An Evening with L’Encantada
Recently, I was lucky enough to spend an evening with the owners of L’Encantada who were visiting from Gascony. L’Encantada, with the distinctive orange wax, has become something of a cult favorite among Armagnac lovers. It allowed me to talk to them in detail about their operation and the producers they worked with.
One thing that struck me was the small scale of their producers, even by the standards of Armagnac. Many of these producers are farmers who distill just a few barrels per year.
Take their bottles from Le Freche for example. Because Le Freche is the name of the area in Armagnac and not a producer, many people have speculated that this means the Le Freche Armagnacs are from some large producer in the region that’s sourcing to multiple bottlers; that’s how it would work in the whiskey world. To the contrary, they told me the Le Freche brandy comes from a tiny domaine that makes no more than three barrels each year and some years doesn’t make any. That’s true of a number of their producers. They are really tiny operations.
We also talked about the cask sourcing and management. In many cases, the casks used by these producers are made from wood grown on their land. In other cases, the producers barter for casks with the food they grow. Many of the casks are stored in basements and garages, and the L’Encantada folks told stories of occasionally finding a cask with a horrible gasoline taste because it had been stored in the same garage as the working tractor.
Lous Pibous (pronounced, I learned, LOOS PI-BOOS – the Gascognes pronounce the final S) is a bit of an exception in that it’s a larger operation with a proper warehouse (though it is no longer distilling). But for the most part, their producers – Le Freche, Cassou, Bidet and others, are very, very small.
The owners are passionate about Armagnac and seem to really do this out of love for the spirit and the fun of seeking it out. It's not a full time job for either of them; both have day jobs, and they seemed as surprised as anyone that these bottlings had become popular in the US. For me all of this just added to the lore of the spirit and the L’Encantada operation in particular. Who wouldn’t love to run around French farm basements looking for great brandy?