glace: a young brandy meant to drink on the rocks (hence the name "Ice Age"). The fruit of the Armagnac takes center stage here, melding wonderfully with the small hint of vanilla from the wood. It's all distilled from Folle Blanche fruit and it's soft, round, and aromatic, but it still has that little bit of rustic brandy flavor that I associate with old school Armagnac. At 41%, it's light and easy going, but there's still a lot of character. I have a feeling I'll personally be going through bottles of this. Bottles.
1986 Domaine de Pouchegu 27 Year Old K&L Exclusive Vintage Armagnac $109.99 - NOTE: The back label for this Armagnac says "37 year old." It wouldn't be the typical K&L French harvest without a few label errors. Pierre Laporte, the proprietor of Domaine de Pouchegu, believes that new Limousin oak is essential to producing top quality Armagnac and strives to fill only freshly-constructed barrels. The Pouchegu Armagnacs are also bottled at higher alcohol percentages, which helps to balance out the richness and the power inflected into the spirit from the wood. Like most Armagnac producers, Pierre does not own his own still, nor does he carry out his own distillation. It's important to remember that most Armagnac producers are farmers first, and rarely do they have time to get around to a second title or position. Pouchegu, like many producers, hires a traveling stillman to drive an alembique on a flatbed to the property when the fermentation is done, and distill everything for the year in one fell swoop. His property is planted solely with baco grapes. When we visited Pierre in 2013 he hinted that distillation might be done at Pouchegu for the foreseeable future—he feels he has enough back stock to retire at this point and doesn't have any kin looking to carry on the tradition. What's currently in the barrel at Pouchegu is likely all that will continue to exist at this point. The 86 is a flurry of spicy rusticity, savory and herbaceous, but everything after that initial note is dark caramel, brandied fruit, and fudge. Imagine the best parts of an ultra-mature Bourbon with the soft candied fruit of grape distillate and that's what the 27 year old Pouchegu offers. It's decadent.