Another French Ship Ashore

I’m back from vacation in Paris and just in time to tell you about the arrival of a few new French spirits (it is just a coincidence, however). Our direct import shipments are continuing to land as we continue to convince more and more of our customers to take advantage of a strong dollar and STUPID cheap prices in Armagnac (while they last!)

Chateau de la Grangerie is a property that was built in the 17th century right next to an old monastery. The church and the housing for its servants was actually built in the 11th and 12th centuries and since the Armagnac is aged inside that facility, it might be the only spirit at K&L matured on hallowed grounds. Like many Tenereze producers, Grangerie distills only ugni blanc for its brandies. However, the sandy and gravel-rich soils are much more like the terrain found in the Bas-Armagnac.

They fill about ten barrels a year; two of which are used for Floc de Gascogne and one goes to Pruneau: a prune-flavored brandy made by macerating the Armagnac with the dried fruit also grown on the property. We think you guys are going to pee your pants when you try these:

2001 Chateau de la Grangerie 13 Year Old K&L Exclusive Armagnac $49.99 - The 2001 is an absolute revelation of bakings spices, soft vanilla and pureness of fruit, all perfectly balanced by a gentle layer of oak. At $50, it's instantly one of the best deals in the store with an easy drinkability that's simply off the charts. Sip it straight after a long meal, or mix it into an Old Fashioned in place of Bourbon.

1994 Chateau de la Grangerie 20 Year Old K&L Exclusive Armagnac $64.99 - What's interesting about the 1994 vintage Armagnac is that it's lighter in color than the 13 year old we also carry from Grangerie, despite the extra maturity. The flavors are far more delciate, haunting, and inundated in their complexities. The raisin notes from the fruit are allowed to surface, adding a roundness to the spice and accents of oak. There's a smoother, more restrained finish that allows all of the nuances back for an encore before slowly fading off the palate. And then there's the price: 20 years of deliciousness for $64.99. You won't get anything even close to that value in our whisky department.

You would never expect this tiny house, just off the main road in the town of Perquie, to be full of aging spirit. It's the chai of Claude Lartigue, the owner of Domaine de Charron, who is a rather new producer in the region. Claude is a relative of the Darroze family who started out by selling a few barrels here and there. Eventually he bought 12 hectares of baco from another family and began distilling four to six barrels of brandy per year. He's a bit unique, however, in that he only uses new oak and he doesn't touch the spirit once he's filled each cask. Basically, he makes brandy like Americans make Bourbon. The difference in style is clear right when you look at his bottles. The brandy is dark and rich in color, just like you would expect a Bourbon to be.

2004 Charron 11 Year Old K&L Exclusive Armagnac $69.99 - We tasted his 2004 vintage first and I looked right at David and said, "Stagg Jr." It's a big, spicy behemoth of a brandy. The Zebra on the label is an homage to Claude's favorite local rugby team, whose uniform consists of a black and white striped polo shirt. This is a powerhouse spirit, made to please those who want big, spicy, robust flavor from their brandy.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll