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Sunday, April 28, 2019

Bas Armagnac Artez Reviews: Three little brandies perched by my doorstep

Thanks to Heavenly Spirits I'm reviewing two wines by Domaine de Magnaut out of Gascony, France, and three Armagnacs by Bas Armagnac Artez. I've already reviewed the wines; Rouge 2014 and Rosé 2017, but now I'm sipping on some Armagnac.

Tariquet alambic
Armagnac is a brandy from the Armagnac region in Gascony, France, which is just south of Bordeaux. I hate to bring up Cognac every time I talk about Armagnac but it's the easiest way to explain what Armagnac is. Instead of being distilled multiple times like Cognac, Armagnac is distilled just once. Being far less commercial than Cognac, often it's distilled from a still that is brought around from house to house in a wagon called a tariquet alambic. Higher quality Armagnac are distilled in stills called alquitaras. Because of things like this and it's other rules that separate it from its brandy brother, Armagnac is generally more rustic than the elegant Cognac.

Lifted from the tech sheet of these Armagnacs with some edits by myself: Artez is a small Armagnac producer who owns 12 hectares (30 acres) located in the Western part of the Bas Armagnac ("low Armagnac", the western subregion), also known as the First Cru. Even though the eaux de vie (the distilled brandy before it's aged in oak) have been produced at this distillery for many decades, a new owner took over the family business about 20 years ago. The uniqueness of Artez is to produce mostly single varietals Armagnacs, a very rare specialty which requires special skills from the distiller and cellar master.

This little 3 pack of different Armagnacs by Artez will run you about $50, and that's a pretty good deal! So let's crack them open and don't worry about a thing! Because everything little thing's gonna be all right!

All three of the following Armagnacs are from 40 year old vines. They're single distilled at the estate and put into oak barrels, made of the Monlezun oak that's on the estate grounds, for a minimum of 10 years.

Bas Armagnac Artez Folle Blanche Napoleon

This is 100% Folle Blanche, the original big grape of Cognac and Armagnac until the effects of the 1862 phylloxera outbreak forced Ugni Blanc to take over in both regions. Today, Folle Blanche accounts for only 5% of Armagnac plantings, so this is a pretty special product.

I'm really enjoying the fruitiness of this Armagnac. It's got apricots and peaches with orange peel, anise, and a drop of honey. It's so smooth and it leaves a beautiful silky coating of peachy sweetness in your mouth on the finish, but also a contrasting bitterness of orange peel. Outstanding! And the fun one in the group!

Bas Armagnac Artez Baco Napoleon

This is 100% Baco, a hybrid grape, and it has a really interesting story. To read that story, check out my article "What the heck is Baco 22A???". It's actually one of my favorite articles that I've written. Today, Baco vines are continuously being ripped up in favor of Ugni Blanc. It's only 10% of the total Armagnac plantings, so this is a special spirit just like the Folle Blanche.

The ethanol fumes are the strongest with this one. There's a lot of vanilla on the nose with cinnamon, apricot, hazelnut, and almonds. Nutty and baking spicy. On the palate it's the one with the most alcohol burn. For flavor it actually reminds me a bit of Slivovitz, which is plum brandy mainly made in the Balkans. It has that plum flavor but those almonds and vanilla from the nose carry over. Then it finishes with vanilla and almond skins, and a little crack of the neck and grimace from the heat. This is a much more serious "I'm not messing around" spirit than the Folle Blanche. It's the whiskey of the three.

Bas Armagnac Artez
Bas Armagnac Artez Ugni Blanc Napoleon

This is 100% Ugni Blanc, the main grape of Cognac and Armagnac. It's also known as St. Émilion in Armagnac. In Italy it's the third most planted grape in the country under the name Trebbiano. (On a side note, recently I was blown away by how good Masciarelli Trebbiano d'Abruzzo is.) It took over as the main grape in Cognac and Armagnac after phylloxera because of its resistant to frost and diseases, and its properties like high acidity provide a good foundation for making a well-rounded and extremely pleasant brandy.

The other two were just so great for their own reasons, but this boy... this one takes the cake! The first thing I get on the nose is baked apple crisp, then there's pecan and butterscotch. The midpalate is nice and creamy and savory with a touch of sweetness and a perfect acidity that brightens the spirit up. There's flavors of cooked apple, leather, and vanilla. Then it finishes with vanilla and mint. When I think of brandy as a whole, this is what I think of. And Ugni Blanc being the king grape of brandy, that makes complete sense.

In Conclusion

All of these are PHENOMENAL and they have such different distinct characters, so because of that I can't express enough how cool of an experience this 3 pack is, but if I had to choose just one to drink for the rest of my life it would be the Ugni Blanc because it's just so perfectly balanced in every aspect. Artez is damn good stuff, guys. You won't regret trying all three of these.

A huge THANK YOU to Paul Scott of Heavenly Spirits. The bottles used were supplied free of charge by him for the purpose of this unpaid review. To have your wine, beer, or spirit reviewed follow this link.

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