Armagnac (Updated)

•November 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Armagnac

Armagnac is a spirit that has to be perfectly crafted.  It comes from the Armagnac Region which is located inside the province of Gascony, which is located in Southwest France (South of Bordeaux).  There are also sub-regions within Armagnac, these are: Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac-Tenareze and Haut-Armagnac.  This particular area for producing Armagnac has only been defined since 1909.  It has an Appellation d’Origine Controlee status since 1936 which covers about 600 square miles (15,000 hectares) in the Departements of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne.

A little note:  in 2007, Armagnac Blanche (unaged Armagnac spirit) was officially recognized by the French authorities and brought under Armagnac’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.

Bas-Armagnac is a low altitude sub-region that produces well rounded, fruity and intense brandies and is located on the Western side of the region, near the coastline.  About 57% of all Armagnac produced comes from this region.  The soil is mainly sand and it is rich with iron and some clay.  Ugni-Blanc and Baco Blanc are widely planted here.  This area is considered to be the equivalent of Cognac’s Grande Champagne Region.

Armagnac-Tenareze creates intense, strongly flavored brandies and is located in the Center of the region.  Most Armagnacs from here will see longer aging than those from Bas-Armagnac.  About 40% of all Armagnac comes from this region.  The soil here consists of mainly sand, limestone and clay with many small streams running through the land.  Ugni-Blanc and Colombard are the most widely planted grapes here.   This is similar to Cognac’s Borderies Region.

Haut-Armagnac has very small pockets of production in the Eastern side of the region.  It is at a higher altitude due to the Armagnac region being at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains and only makes up about 3 to 5% of all Armagnac produced even though it takes up almost 50% of the Armagnac Region.  Most of the soil in the area is limestone, clay and chalk which produce flat and hard spirits.

carte_Armagnac_logo

Grapes

Ten grape varieties are allowed to be used in the production of Armagnac.  Most Armagnac is made from Ugni-Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche and Baco Blanc.  Other grapes used are Blanquette, Jurancon, Clairette de Gascogne, Plant de Graisse, Maslier Saint Francois and Mauzac.  The grape vines endure harsh winters and hard blown winds from the sea and Pyrenees Mountains.  For every 1 bottle of Armagnac produced, there are 200 bottles of Cognac produced.

Folle Blanche:  Very fruity and floral grape that shows a lot of finesse when aged for 15 years.  This was the original Armagnac grape also called “piquepoul”.  The main reason why it isn’t used as much anymore is due to phylloxera killing off most of the grapes in 1893.  This grape is extremely sensitive to rot.

folle blanche

Ugni Blanc:  Also known as “Trebbiano”, this grape is used to blend young Armagnacs.  This is a late ripening grape that thrives in acidic soils.

Ugni Blanc

Baco Blanc (Baco 22A):  This grape produces well rounded Armagnacs, but even better Vintage Armagnacs.  It is a hybrid created by crossing Folle Blanche and the American Noah grape and has a protective, tough skin.  Monsieur Francois Baco experimented with grapes after the phylloxera plague and plotted some grapes on plot 22A, hence the name.  The grape thrives in the sandy soils of Bas-Armagnac.

Baco Blanc

Colombard:  This grape can produce some very young Armagnacs due to the fact it can be harvested earlier than the other grapes.  It imparts herbal, grassy and hay aromas to Armagnac.

Colombard

Harvesting, Distillation & Aging

Grapes are usually harvested in October and are immediately pressed.  Some producers use pneumatic presses, but many smaller farmers use hand turned screw presses.  The juice is then fermented into a wine and held for distillation.  The wine is usually acidic with a low alcohol content (9-10% ABV).  No additives are allowed to be used in the production and distillation of Armagnac.

The wine that is held for distillation in October, must be distilled by the end of April.  Armagnac Appelation states that distillation must be completed no later than March 31st.  The wine will either be distilled in the vineyards cellar, but sometimes by roving distillers who own a small Alembic pot still on wheels.

The wine will be distilled once in a copper Alambic Armagnacais (continuous still), as where Cognac is double distilled.  Armagnac is distilled at a low strength usually 52-60% ABV, where Cognac is usually distilled around 70% ABV.  As the wine travels up the plates (usually 7-9 plates) in the still, the wine will start to evaporate.  As some of the vapors collect on the plates, they will turn back into wine, contacting more wine vapors on the way down.  This specific feature helps the Armagnac to pick up some fruity elements.  Once the vapors reach the top of the still and start the travel down the coils, it will turn into Eaux de Vie.

alambic_bnia

About 95% Armagnac is distilled in this traditional manner, but there are a few producers who do things differently.  Since 1972 Arab’s Head pot stills (used in Cognac) have been used, mainly to produce double distilled Armagnac with a 70-72% ABV content like Cognac.  The main reason why this is used is due to the fact that a double distilled product will age more rapidly, so the producer can bottle and sell the product faster.  A new law introduced recently will require that all distilleries operating with double distillation will be required to have a continuous Alambic Armagnacais still on their property by 2019.

The Eaux de Vie will come off the still colorless and will then be aged for a certain amount of years in 400 liter black oak casks from Monlezum wood.  Limousin, Gascon and Troncais French oak are also widely used.  Many of the characterisitics of the Armagnac will pick up flavors from the wood (vanilla, prunes, candied fruit).

Most Maitre de Chai (Cellar Masters) will age their fresh distillate in new oak casks, usually for the first 6 months in first fill casks and up to 2 years in second fill casks.  Over time the aging spirit will be pumped into older casks to reduce the extraction of tannins from the oak.  When the spirit is pumped from cask to cask, the aeration actually helps the aging Armagnac to gain more flavor.  The Armagnac will pull tannins, vanillins and spice flavors and aromas from the oak.

Aging armagnac

Most cellars are made from thick stone walls and earth floors to maintain a constant cool temperature and high moisture.  This will lessen the chance of yearly evaporation, which also allows for longer aged Armagnac.  Average evaporation is about 0.5-3% a year.

Armagnacs that have been aged for 50 years or more will usually be moved to glass containers (called dame jeannes) to stop the aging process so they will not over extract oak flavors and lose any of its alcoholic strength.

The single distillation helps the Armagnac to retain flavors from the original wine.  They’re full bodied, rich, complex, fruity and retain the Terroir where the grapes originally came from.  Armagnac’s are either single vintage or a blend of various ages.

Some cellar masters will blend their Armagnac of different ages and varieties to create a consistent Armagnac.  This is called “coupage” and will involve the addition of distilled water or “petites eau” to lower the alcohol content to bottling strength which is a minimum of 40% ABV.

The age on the bottles refer to the youngest Armagnac in the blend.  If there is a term “Hors-D’Age” on the label, this means that the spirit in the bottle has been aged for at least 10 years in oak barrels.  If there is a vintage year mentioned on a label, this is the year the grapes were harvested.

Aging Terms:

Blanche Armagnac:  An Unaged Armagnac (less than 1% of total production).

Blanche may be made from any of four grape varieties: Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Baco Blanc. However, most people like Folle Blanche for its aromatic fruity finesse. The grapes used must have been cultivated in designated vineyards within the Armagnac region.  The spirit usually comes off the still at a lower proof and cannot go lower than 40% ABV (80 proof).  Before hitting the bottles and the customer shelves, this Eaux de Vie must pass through a panel of tasting experts to get the OK

V.S., 3 Star:  Must be aged at least one year and two years if it is to be exported.

V.S.O.P.:  Must be at least 4 years old

X.O., Napoleon:  Must be at least 6 years old.

