Super Small Batch: Domaine le Chaou
What is Domaine le Chaou? It’s another one of those stories of small producers that you find in Armagnac. Domaine le Chaou doesn’t make brandy...or wine. They grow grapes. For about seven years in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, they sold Baco grapes to Domaine de Charron, an Armagnac producer known for making brandy in new oak casks. Instead of payment for the grapes, each year, Charron would give them back one cask of the Armagnac made from their grapes, and as happens in Armagnac, there they sat, with le Chaou selling a few of them here and there.
Fitte et Laterrade is a negociant, or independent bottler, who happened upon le Chaou and bought two of their casks, a 1987 and 1988, and bottled them. K&L brought them to the US.
The nose is deeply oaky with stewed fruit and chocolate. The palate starts with concentrated fruit notes – prune and raisin – and then goes in a million directions: dark chocolate, cinnamon, cloves, maybe even some hops. It’s insanely intense with a syrupy mouthfeel. On the finish, it’s got a nice, slightly bitter/earthy/medicinal note as well as a bit of that chocolate and fruit from the palate.
This is amazing stuff. It’s a massive oaky, fruity brandy with an intense, concentrated flavor throughout. Even though it’s deeply oaky, I wouldn’t compare it to a bourbony brandy like the Pibous because of all the fruit. It’s more similar to the intense 1981 Cardinat that came out a few years ago (which is still among my favorites).
The nose on this one is oaky with caramel and bourbon notes. The palate has similar notes – oak, brown sugar, leather, then a blast of sweet fruit and some tannic red wine notes. It has a thick mouthfeel, like an aged red wine. The finish is lightly earthy and fruity. This is more of a bourbon-lover's brandy, with more sweetness and less fruit than the ‘87.
I was wowed by these. They are both fantastic, intense, massive brandies. The ‘88 is sweeter with great bourbon and red wine notes. The ‘87 has a bit more fruit and is hugely complex with a lot going on. It’s one of those brandies that I want to spend some time with to really tease out all the different elements. If you’re a fan of this style of thick, oaky Armagnac, these are must buys.