I met up with the folks at Darroze Armagnac this week to taste the new '7 vintages, meaning the set of single estate bottlings they release each year to correspond with 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays in a given year. Since we're in 2017, they just received in their new editions of 1987, 1977, and 1967 vintage Armagnacs from three of their best estates. The results, as you would expect from Darroze, are impeccable.
If you're unfamiliar with Marc Darroze's negotiant Armagnac operation, you can flashback to our old 2013 interview here, or I can give you the quick rundown now. What is, I think, quite fascinating about Armagnac is that it's the most rustic and farm-oriented of any distilled spirit, in that few of the domaines or chateaux we sell here at K&L have their own still. There are very few distilleries in Gascony. What you see when you visit a "producer" is a vineyard, a barn or warehouse full of barrels, and a house. The distillation, however, is often done by a traveling stillman who will load the equipment on the back of a trailer and go from estate to estate during harvest time. See the photo below from my trip in 2015:
What Marc Darroze's family has created is a negotiant Armagnac house with a number of these small producers where, in exchange for a large percentage of the distillate, they come and do the actual distillation at each farm. The result is vast library of casks and vintages from which they can blend or bottle single vintage, single estate expressions as needed. Needless to say, no one in the world has an inventory of Armagnac as deep or as eclectic as Darroze. This new set of vintage brandies is all the evidence you need. All three were tremendous and offered richness, layered complexity, and loads of spice and sweetness. Per the norm, they're bottled at full proof and without coloring or sugar. Here's the rundown:
1967 Darroze Domaine Bellair 50 Year Old Vintage Cask Strength Armagnac $299.99 - This is the polar opposite of the other two, whereas those are very much like older American whiskies, this 50 year old is a brandy through and through, but with the complexities of new oak. It's a heavy spirit oozing with fudge, cocoa, dark chocolate, and all those desserty things, but never sweet. This is one of the better old Armagnacs I've tasted in that it offers the decadence without ever tasting tired or over the hill. A true winner.
1977 Darroze Domaine Poste 40 Year Old Vintage Cask Strength Armagnac $169.99 - Boom! Tons of clove, cinnamon, richness from the fruit base, dried fruit, caramel. It keeps going and going.
1987 Darroze Domaine Poste 29 Year Old Vintage Cask Strength Armagnac $129.99 - An utterly expansive Armagnac, one that starts with plenty of fruit and oak spice before growing larger with second it remains on your palate. Loads of baking spices, plenty of vanilla, and a bold, lasting finish. Lots going on.