Hors d’Age:  Must be 10 years or older.

Vintage:  Refers to the stated year of distillation (year the grapes were picked and pressed).  They are usually bottled at their cask strength, typically between 40-48% ABV.

Single Cepage (Single grape variety):  This refers to the Armagnac in the bottle being made from only one type grape.

Darroze

Darroze

The Darroze family has been making Armagnac for 3 generations.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s Jean Darroze ran a restaurant in Bas-Armagnac and wanted to share his love for food and wine with his family and the world.  Francis Darroze was in charge of the wine and Armagnac list in the family run restaurant. 

Francis would visit different vineyards and would collect Eaux de Vies from them.  In the 1973 he decided to start aging them himself in his own cellar.  He scoured the countryside to find the best barrels to age his hand picked spirits in.  Currently his son Marc Darroze has helped him to take on the selection and aging process. 

In over 30 years they have created over 250 Armagnacs from 30 small domaines including more than 50 vintages.  Every bottle contains the Domaine of Origin and the vintage.  Darroze makes up only 15% of all Armagnac sold in the world.

Darroze is close to the Piranese Mountains and the ocean.  These two factors play a huge role in how their grapes are influenced.  The local soil is iron rich which helps to create robust grapes for Armagnac distillation. 

All of the Armagnac’s are single distilled to keep character and flavor of the specific vineyard it comes from.  All of their bottlings come in at cask strength meaning there is no water added to the final product. 

Marc Darroze likes to mainly use 3 grapes in the production of his Armagnacs.  They are Ugni-Blanc (makes up about 50% of all Armagnac), Baco Blanc (a hybrid) and Folle Blanche.

One of the main reasons Ugni-Blanc is used so much is due to the fact that it ages at a much more rapid pace than all of the other grapes used in production. 

Baco Blanc usually takes the longest to age and create a full bodied Armagnacs.  Average aging is about 12 to 15 years, but the resulting Armagnacs are very unique. 

Folle Blanche represents about 5% of all Armagnac made.  It is the oldest grape grown in this region and it usually grows best in sandy soils. 

Once the grapes have been pressed for their juice, it will be fermented for 2 weeks.  Three to Elleven weeks after fermentation, distillation will begin.  Darroze likes to distill the lees into the Armagnac to add even more flavor and character to their spirits. 

The Armagnac (like all Armagnac) will be single distilled, which will keep the alcohol content lower.  This helps to keep the character and flavor of the grapes and the soil.  After distillation, Marc will take the Eaux de Vie and place it into 400 liter local French oak barrels. 

The aging process will create a more rustic and elegant spirit.  The Armagnac will be put into casks at about 53% ABV.  There are two factors affecting proof of a spirit.  Humid environments will evaporatr alcohol, hence a drop in proof.  Dry environments will evaporate water, that’s why in certain vintages you will see the alcohol proof rise on the label. 

Different wood will be used to age different types of Armagnac.  Larger grained wood will help to speed up the aging process, due to the fact that the grains will pull more of the spirit into the wood.  Most of Marc’s Armagnac will see 2-5 years in new oak and then be transferred to another cask (this is to prevent tannins from altering the spirit).  The Armagnac will evaporate at about 3% a year.

Darroze Reserve Speciale (43% ABV)

Armagnac made from grapes grown in Bas-Armagnac.  Grapes in this blend are Baco Blanc (about 40%), Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc.  The vintages range from 10-20 years.

Nose:  Sweet caramel and spicy oak.

Palate:  Rich, full bodied, intense, candied fruit, spicy oak.

Finish:  Sweet, lingering, oak.

Darroze 1996 – Domaine de Dupont (51.2% ABV)

This 1996 vintage is aged in a new French oak cask for 11 years before being removed and bottled at cask strength in Loquefort, Landes.  The grapes come from Domaine de Dupont in Bas Armagnac in the village of Mauleon d’Armagnac.  They are grown in tawny colored, sandy soil which the Ugni Blanc grapes thrive in.

Darroze 1985 – Domaine du Petit Lassis (% ABV)

The grape used in this 1985 bottling are 100 % Baco Blanc and come from the Bas Armagnac region in the village of Creon d’Armagnac.  

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Darroze 1981 – Domaine de St. Aubin (49%ABV)

The grape in this bottling is 100% Baco Blanc.  They are grown in the Bas Armagnac region in the village of La Houga. 

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Darroze 1978 – Domaine Au Martin (42.5% ABV)

Made in the Bas Armagnace region in the village of Hontanx.  The soil here mainly consists of sand and houses grapes like Baco Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc.  Most of the Baco Blanc grapevines are 50 years old and the Colombard and Ugni Blanc (St. Emillion) are about 20 years old.

The grapes in the vintage are 65% Baco Blanc, 25% Ugni Blanc and 10% Folle Blanche. 

Nose:  Pear and apple blossom, espresso, lemon peel, apricots and chocolate.

Palate:  Bing cherries, coffee, raspberries, baking spices, candied red apple, caramel corn, oily.

Finish:  Long, oaky, toffee, spicy finish.

Darroze 1976 – Domaine Au Martin (% ABV)

This particular vintage is made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Hontanx.  Baco Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche grapes dominate this region.  They are grown in sandy soils on some very old vines. 

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Darroze 1975 – Domaine de St. Aubin (% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac was made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Le Houga.  100% Baco Blanc grapes are planted in this area in sandy soils. 

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Darroze 1973 – Domaine de Coquillon (48.9% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac is made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Le Freche.  Baco Blanc and Ugni Blanc are to two grapes that are mainly planted here. 

Nose:  Big bouquet, baked pears, nutty, tobacco and vanilla.

Palate:  Medium bodied, semisweet,light tannins, black pepper, resin, spicy oak and off dry.

Finish:  Lightly sweet, sandalwood and lingering spice.

Darroze 1959 – Domaine de Gaube (45% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac is made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Perquie.  This village grows 100% Baco Blanc grapes for their Armagnac.  This bottling is a 50 year old Armagnac.

Nose:  Dried apricots, prunes, green apple, leather and a musty wood aroma.

Palate:  Rich dried fruits, more apricot, coffee bean, vanilla maple, butterscotch, honey.

Finish:  Maple syrup richness.

 

Darroze 1956 – Domaine de Lascourts (% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac is in made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of

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Cerbois X.O. (40% ABV)

This mark of Armagnac is mostly made from Baco Blanc grapes grown in the village of Maignan-Eauze in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  The vines are planted in iron rich sandy soils which help to create world famous Armagnacs. 

The Armagnac will be distilled once in copper column stills and will then be put into 400 liter French oak casks that have been used to age other brandies.  This helps to pull less tannins out of the oak and into the Armagnac.  Spirits will be blended and will oxidize more in the process, releasing more aromatic flavors into the final spirit.  The final result is a blend of Armagnacs ranging from 18-22 years.

Nose:  Prune, black berry, peach, vanilla and black walnut.

Palate:  Full bodied, rich, prune, candied fruits

Finish:  Lengthy, oak and spice.

Chateau Briat 1988 (% ABV)

Armagnacs from this distiller and grower come from the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  This particular Armagnac house grows grapes like Colombard, Folle Blanche and Baco Blanc.  They usually only distill the Colombard to make their Armagnacs. 

The different varietals will be distilled to 52% ABV and then transferred to the 10 casks they hold on site.  The brandy will be aged for 2-3 years in new casks and then transferred to older casks to prevent tannins from altering the flavor.  Casks will also be opened or “aired” once a year to help introduce more aromatics into the Armagnac. 

