Exploring French Brandy: Chabot Armagnac

Chabot Napolean Armagnac Brandy And Ginger

Premium French Brandy: Chabot Armagnac

With such a wide variety of brilliant local premium brandies available, I have not as yet dabbled in much of the finer French brandy out there. But on a recent overseas trip, I did pick up a bottle of Chabot Napoleon, from Armanac – a brandy producing region near Congnac in France.

French Brandy  – too good to rush…

I have been sitting on this bottle of French brandy (Armagnac) for some time now, while I made my way through a number of already opened bottles of premium gold. Early advice from Johann Venter was that once open its best to try and consume a bottle of brandy within 6 months, as it certainly doesn’t improve with exposure to the air. So now with the Van Ryn’s 12yr, Van Ryn’s 20yr and Uitkyk Estate 10yr very empty bottles in the recycling, it was the perfect time to crack the Armanac.

Chabot Armagnac – A rich history

From what I have been able to find online, the Chabot farm was founded in 1828 in the village of Labastide d’Armagnac, France. Initially, the brandy produced here was kept a secret and only shared with family, close friends and French nobility. But such a good secret was too good to keep for ever, and in 1868, 40 years after the farms founding Chabot Armagnac was introduced to the rest of the world. And good for that, I say…

Cognac and Armagnac – a few simple differences

There are a couple of things that differ between production of Cognac and Armagnac. Firstly, climate. Armagnac is further south than Cognac, and as a result sees warmer, sunnier conditions. Much like South Africa, this results in a higher fruit content in the grapes, presumable affecting fruit concentrates in the final distillate. Grape varietal and terroir also varies between the two with the former using primarily Ugni Blanc grapes grown in chalky lime soils, and the latter using Bacco and Folle Blanche along with the Ugni grown in sandier soils. But the most surprising difference must be that Armagnac is only distilled once, not twice, and mainly in column stills, not copper stills…

So whats the verdict?

I like it. A lot. There are some subtle differences between this and our local brandies, as well as cognac as far as I can tell on the limited comparison I have. A lot stronger wood on the flavour palate of the Armanac, but also stronger fruit coming through than the Cognac. Presumably from the higher fruit content in the grapes.

Based on the brandies I have to compare, the Armagnac seems closer to our full flavour brandies than the Cognac, but the Cognac seems closer to the aged, matured nature of our local guys. Of course its always a matter of comparing apples to apples, but for me, it is fun to try and compare the three types and see which fits where. I look forward to trying some more cognac and Armagnac to see if I can develop this comparison any further. Watch this space for a blind tasting of the three too, to see what more general opinion has to say about them all!

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