New K&L L’Encantada Armagnacs
The world of brandy geeks is small; in fact, it’s microscopically small compared to the whiskey geek world, but few things cause that small world more excitement than new brandies from L’Encantada, the relatively new independent bottler which has been bringing out excellent Armagnacs.
To understand what makes this stuff special, you have to understand a little bit about Armagnac. French brandy production, especially in Armagnac, is much different than the American distilled spirits industry. There are a few large producers, but by in large, Armagnac is made by farmers and wine makers who distill some of their extra grapes in a travelling still that comes around to the farms. Many of them just stick the casks in their barns and basements, a little bit here, a little bit there. Eventually they will bottle them, maybe for family and friends, maybe for small markets, or sell them to a larger company that bottles brandy or even makes liqueur; it's sort of a Gascon retirement fund.
L'Encantada was essentially knocking on farm doors and asking to buy these casks. They have casks from around seven small producers, a number of which only made brandy for a limited time, and all of their brandies are bottled at cask strength without additives.
Now K&L has six new L’Encantada Armagnacs from five different domains ranging from 20 to 35 years old. It’s one of the biggest L’Encantada selections we’ve seen anywhere in the U.S., but how do you know which to buy? Well, Sku is here to help you. Here are my reviews of the lot of them from youngest to oldest:
The nose is rich with coffee, cocoa with sweet toasted marshmallow. The palate is sweet and herbal with anise, wildflower honey and more traditional Armagnac oak and spice notes. Those herbs, particularly the anise stay one for the finish with some light absinthe notes. This one is light and sweet; it’s quite drinkable.
Lous Pibous bottles always sell out as soon as they hit the website, but I’m told that there should be a few hundred more of these coming in, so hopefully there will be plenty for everyone. This one has that unmistakable Pibous nose with its bold, bourbony oak. The palate comes on strong and sweet, really sweet – almost like a dessert wine. After that sweet opening, the oak and spice come in. The finish has a nice balance of fruit and spice. This has tons of concentrated flavor. It definitely has some bourbon-like qualities, but it’s heavier on the fruit than most of the Pibous I’ve had.
This is the only Armagnac in this series that comes from the Tenareze region, the others hailing from the Bas Armagnac. The nose has floral and perfume notes. The palate has a light fruit juice note which picks up some wood notes on the way down. The finish is a bit drier with some medicinal notes. Overall, this is a lighter brandy which has a fresh, cider-like quality to it.
This has a dry nose with some grainy notes. The palate is sweet and fruity with strong oak notes that emerge toward mid-palate and dominate the finish, giving this good balance. This isn’t the most complex brandy in the world, but it’s really enjoyable.
This one has a great old Armagnac nose – dry with oak and lots of fruit (raisins, pineapple). On the palate it starts sweet with heavily concentrated fruit and some acid notes. It then becomes drier with a chewy mouthfeel and some savory and bitter notes. The finish has that dry fruit on the nose and a chewy grape stem note on the palate. This one is sharp on the palate, dense and flavor-packed. This is a profile I really like though it’s got some strong bitter notes; in my experience, these older brandies with some bitterness on the late palate tend to get better with air. This is one I would open, enjoy a few sips of and then put on the shelf for a few weeks. My guess is it will continue to evolve.
This opens with a beautiful and complex aroma with apples, strawberry candy and some malt. The palate starts with rich stewed fruit and then just explodes. There are the sandalwood notes you get in dusty old Pennsylvania rye, tannic, aged red wine notes, Calvados like notes and even some tropical fruits. The finish has a nice balance of fruit, wine and spice. This is just fabulous, one of the best L’Encantadas I’ve had.
There’s a lot of great stuff here. If I could only choose one, I would definitely go with the Bidets. My runners up would be the Pibous and the ‘82 Cassou.