Chateau Briat is known to create an Assemblage of the varieties at a minimum of 4 years and sometimes up to 10 years. 

Nose:  Caramel, coffee, dark chocolate

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Chateau de Ravignan

This particular Armagnac comes from the Domaine de Ravignan in the Bas-Armagnac region in Gascony.  Grapes are grown in sand and limestone soils on property.  The brandy will be distilled to 52% ABV before being put into casks.  5 to 7 liters of wine will result in 1 liter of Armagnac after distillation.  All of their Armagnacs will spend a minimum of 12 years in French Limousin oak casks before being bottled.

Chateau de Ravignan 1982 (48% ABV)

This Armagnac is made from about 80% Baco Blanc grapes.

Nose:  Oak, vanilla

Palate:  Smooth, soft, rich fruit, cinnamon, all spice, oak, very rum like.

Finish:  Polished, well rounded, toasted almond.

Chateau de Ravignan 1978 (44% ABV)

This particular Armagnac has been aged for 28 years before being bottled.  

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Château De Saint Aubin – Reserve du Château (40% ABV)

Cellar Master :  Olev Kelt

This Armagnac is made from 100% Ugni Blanc grapes (the only Armagnac that does this) grown in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  All of the aging has been done in new French Limousin oak casks.  The casks are not the traditional 400 liter cask, instead they are a 265 liter cask, similar to what Cognac is aged in.  It is a blend of other vintage Armagnacs from 1962, 1968, 1977 and 1978 and will be blended before being taken on its “Tour du Monde”.

One of the interesting things about this Armagnac is that it takes a “Tour du Monde” or a “Trip Around the World” in their barrels.  The voyage will usually last around 90-110 days.  The rocking of the ship allows the Armagnac to make contact with the entire surface area of the barrel as well as speed up the aging process.  The casks will be aerated 3 times a year which will result in a 1-1.5% evaporation a year. 

Nose:  Vanilla, nutmeg, lemon peel, raisins, toffee.

Palate:  Light wood tannins, rich concentrated fruit, butterscotch, marzipan, white raisins.

Finish:  Well rounded, soft, honey.

De Montal (40% ABV)

Master Distiller: Olivier de Montal

 

The grapes that are grown to make this Armagnac are produced at the Chateau de Rieutort in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  The grapevines are grown in soil that consists of sand and some light clay to give the final spirit its delicate flavor.  Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Baco Blanc make up most of Da Montal’s Armagnacs. 

Once the Armagnac has been distilled it will go into 400 liter French oak vats taken from the Monlezun and Freche forests. 

Nose:  Vanilla, prune, peach, banana bread

Palate:   Light tannins, tobacco, vanilla, sweet and oaky

Finish:  Long, semi sweet

Domaine Boingneres  1993 (% ABV)

Master Distiller:  Martine LaFitte

Wood Program:  Gilles Bartholomo

This mark of Armagnac comes from the small Commune of Le Freche in Bas-Armagnac, which is located in Gascony.  They mainly grow Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc and Colombard in the iron rich sandy soil of this region.  This particular release is made from 100% Folle Blanch grapes.

The grapes will be pressed and then fermented and distlled as soon as possible, usually by November.  The Eaux de Vie will be put into new, 420 liter French oak casks taken from the Gascon forest.  50% of the new distillate spends 12 months in new casks, while the other 50% spends time in casks previously used.

Nose:  Vanilla, plums, baking spices

Palate:  Orange peel, black pepper, cloves, toffee.

Finish:  Long and spicy.

Marie Duffau

Master Distillers:  Jerome & Sylvain Delord

The name Marie Duffau actually comes from Prosper Delord’s wife whom he married in 1925.  They would travel around with a copper still and distill grapes from various villages and sell it. 

Their grapes are grown in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony in the iron rich sand soils.  The Delord family will grow their own Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes, but they purchase the Baco Blanc and Folle Blanche grapes from other villages.  Their spirits are made from Ugni Blanc (70%), Folle Blanche (5%), Baco Blanc (20%) and Colombard (5%) grapes.  This is how their Armagnacs age and blend so well to create some amazing final products.

Marie Duffau – Hors d’Age (40% ABV)

This particular mark is aged a minimum of 15 years in French oak casks that come from the Limousin and Gascon forests. 

Nose:  Vanilla, figs, marzipan, prune cake, resin.

Palate:  Rich, semisweet, cigar leaf and tobacco.  Lots of dried herbs

Finish:  Bitter sweet, dates and figs.

 

Marie Duffau 1973 (43% ABV)

This is an Armagnac that has been aged in Limousin and Gascon French oak barrels for 30 years before being bottled.  It is bottled at cask strength.

Nos :  Baked pear, toasted almonds, parafin wax, linseed oil, salted butter, toffee.

Palate:  Semisweet, black tea, honey, brown sugar, oak.

Finish :  Candied fruit, honey, nutty.

Ole Smoky Moonshine

•May 7, 2013 • Leave a Comment
I recently tasted through the lines of spirits made by Ole Smoky Moonshine.  They currently produce Ole Smoky White Lightnin, Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine and Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine.

Ole Smoky is out of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and produces about 5 different marks of Moonshine related spirits.  Ole Smoky is actually the first legally licensed distillery to be allowed to produce spirits in East Tennessee since the state changed its laws.

Many of the original Moonshiners were of Scottish or Irish decent.  They all ready knew the art of distillation and found perfect areas tucked back in the mountains to hide stills and of the watchful eye of Big Brother.  Most Moonshine was originally made with excess corn local families would produce on their farms.  Families realized that instead of selling bushels of corn to local merchants, they could actually make more money by converting it into a form of “liquid gold”.  Ole Smoky keeps to that tradition by planting, growing and harvesting their own corn as well.  It’s then taken down to the local family mill and ground down before being transformed into Moonshine.

The first mark I tasted was the Ole Smoky White Lightnin.

It’s made from 100% Neutral Grain Spirits and comes in at 100 Proof.  It’s been distilled 6 times in a copper pot still and tastes quite smooth.  There’s a lot of buttered corn on the palate due some of the oils from the corn still being present.  It’s quite nice.  By itself, there’s a slight burn on the finish of the spirit, but it is 100 proof!

White Lightnin

It would be great for simple classics at home like a Collins or a Fizz:

Smoky Collins

2 oz. Ole Smoky White Lightnin

1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

.5 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1 Ratio Sugar and Water) Topped with Soda

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass except Soda Water and add ice. Roll the drink back and forth between two glasses to chill it down and then pour into a Collins glass Top with Soda water and garnish with a fresh lemon wedge

If you want to get a litte crazy with it, it will also work in a spirit forward cocktail like a Manhattan or Old-Fashioned.

White Lightnin Manhattan

2 oz. Ole Smoky White Lightnin

1 oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth

3 Dashes Bitter Truth Orange Bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir and then strain into the glass of your choice (I like classic Coupes). Garnish with a lemon twist.

Next up I tried the Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine.  One of the things I liked about it is that it’s set at 40 Proof.  It’s easier to mix, sip by itself and also convert people from Vodka into a new category of spirits.

It smells of freshly picked and crushed peaches.  Very floral on the nose and silky sweet on the palate.  It reminds me of a peach cobbler with a sugary finish (a little too sweet for me).  This couldn’t come at a better time of the year though.  With Summer riding on Springs tails right now, this is a great warm weather spirit.

Peach-Moonshine

Ole Smoky Peach Cobbler

2 oz. Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine

.5 oz. Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao

2 Dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredientes in a Julep tin. Add shaved ice and stir or swizzle until the edges of the tin become frosty. Garnish with fresh mint, berries and peach slices.

