The Legend Returns

Special agent Dale Cooper wasn't the only legend to return this week. We finally received the final batch of one of my favorite Armagnacs we've ever carried: the 2001 Grangerie Armagnac, perhaps the one brandy that best blurs the lines between an enticing Bourbon oak flavor and the characteristics of a rounded fruit distillate. While I'm delighted that we've been able to capture the imagination of American whiskey fans with some of our ultra-mature Armagnac selections, I'm personally not on the hunt these days for brandy that tastes like Bourbon. One of the biggest mistakes we ever made here at K&L was adopting the mindset we originally brought to France, thinking we should treat brandy like whiskey and go for single barrel, cask strength editions that mimicked what the industry was craving back home. Ideologically it may have been strategic and well-intentioned, but looking back I feel like it was equally arrogant and misguided. I think when brandy is matured in new charred oak it can definitely scratch the whiskey itch, but over the years the most satisfying and haunting Armagnacs I've ever tasted ultimately tasted like great Armagnac, rather than a substitute for something else. 

What does that mean exactly? It means today I'm more keen on selecting an Armagnac because it has a brilliant balance of oak and fruit, rather than just power, woody concentration, and richness. These are spirits distilled from wine. They should taste like it! The 2001 Grangerie epitomizes that mindset perfectly because it's not some super dark, incredibly extracted, oak bomb of a brandy that has obliterated any trace of the original grape. It's loaded with vanilla, oak spices, and toasty, woody deliciousness, but the finish is all about the fruit. There are flavors of dried apricot and pear layered into that richness, which is really what I'm after these days. I don't enjoy Bourbon because it tastes like corn, but I definitely do enjoy brandy because it tastes somewhat like fruit. Here you get the best of both worlds: the richness of a whiskey with the fruit of a true Armagnac.

What really made me happy was seeing dozens and dozens of orders go into the queue within the first fifteen minutes of the Grangerie's arrival yesterday after the "waiting list" email went out. Apparently, there were quite a few others eagerly awaiting the return of this prime specimen. I completely understand why!

2001 Chateau de la Grangerie 14 Year Old K&L Exclusive Armagnac $49.99 - 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. The 2001 is an absolute revelation of baking 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.

-David Driscoll

David Driscoll