Haut Haut Haut
Among the sub-regions of Armagnac, Bas-Armagnac is the most known and respected, and bottles from there proudly tout the region. Due east of Bas-Armagnac, the Ténarèze is the upstart sibling, not as flashy or well known but loved by aficionados for earthy brandies like Pellehaut, Aurensan and Pouchegu.
But there’s a third region, the large but little known Haut Armagnac. Finding information about Haut Armagnac isn’t easy. Even importer and brandy writer Charles Neal’s very informative Armaganc website has almost no information about the Haut Armaganc.
And while finding information is hard, finding actual Haut Armaganc is even harder. That’s why my curiosity was piqued when K&L brought in three Haut Armagancs. They come from the rather unique domaine of Chateau de Vacquié. According to K&L, these 100% Ugni Blanc brandies are unfiltered and not reduced though “slight additions of water may have been added during aeration.” I tasted two of these (there is a third, from 1999, that is substantially more expensive)
Chateau de Vacquié 1991, 27 yo, 42% abv ($99.99)
The nose is dry and spicy. The palate follows suit with pepper, dill, cloves and rye whiskey; this fades into a nice, spicy finish. Tasting blind there's a 50% chance I would guess this was a nice old rye. I really enjoy the dryness of it - there's just a light sweetness in the late palate and the early finish. This one's a winner for me.
Chateau de Vacquié 1998, 20 yo, 49% abv ($79.99)
This is another dry, spicy nose. The palate is a bit bolder and fruitier on this one with some cider notes. Like the '91, it starts dry and develops sweetness mid-way through, but this one is a bit sweeter, with those sweet fruit notes lasting into the finish.
These are both really good. I'm a sucker for a dry, spicy Armagnac, so the '91 was my favorite, reminding me of some of the best of that style (Baraillon and Pellehaut). The '98, though still dry, is a bit sweeter with more fruit. Both are great brandies, and oh so haut.