Peach Fizz

2 oz. Ole Smoky Peach Moonshine

1 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

.5 oz. Lavender Infused Agave (1:1 Ratio Agave and Water, steeped with Lavender for 20 Minutes)

1 Egg White

Top with Soda

Combine all ingredients except Soda water in a mixing glass Dry Shake (no ice) for 5-10 seconds, then add 2-3 large cubes of ice and shake another 5-10 seconds. Double strain into an Old-Fashioned Glass and then top off with soda water.

Lastly I tasted the Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine.

This was my favorite out of the two flavors I tasted.  It’s also 40 Proof, which allows for great mixing potential and when you taste it, you get the initial Moonshine flavor on your palate followed by the blackberry finish.  One of the cool things about this bottling, is that the blackberries are picked in the wild and then steeped in the Moonshine.

Blackberry Moonshine

Blackberry Bramble

2 oz. Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine

.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

4 Muddled Blackberries

Muddle the blackberries in an Old-Fashioned glass or Julep Tin. Add the Moonshine and Lemon Juice and then top off with crushed ice. Stir or swizzle until the glass becomes cold or the tin becomes frosty. Garnish with a mint sprig and some blackberries.

Run & Shine

2 oz. Ole Smoky Blackberry Moonshine

.75 oz. Fresh Lemon Juice

.5 oz. Simple Syrup (1:1 Ratio sugar and water)

Top with Sparkling Rose

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Shake and then double strain into a 6 oz. Mason Jar (keeping it original here!) Top off with Sparkling Rose and garnish with 2 fresh blackberries and a lemon twist.

 

To sum things up, I liked these spirits.  You’re seeing more unaged whiskies and moonshine hit the market these days and it’s always nice to see some versatility.  The flavored moonshines are nice since they can open up a whole new category for people looking to expand their cocktail palate, especially if they only stick to Vodka and want to branch out.  The peach and blackberry would be great for light summer cocktails and can even fit in as a base for a Punch.  The 100 Proof White Lightnin can be pretty versatile itself.  The high proof allows it to be used in classic cocktails and not drop down below 8o proof with dilution, but it can be infused easily if you want to get creative with cocktails or use it to make some bitters.  My only issue with the bottling is that the Mason Jars are a little bit of a pain to pour without spilling.  If pour spouts could be used, it would make me a lot happier, but it wouldn’t stop me from buying the product!

Moonshine photo

Armagnac

•April 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Armagnac

Armagnac is a spirit that has to be perfectly crafted.  It comes from the Armagnac Region which is located inside the province of Gascony, which is located in Southwest France (South of Bordeaux).  There are also sub-regions within Armagnac, these are: Bas-Armagnac, Armagnac-Tenareze and Haut-Armagnac.  This particular area for producing Armagnac has only been defined since 1909.  It has an Appellation d’Origine Controlee status since 1936 which covers about 600 square miles (15,000 hectares) in the Departements of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne.

A little note:  in 2007, Armagnac Blanche (unaged Armagnac spirit) was officially recognized by the French authorities and brought under Armagnac’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée.

Bas-Armagnac is a low altitude sub-region that produces well rounded, fruity and intense brandies and is located on the Western side of the region, near the coastline.  About 57% of all Armagnac produced comes from this region.  The soil is mainly sand and it is rich with iron and some clay.  Ugni-Blanc and Baco Blanc are widely planted here.  This area is considered to be the equivalent of Cognac’s Grande Champagne Region.

Armagnac-Tenareze creates intense, strongly flavored brandies and is located in the Center of the region.  Most Armagnacs from here will see longer aging than those from Bas-Armagnac.  About 40% of all Armagnac comes from this region.  The soil here consists of mainly sand, limestone and clay with many small streams running through the land.  Ugni-Blanc and Colombard are the most widely planted grapes here.   This is similar to Cognac’s Borderies Region.

Haut-Armagnac has very small pockets of production in the Eastern side of the region.  It is at a higher altitude due to the Armagnac region being at the foot of the Pyrenees Mountains and only makes up about 3 to 5% of all Armagnac produced even though it takes up almost 50% of the Armagnac Region.  Most of the soil in the area is limestone, clay and chalk which produce flat and hard spirits.

carte_Armagnac_logo

Grapes

Ten grape varieties are allowed to be used in the production of Armagnac.  Most Armagnac is made from Ugni-Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche and Baco Blanc.  Other grapes used are Blanquette, Jurancon, Clairette de Gascogne, Plant de Graisse, Maslier Saint Francois and Mauzac.  The grape vines endure harsh winters and hard blown winds from the sea and Pyrenees Mountains.  For every 1 bottle of Armagnac produced, there are 200 bottles of Cognac produced.

Folle Blanche:  Very fruity and floral grape that shows a lot of finesse when aged for 15 years.  This was the original Armagnac grape also called “piquepoul”.  The main reason why it isn’t used as much anymore is due to phylloxera killing off most of the grapes in 1893.  This grape is extremely sensitive to rot.

folle blanche

Ugni Blanc:  Also known as “Trebbiano”, this grape is used to blend young Armagnacs.  This is a late ripening grape that thrives in acidic soils.

Ugni Blanc

Baco Blanc (Baco 22A):  This grape produces well rounded Armagnacs, but even better Vintage Armagnacs.  It is a hybrid created by crossing Folle Blanche and the American Noah grape and has a protective, tough skin.  Monsieur Francois Baco experimented with grapes after the phylloxera plague and plotted some grapes on plot 22A, hence the name.  The grape thrives in the sandy soils of Bas-Armagnac.

Baco Blanc

Colombard:  This grape can produce some very young Armagnacs due to the fact it can be harvested earlier than the other grapes.  It imparts herbal, grassy and hay aromas to Armagnac.

Colombard

Harvesting, Distillation & Aging

Grapes are usually harvested in October and are immediately pressed.  Some producers use pneumatic presses, but many smaller farmers use hand turned screw presses.  The juice is then fermented into a wine and held for distillation.  The wine is usually acidic with a low alcohol content (9-10% ABV).  No additives are allowed to be used in the production and distillation of Armagnac.

The wine that is held for distillation in October, must be distilled by the end of April.  Armagnac Appelation states that distillation must be completed no later than March 31st.  The wine will either be distilled in the vineyards cellar, but sometimes by roving distillers who own a small Alembic pot still on wheels.

The wine will be distilled once in a copper Alambic Armagnacais (continuous still), as where Cognac is double distilled.  Armagnac is distilled at a low strength usually 52-60% ABV, where Cognac is usually distilled around 70% ABV.  As the wine travels up the plates (usually 7-9 plates) in the still, the wine will start to evaporate.  As some of the vapors collect on the plates, they will turn back into wine, contacting more wine vapors on the way down.  This specific feature helps the Armagnac to pick up some fruity elements.  Once the vapors reach the top of the still and start the travel down the coils, it will turn into Eaux de Vie.

alambic_bnia

About 95% Armagnac is distilled in this traditional manner, but there are a few producers who do things differently.  Since 1972 Arab’s Head pot stills (used in Cognac) have been used, mainly to produce double distilled Armagnac with a 70-72% ABV content like Cognac.  The main reason why this is used is due to the fact that a double distilled product will age more rapidly, so the producer can bottle and sell the product faster.  A new law introduced recently will require that all distilleries operating with double distillation will be required to have a continuous Alambic Armagnacais still on their property by 2019.

