Ancient Armagnac Arrivals
As the K&L spirits department continues to grow, David OG and I have found traveling in tandem to be difficult. With so many producers out there and so little time to visit them all, we've had to divide up the world and use our journeys abroad more effectively. It's hard enough for us to cover all this ground individually, let alone as a duo! While I was holding down the fort this past Fall, David managed to sneak off to France for a week and put together some new Armagnac deals. We've got a reload from Jean-Bon and some incredibly affordable relics from a new producer called Cardinat. David OG will have a longer piece about these guys at the On the Trail blog in the near future, but for now his general notes are below:
Domaine du Cardinat has been in the Lalanne family for over a century. Farmer and grandfather of the current proprietor, Patricia Singh, built the family home at the domaine 100 years ago and cultivated the land long before that. In 1935, Joseph's sudden death thrust Patricia's father, Camille into the fields forcing him to leave school and devote his life to the family domaine. Just four years later, Camille planted the first vines at the domaine and devoted his life to this patient passion. There he worked tirelessly to produce great brandy, but his marketing was almost entirely word of mouth, relying almost exclusively on customers stumbling upon the domaine tasting and return each year to place their orders. Camille's daughter, a certified viticulture and oenology specialist, left the domaine to pursue a career in marketing. She returned to work alongside her father a year before his death in 2010. Patricia made the bold decision to continue Camille's legacy accompanied by her husband Mr. Singh. We're lucky she did because their stocks are exceptional. Cardinat is in the tiny village Sarragachies in the western edge of the Gers directly in between the great Armagnac villages of Lannemaignan and Castex. This tiny enclave of Bas-Armagnac represents some of the finest the Gers has to offer, producing brandies of exceptional grace and complexity.
1992 Domaine du Cardinat 24 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac $59.99 - Their '92 vintage produced exceptional eau-de-vie, just now reaching maturity. Expect wonderful intensity at a stupendous price.
1987 Domaine du Cardinat 28 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac $69.99 - The '87 is a famously productive vintage and the best we tasted from Cardinat. This could easily sell for twice the price without much trouble.
1981 Domaine du Cardinat 34 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac $89.99 - Of all the old vintages at Cardinat, this one was the most interesting. The Domaine in the chalky soils of the western Gers is one of the unsung gems of the region. Farmed by the Lalanne Family for three generations, the property sits on a choice ridge sloping slight down to the south toward the river Adour which meanders toward north eastern border of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques department. The tiny five hectare estate is planted to 40% Baco 22a and 40% Folle Blanche, with a tiny portion of the southernmost vineyards devoted to equal parts Ugni Blanc and Colombard. Most vintages are a blend of all four varietals, but certain ones are heavier on the Folle Blanche. 1981 was a tough year in Bordeaux, but a banner year at Cardinat and the resulting brandies are heavy on tertiary components with all the soft elegance that Folle Blanche provides. The magnificent balance between savory earthy flavors, soft richness, and stupendous texture is exactly why we love Armagnac. For 35 year old brandy, this little guy is a real steal, but the limited quantities meant they'd only part with a tiny bit.
And if you don't remember Jean-Bon, check out the original post from 2015 here.
1987 Domaine de Jean-Bon 28 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac $99.99 - Domaine Jean-Bon was started by a family with three brothers, all of whom were named Jean, crazily enough. It turns out, however, that one of the Jeans was liked more than the other two, so they named the estate after him: Jean-Bon, or the "good" Jean. Jean-Bon produces about four to six barrels of Armagnac per year, all distilled from Baco (although they’ve started now with a bit of Ugni Blanc). The spirits are absolutely incredible values, almost like Baraillon in their richness, but with more sweetness from the new oak. The 1987 is the slam-dunk winner of the Jean-Bon portfolio, an expression that showcases exactly what these Armagnacs bring to the table. It's a mouth-coating whirlwind of caramel, oak, spice and fruit, all meandering in and out of focus, harmonizing in complete synchronicity on the finish.
1974 Domaine de Jean-Bon 41 Year Old "K&L Exclusive" Bas Armagnac $139.99 - The 1974 is loaded with rancio and savory herbaceous notes that flicker in and out before the richness from the barrel aging comes through. It shows its age with intensely woody flavors that should send fans of ultra-mature whiskey into a frenzy.