The Eaux de Vie will come off the still colorless and will then be aged for a certain amount of years in 400 liter black oak casks from Monlezum wood.  Limousin, Gascon and Troncais French oak are also widely used.  Many of the characterisitics of the Armagnac will pick up flavors from the wood (vanilla, prunes, candied fruit).

Most Maitre de Chai (Cellar Masters) will age their fresh distillate in new oak casks, usually for the first 6 months in first fill casks and up to 2 years in second fill casks.  Over time the aging spirit will be pumped into older casks to reduce the extraction of tannins from the oak.  When the spirit is pumped from cask to cask, the aeration actually helps the aging Armagnac to gain more flavor.  The Armagnac will pull tannins, vanillins and spice flavors and aromas from the oak.

Aging armagnac

Most cellars are made from thick stone walls and earth floors to maintain a constant cool temperature and high moisture.  This will lessen the chance of yearly evaporation, which also allows for longer aged Armagnac.  Average evaporation is about 0.5-3% a year.

Armagnacs that have been aged for 50 years or more will usually be moved to glass containers (called dame jeannes) to stop the aging process so they will not over extract oak flavors and lose any of its alcoholic strength.

The single distillation helps the Armagnac to retain flavors from the original wine.  They’re full bodied, rich, complex, fruity and retain the Terroir where the grapes originally came from.  Armagnac’s are either single vintage or a blend of various ages.

Some cellar masters will blend their Armagnac of different ages and varieties to create a consistent Armagnac.  This is called “coupage” and will involve the addition of distilled water or “petites eau” to lower the alcohol content to bottling strength which is a minimum of 40% ABV.

The age on the bottles refer to the youngest Armagnac in the blend.  If there is a term “Hors-D’Age” on the label, this means that the spirit in the bottle has been aged for at least 10 years in oak barrels.  If there is a vintage year mentioned on a label, this is the year the grapes were harvested.

Aging Terms:

Blanche Armagnac:  An Unaged Armagnac (less than 1% of total production).

Blanche may be made from any of four grape varieties: Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Baco Blanc. However, most people like Folle Blanche for its aromatic fruity finesse. The grapes used must have been cultivated in designated vineyards within the Armagnac region.  The spirit usually comes off the still at a lower proof and cannot go lower than 40% ABV (80 proof).  Before hitting the bottles and the customer shelves, this Eaux de Vie must pass through a panel of tasting experts to get the OK

V.S., 3 Star:  Must be aged at least one year and two years if it is to be exported.

V.S.O.P.:  Must be at least 4 years old

X.O., Napoleon:  Must be at least 6 years old.

Hors d’Age:  Must be 10 years or older.

Vintage:  Refers to the stated year of distillation (year the grapes were picked and pressed).  They are usually bottled at their cask strength, typically between 40-48% ABV.

Single Cepage (Single grape variety):  This refers to the Armagnac in the bottle being made from only one type grape.

Darroze

 

Darroze

The Darroze family has been making Armagnac for 3 generations.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s Jean Darroze ran a restaurant in Bas-Armagnac and wanted to share his love for food and wine with his family and the world.  Francis Darroze was in charge of the wine and Armagnac list in the family run restaurant. 

 

Francis would visit different vineyards and would collect Eaux de Vies from them.  In the 1973 he decided to start aging them himself in his own cellar.  He scoured the countryside to find the best barrels to age his hand picked spirits in.  Currently his son Marc Darroze has helped him to take on the selection and aging process. 

 

In over 30 years they have created over 250 Armagnacs from 30 small domaines including more than 50 vintages.  Every bottle contains the Domaine of Origin and the vintage.  Darroze makes up only 15% of all Armagnac sold in the world.

Darroze is close to the Piranese Mountains and the ocean.  These two factors play a huge role in how their grapes are influenced.  The local soil is iron rich which helps to create robust grapes for Armagnac distillation. 

All of the Armagnac’s are single distilled to keep character and flavor of the specific vineyard it comes from.  All of their bottlings come in at cask strength meaning there is no water added to the final product. 

Marc Darroze likes to mainly use 3 grapes in the production of his Armagnacs.  They are Ugni-Blanc (makes up about 50% of all Armagnac), Baco Blanc (a hybrid) and Folle Blanche.

One of the main reasons Ugni-Blanc is used so much is due to the fact that it ages at a much more rapid pace than all of the other grapes used in production. 

Baco Blanc usually takes the longest to age and create a full bodied Armagnacs.  Average aging is about 12 to 15 years, but the resulting Armagnacs are very unique. 

Folle Blanche represents about 5% of all Armagnac made.  It is the oldest grape grown in this region and it usually grows best in sandy soils. 

Once the grapes have been pressed for their juice, it will be fermented for 2 weeks.  Three to Elleven weeks after fermentation, distillation will begin.  Darroze likes to distill the lees into the Armagnac to add even more flavor and character to their spirits. 

The Armagnac (like all Armagnac) will be single distilled, which will keep the alcohol content lower.  This helps to keep the character and flavor of the grapes and the soil.  After distillation, Marc will take the Eaux de Vie and place it into 400 liter local French oak barrels. 

The aging process will create a more rustic and elegant spirit.  The Armagnac will be put into casks at about 53% ABV.  There are two factors affecting proof of a spirit.  Humid environments will evaporatr alcohol, hence a drop in proof.  Dry environments will evaporate water, that’s why in certain vintages you will see the alcohol proof rise on the label. 

Different wood will be used to age different types of Armagnac.  Larger grained wood will help to speed up the aging process, due to the fact that the grains will pull more of the spirit into the wood.  Most of Marc’s Armagnac will see 2-5 years in new oak and then be transferred to another cask (this is to prevent tannins from altering the spirit).  The Armagnac will evaporate at about 3% a year.

Darroze Reserve Speciale (43% ABV)

Armagnac made from grapes grown in Bas-Armagnac.  Grapes in this blend are Baco Blanc (about 40%), Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc.  The vintages range from 10-20 years.

Nose:  Sweet caramel and spicy oak.

Palate:  Rich, full bodied, intense, candied fruit, spicy oak.

Finish:  Sweet, lingering, oak.

 

Darroze 1996 – Domaine de Dupont (51.2% ABV)

This 1996 vintage is aged in a new French oak cask for 11 years before being removed and bottled at cask strength in Loquefort, Landes.  The grapes come from Domaine de Dupont in Bas Armagnac in the village of Mauleon d’Armagnac.  They are grown in tawny colored, sandy soil which the Ugni Blanc grapes thrive in.

 

Darroze 1985 – Domaine du Petit Lassis (% ABV)

The grape used in this 1985 bottling are 100 % Baco Blanc and come from the Bas Armagnac region in the village of Creon d’Armagnac.  

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Darroze 1981 – Domaine de St. Aubin (49%ABV)

The grape in this bottling is 100% Baco Blanc.  They are grown in the Bas Armagnac region in the village of La Houga. 

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Palate:

Finish:

 

Darroze 1978 – Domaine Au Martin (42.5% ABV)

Made in the Bas Armagnace region in the village of Hontanx.  The soil here mainly consists of sand and houses grapes like Baco Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche and Ugni Blanc.  Most of the Baco Blanc grapevines are 50 years old and the Colombard and Ugni Blanc (St. Emillion) are about 20 years old.

The grapes in the vintage are 65% Baco Blanc, 25% Ugni Blanc and 10% Folle Blanche. 

Nose:  Pear and apple blossom, espresso, lemon peel, apricots and chocolate.

Palate:  Bing cherries, coffee, raspberries, baking spices, candied red apple, caramel corn, oily.

Finish:  Long, oaky, toffee, spicy finish.

 

Darroze 1976 – Domaine Au Martin (% ABV)

This particular vintage is made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Hontanx.  Baco Blanc, Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche grapes dominate this region.  They are grown in sandy soils on some very old vines. 

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Darroze 1975 – Domaine de St. Aubin (% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac was made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Le Houga.  100% Baco Blanc grapes are planted in this area in sandy soils. 

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Finish:

 

Darroze 1973 – Domaine de Coquillon (48.9% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac is made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Le Freche.  Baco Blanc and Ugni Blanc are to two grapes that are mainly planted here. 

Nose:  Big bouquet, baked pears, nutty, tobacco and vanilla.

Palate:  Medium bodied, semisweet,light tannins, black pepper, resin, spicy oak and off dry.

Finish:  Lightly sweet, sandalwood and lingering spice.

 

Darroze 1959 – Domaine de Gaube (45% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac is made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of Perquie.  This village grows 100% Baco Blanc grapes for their Armagnac.  This bottling is a 50 year old Armagnac.

Nose:  Dried apricots, prunes, green apple, leather and a musty wood aroma.

Palate:  Rich dried fruits, more apricot, coffee bean, vanilla maple, butterscotch, honey.

Finish:  Maple syrup richness.

 

Darroze 1956 – Domaine de Lascourts (% ABV)

This vintage bottling of Armagnac is in made in the Bas Armagnac region of Gascony in the village of

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Cerbois X.O. (40% ABV)

This mark of Armagnac is mostly made from Baco Blanc grapes grown in the village of Maignan-Eauze in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  The vines are planted in iron rich sandy soils which help to create world famous Armagnacs. 

The Armagnac will be distilled once in copper column stills and will then be put into 400 liter French oak casks that have been used to age other brandies.  This helps to pull less tannins out of the oak and into the Armagnac.  Spirits will be blended and will oxidize more in the process, releasing more aromatic flavors into the final spirit.  The final result is a blend of Armagnacs ranging from 18-22 years.

Nose:  Prune, black berry, peach, vanilla and black walnut.

Palate:  Full bodied, rich, prune, candied fruits

Finish:  Lengthy, oak and spice.

 

Chateau Briat 1988 (% ABV)

Armagnacs from this distiller and grower come from the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  This particular Armagnac house grows grapes like Colombard, Folle Blanche and Baco Blanc.  They usually only distill the Colombard to make their Armagnacs. 

The different varietals will be distilled to 52% ABV and then transferred to the 10 casks they hold on site.  The brandy will be aged for 2-3 years in new casks and then transferred to older casks to prevent tannins from altering the flavor.  Casks will also be opened or “aired” once a year to help introduce more aromatics into the Armagnac. 

Chateau Briat is known to create an Assemblage of the varieties at a minimum of 4 years and sometimes up to 10 years. 

Nose:  Caramel, coffee, dark chocolate

Palate:

Finish:

 

Chateau de Ravignan

This particular Armagnac comes from the Domaine de Ravignan in the Bas-Armagnac region in Gascony.  Grapes are grown in sand and limestone soils on property.  The brandy will be distilled to 52% ABV before being put into casks.  5 to 7 liters of wine will result in 1 liter of Armagnac after distillation.  All of their Armagnacs will spend a minimum of 12 years in French Limousin oak casks before being bottled.

Chateau de Ravignan 1982 (48% ABV)

This Armagnac is made from about 80% Baco Blanc grapes.

Nose:  Oak, vanilla

Palate:  Smooth, soft, rich fruit, cinnamon, all spice, oak, very rum like.

Finish:  Polished, well rounded, toasted almond.

Chateau de Ravignan 1978 (44% ABV)

This particular Armagnac has been aged for 28 years before being bottled.  

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Palate :

Finish :

 

Château De Saint Aubin – Reserve du Château (40% ABV)

Cellar Master :  Olev Kelt

This Armagnac is made from 100% Ugni Blanc grapes (the only Armagnac that does this) grown in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  All of the aging has been done in new French Limousin oak casks.  The casks are not the traditional 400 liter cask, instead they are a 265 liter cask, similar to what Cognac is aged in.  It is a blend of other vintage Armagnacs from 1962, 1968, 1977 and 1978 and will be blended before being taken on its “Tour du Monde”.

One of the interesting things about this Armagnac is that it takes a “Tour du Monde” or a “Trip Around the World” in their barrels.  The voyage will usually last around 90-110 days.  The rocking of the ship allows the Armagnac to make contact with the entire surface area of the barrel as well as speed up the aging process.  The casks will be aerated 3 times a year which will result in a 1-1.5% evaporation a year. 

Nose:  Vanilla, nutmeg, lemon peel, raisins, toffee.

Palate:  Light wood tannins, rich concentrated fruit, butterscotch, marzipan, white raisins.

Finish:  Well rounded, soft, honey.

 

De Montal (40% ABV)

Master Distiller: Olivier de Montal

 

The grapes that are grown to make this Armagnac are produced at the Chateau de Rieutort in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony.  The grapevines are grown in soil that consists of sand and some light clay to give the final spirit its delicate flavor.  Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Baco Blanc make up most of Da Montal’s Armagnacs. 

Once the Armagnac has been distilled it will go into 400 liter French oak vats taken from the Monlezun and Freche forests. 

 

Nose:  Vanilla, prune, peach, banana bread

Palate:   Light tannins, tobacco, vanilla, sweet and oaky

Finish:  Long, semi sweet

 

Domaine Boingneres  1993 (% ABV)

Master Distiller:  Martine LaFitte

Wood Program:  Gilles Bartholomo

 

This mark of Armagnac comes from the small Commune of Le Freche in Bas-Armagnac, which is located in Gascony.  They mainly grow Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc and Colombard in the iron rich sandy soil of this region.  This particular release is made from 100% Folle Blanch grapes.

The grapes will be pressed and then fermented and distlled as soon as possible, usually by November.  The Eaux de Vie will be put into new, 420 liter French oak casks taken from the Gascon forest.  50% of the new distillate spends 12 months in new casks, while the other 50% spends time in casks previously used.

Nose:  Vanilla, plums, baking spices

Palate:  Orange peel, black pepper, cloves, toffee.

Finish:  Long and spicy.

 

Marie Duffau

Master Distillers:  Jerome & Sylvain Delord

 

The name Marie Duffau actually comes from Prosper Delord’s wife whom he married in 1925.  They would travel around with a copper still and distill grapes from various villages and sell it. 

Their grapes are grown in the Bas-Armagnac region of Gascony in the iron rich sand soils.  The Delord family will grow their own Ugni Blanc and Colombard grapes, but they purchase the Baco Blanc and Folle Blanche grapes from other villages.  Their spirits are made from Ugni Blanc (70%), Folle Blanche (5%), Baco Blanc (20%) and Colombard (5%) grapes.  This is how their Armagnacs age and blend so well to create some amazing final products.

Marie Duffau – Hors d’Age (40% ABV)

This particular mark is aged a minimum of 15 years in French oak casks that come from the Limousin and Gascon forests. 

Nose:  Vanilla, figs, marzipan, prune cake, resin.

Palate:  Rich, semisweet, cigar leaf and tobacco.  Lots of dried herbs

Finish:  Bitter sweet, dates and figs.

 

Marie Duffau 1973 (43% ABV)

This is an Armagnac that has been aged in Limousin and Gascon French oak barrels for 30 years before being bottled.  It is bottled at cask strength.

Nos :  Baked pear, toasted almonds, parafin wax, linseed oil, salted butter, toffee.

Palate:  Semisweet, black tea, honey, brown sugar, oak.

Finish :  Candied fruit, honey, nutty.

Del Maguey Mezcals

•April 8, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Del Maguey Mezcal

Ron Cooper is the owner of Del Maguey Mezcals.  He’s been producing and exporting Mezcal since about 1995.  He has teamed up with artist Ken Price to draw all of his labels.

 

Mezcal must be bottled at the origin in where it is made. This is why you see “Chichicapa” on one of the bottles because this is the remote village area where it comes from.  All of Del Maguey’s Mezcals come from Oaxaca.

 

Del Maguey (which is his brand name) means “from the plant” and is a Caribe Indian word. Where as “Agave” means “Noble” and comes from the Greeks.  Mez-Cali itself means “cooked agave”.

 

The Espadin (the Mother of the Blue Agave) is one of the main types of Maguey that they use to produce Mezcal, is used for many other resources by the people who make it. It’s used to make ropes, mats, baskets, parchment, canvases for painting, soap, shampoo, cooking for flavor, food and of course: Mezcal. It’s apparently high in vitamins, carbohydrates and 2 beneficial steroids for the body.

 

Now the way that Del Maguey produces and harvests their Mezcal may be different from what people may know. Del Maguey harvests their Maguey by maturity and not by age. The Palanquero’s know by sight and feel if a Maguey is ready to be harvested.

 

The “palanquero” or Mezcal Maker, takes trunkwood and mounds about 1 meter sq. in the bottom of the roasting pit. Then he puts special stones that won’t pop or explode on top of the wood to get red-hot. Once the wood has burned down, Fibers from the previous production are put over the hot rocks. The hearts of the Espadin or whichever Maguey they are using are then laid down over the fibers and are then covered with more fiber and palm mats. It is then covered with one foot of earth and left to roast for 3-5 days.

Tobala Maguey will be buried for 30 days, this is the one exception.

 

The roasted hearts are then dug up and left to sit in the shade for a week. Then natural microbes in the air, land on the cooked Maguey and begin natural fermentation. At different elevations, there are different kinds of microbes. When you taste Mezcal from different villages in the Del Maguey series, you can actually taste the difference.

 

The fermented Maguey is then tossed into a circle and is ground down into juices and fibers by a Molino (heavy stone wheel weighing a ton or two). Next all the fiber, meat and juice are put into wooden vats.

 

The fermentation is done aerobically for 2 days and then 10% village water is added. You know the Mezcal is beginning to ferment when you see and hear bubbles on the top of the vat. Then the Palanquero punches down the fermenting cap after another 2 days. After this the rest of the fermentation process will take anywhere from 7-30 days. This is all dependent on the weather. Hotter weather ferments faster and colder weather takes longer to ferment.

 

After fermentation, distillation will begin. Not all distillation is the same for Del Maguey. Some use copper pot stills, some use clay pots with bamboo tubing.  It is distilled twice and in some cases, it can be distilled a third time. Del Maguey never adds water to dilute their spirits.  If needed the heads or tails may be added back into the spirit to alter the proof.  It is then bottled at the source and sent out to the world.

 

Here are some of the Mezcal’s that Del Maguey produces:

 

Chichicapa – 46%ABV (92 Proof)

This was Ron Cooper’s first released Mezcal. It is made in the village of Chichicapa at about 6,000 feet above sea level.  It is a low valley with open, rolling hills. It comes from the Espadin (sword in Spanish).

 

Chichicapa is harvested organically and fermented naturally.  Copper pot stills will be used to distill the Mezcal

 

Nose:  Smoky, spicy, green bell pepper, butter cream

Palate:  Vanilla, grassy, tropical fruit, citrus peels

Finish:  Creamy, rich, smooth, chocolate mint

 

San Luis del Rio – 47% ABV (94 Proof)

This is also the village where this Mezcal comes from. It is made from Espadin. This is a high mountain Mezcal at 8,000 feet above sea level and you can taste the difference in the Mezcal.

 

Nose:  High nose, smoke, citrus peel

Palate:  Fruity, creamy, rich, bright minerality,hints of citrus and very aromatic.

Finish:  Clean and warming

 

Santo Domingo Albarradas – 48% ABV (96 Proof)

This is the highest distilled Mezcal, coming in at 9,500 feet above sea level. The flavor of this spirit is influenced by the micro climates and cloud forests it’s situated by. The clouds cool Santo Domingo down and it helps to create a peaty, herbaceous soil where the Maguey can grow.

 

The Mezcal is distilled in copper pots to give the spirit a full bodied profile.

 

Nose:  Grassy, herbaceous with light smoke and roasted pear

Palate:  Spicy, roasted pear, tropical fruits, piney, citrus

Finish:  Soft, gentle, lingering, dry

 

Each of the three above are made by a different distiller in each village.

 

Minero (of the mines) – Santa Catarina Minas – 49% ABV (98 Proof)

This Mezcal is made in a very low valley at 6,000 feet above sea level. It’s distilled from Espadin in clay pots with bamboo tubing.  The heat source is a direct fire heating the still from below.

 

There may also be a 25-year-old Maguey Baril plant mixed in with the batch.

 

Nose:  Clean, floral, white chocolate, perfumed, orange blossom honey

Palate:  Citrus fruit acidity, spicy, white pepper, creamy vanilla

Finish:  Rich, full bodied, smooth

 

Minero as well as all other Del Maguey is certified organic. Minero only produces 1,000 bottles a year.

 

Tobala – 45% ABV (90 Proof)

This is made from a wild mountain Agave that is found at about 9,000 feet above sea level. It will only grow in the shade of oak trees like truffle that take about 15 years to mature. Ron Cooper says “only God plants them”.  The average weight of the pina is around 11 pounds (the size of a bowling ball). 700 hearts of Tobala will produce on average 300-400 liters of Mezcal once it has been distilled in copper pots.

 

One reason for the minerality in the Mezcal is due to the enzyme Tobala releases. It’s strong enough to dissolve granite which sucks up minerals. In some cases, when Tobala have been picked, some of the roots still have granite rock on them that they have grown into. On average only 600 bottles are produced a year.

 

Nose:  Butterscotch, tropical fruits, sweet

Palate:  Slightly sweet, creamy, butter, mango, cooked bread (yeasty), bright minerality (from the granite)

Finish:  Smooth, creamy, full bodied and dry

 

Pechuga:

This is the Mezcal that is made with a chicken breast. Pechuga literally means “breast” in Spanish. It is made from Minero Mezcal and then distilled once more in a clay pot with bamboo tubing. The chicken breast being one of the items left in for distillation, there are also several other items. Almonds, cinnamon, rice and 200 pounds of mexican fruit (apples, plums, pineapple) are added to the mix. The chicken breast actually helps to balance out the fruitiness.  There is also a salty nose and taste on the tongue due to it being aged with coastal winds nearby. This Mezcal is triple distilled and is usually made in November and December.

 

Nose:  Baking spices, baked apple, vanilla, nutmeg, sea spray, lemon zest

Palate:  Smoky, salty, soft, baked apple pie

Finish:  Clean, soft, lemon basil

 

Crema de Mezcal:

This is the Mezcal made for women and a few strong men….or that’s what Ron says.

 

Nose:  Sweet, creamy vanilla, pear, pineapple, almonds

Palate:  Agave sweetness (This could be due to the unfermented Agave nectar being added to the finished distillate), creamy texture, coffee, orgeat syrup, roasted maguey

Finish:  Dry, smoky, orange peel.

 

Vida – San Luis Del Rio – 42% ABV (84 Proof)

This is a special Mezcal in Ron’s eyes. He named this Mezcal after his grand-daughter who is named Vida Sunshine. It is lower in proof; 84 proof. Since it is lower in proof, there is a lower excise tax on it. The cut is more towards the tails making it fruitier and very mixable. It’s also great in cocktails.

 

Nose:  Light smoke, caramel apple

Palate:  Spicy, smoky, earthy, light sweetness

Finish:  Clean, semi sweet

 

Espadin Especial – 45% ABV (90 Proof)

This is Ron’s limited edition Mezcal. Once it’s gone, it’s gone he says!  It’s another high mountain Maguey that is copper pot distilled by his rare Tobala maker.

 

Nose:  Smoke, earthy, tropical fruit, caramel

Palate:  Fruity, chewy, sweet pineapple, candied almonds

Finish:  Soft, clean, some salinity and lightly dry

 

San Luis Del Rio – Azul –

This limited edition Mezcal is made from 7 year old Blue Agave.

 

Nose:  Tropical fruits, freshly peeled citrus, banana chips

Palate:  Rich, creamy texture, herbaceous, wet slate

Finish:  White peppercorn, medium to long finish

Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey Release!

•February 26, 2013 • 1 Comment

I have been a huge fan of House Spirits and their wide range of libations for some time now.  It first started with their Aviation Gin, then I moved onto the White Dog.  I thought I couldn’t be moved anymore…..but then came along the Aqua Vit and their Rum.  One of my favorites is their Raki, which is only available in Portland, but definitely worth the trip.

The newest release is their Westward Oregon Straight Malt Whiskey and I must say, Christian Krogstad and Thomas Mooney have done it again my friends.

The Whiskey is made from 100% Pacific Northwest Two Row Barley.  The barley is fermented with two styles of Ale yeast: Scottish and American.  After fermentation the mash is double distilled in a pot still to keep it’s natural flavor and character, which makes all of House Spirits bottlings unique.

Once distillation is complete, the Whiskey will be laid to rest in full size American Oak barrels with a level 2 char.  House Spirits doesn’t want to rush the aging process by using smaller size barrels to increase oak influence.  The full size barrels really allow the Whiskey to shine and show its true character by slowly aging.  After aging for a minimum of 2 years (hence the “Straight Malt Whiskey”), the Whiskey will be bottled at 90 Proof (45% ABV) in 375ml bottles and ready for your tasting pleasure.  The team at House Spirits strived to create something new and different, something that shows how the terroir of a distilleries surrounding area can affect flavor in a spirit.

Tasting Notes:

Nose:  The lightly charred American oak imparts vanilla, toasted almond,black pepper,  hazelnut, barley and some maple sweetness.

Palate:  Spiced oak, brown sugar, rich caramel, lemon zest, toasted barley with a little bit of spicy ginger.

Finish:  Smooth, nutty, cinnamon spice with some dryness.

Westward Whiskey

For further information about Westward Whiskey or any of House Spirits products, go to House Spirits website.

Compass Box Whisky

•February 18, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I have always loved Compass Box since the first time I tasted Hedonism.  My love grew even more upon the release of Great King Street and I was also fortunate enough to pick up a bottle of their New York Blend when I was in Manhattan a few months ago.
Master Distiller John Glaser has really out done himself with his line of phenomenal whiskies.  He says that “we create styles of whisky from other people’s whisky”.  Compass Box really is about the art of selecting whisky, blending and wood.

Note that all of Compass Boxes whiskies are non-chill filtered to retain more character and flavor.  Here’s some information and reviews on some of his current spirits.

Asyla - Blended Whisky (40% ABV)

This is a great entry level Scotch to introduce your non-whisky drinking friends to.  It’s a wonderful expression consisting of 50% malt and 50% grain whisky.  The single grain only comes from Fife distillery and the malts come from Alness and Longmorn.

All of the whiskies used in the blend come from first fill American oak ex-Bourbon barrels.

Nose:  Very soft, vanilla, grassy, apples and pears.

Palate: Vanilla ice cream, malty, washington apples, sweet.

Finish: Dry, light and soft

 

 

Oak Cross – Blended Malt (43% ABV)
Primary aging is done in American oak barrels and the marrying casks are Bourbon barrels with French oak heads.  The French Oak heads are usually only used to age Bordeaux wines, but John is never one too be traditional.

Oak Cross is made from Highland single malt whiskies from Teaninich, Clynelish, Carron and Alness villages.

Nose: Vanilla, clove, light stewed fruit, ginger, spice, toffee, white chocolate, apple cider.
Palate: Rich, medium body, vanilla, spicy clove, sweet and malty.
Finish: Oak, malt, spicy and sweet.

 

Peat Monster – Blended Malt (46% ABV)
This Scotch contains whisky from Laphroaig on Islay, Ledaig from the Isle of Mull, vatted with Admore from Speyside.

It has been aged in first fill and refill American oak and then it will be married for several months. It is meant to be a layered and complex whisky.

Nose: Peat, briny, medicinal, sweet, salted bacon.
Palate: Peat, oak, sweet, fruity, copper notes, earthy, iodine, smoky cigar wrapper.
Finish: Sweet peat, violet and rose, oak.

 

Hedonism – Blended Grain (43% ABV)
The first of its kind, this is a vatted grain whisky produced only once a year. It’s made from 8 to 15 casks of grain whisky from distilleries such as Cameron, Carsebridge, Port Dundas, Dumbarton and Cambus. Most whisky has been aged in first fill American oak barrels or American oak Hogsheads.

Depending on which distillery supplies the whisky, Hedonism will consist of 2 whiskies: one young and one old.  The average age in a bottle of Hedonism is usually 22-23 years old.

Nose: Ripe fruit, red pepper, coconut, pastry cream, tropical fruit, sweet.
Palate: Creamy, sweet spice, black cherry, cereal, coconut, toffee, oily texture.
Finish: Warm, spicy, toasted oak, oak and cocoa.

 

Great King Street – Artists Blend (43% ABV)
A blending of both malt (55%) and grain (45%) whiskies into one expression.

The name comes from a street in the New Town of Edinburgh, Scotland where the main office of Compass Box Whisky Company is located. It is also used because in 1823 the street was finished and the laws for illicit distilling were removed, thus allowing people to distill whisky and make a profit legally.

The foundation grain whisky is sourced from an undisclosed Lowland distillery which has been aged in first fill American oak barrels. This grain whisky will then be applied to the rest of the blend which makes up 55% malt whisky. The total amount of whisky used in this blend is: 45% Lowland Grain Whisky (fruity, perfumed), 28% Northern Highland Single Malt (malty, fruity), 17% Northern Highland Single Malt (grassy, perfumed) and 10% Speyside Single Malty (meaty).

More wood will be used in the aging process from the first fill American oak, first fill European oak ex-Sherry butts, and new heavily toasted French oak. 66% of the wood used is 1st fill American Oak (vanilla flavor), 26% New French oak finish and 8% 1st fill Sherry butts.

Nose: Sweet, creamy, cereal, vanilla, citrus and apple blossom.
Palate: Gentle, creamy, rich, buttered apple pastry, yellow raisin, vanilla, light smoke.
Finish: Rich, round, fruity, spiced malt.

If you see the special New York Blend, buy it, it’s very different compared to the regular Great King Street.  The NY blend  consists of 80% malt whisky and 20% grain whisky.  It’s only aged in ex Bourbon barrels.

2012 in review

•December 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 18,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 4 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

 
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