Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Darroze: Armagnac's Independent Bottler

Darroze is probably the most prominent independent bottler of Armagnacs.  The company was founed by Francis Darroze, a restauranteur in the Bas Armagnac in the early 1970s who purchased Armagnac casks for his customers.  Eventually, he purchased large enough quantities that he began bottling them for sale independent of his restaurants, and the business grew into the primary independent bottler of Armagnacs.  Darroz died in 1995, but his name lives on in the bottles with the beige, script style labels and red wax caps.

Unlike the negociants of Cognac who favor blending, Darroz operates much more like a Scotch indie bottler.  Each bottle of Darroz Armagnac is from a single grower/producer that is identified on the label, and many of the bottlings are vintage dated.  As with independent bottlers of Scotch a decade ago, Darroz bottlings are the only way to taste the brandies of many of Armagnac's smaller growers.

As with Scotch indie bottlings, it can be difficult to track down the same bottle, and some of these are hard to find, but there are many Darroz bottlings out there, and I thought it would be worth it to taste some of their offerings to give a sense of what they do.  Today I will sample three Darroz brandies from two growers, both located in La Freche in the Bas Armagnac.  While I don't know the exact grape proportions, these are all made with predominantly Baco grapes. 

Darroze Domaine de Salie 1988, 48% abv ($140)

The nose is all wood and spice, like the inside of a wooden box.  The palate is spice-forward with cloves and powdered ginger with some nice sweetness coming in late palate. The finish comes back to cloves with some floral notes and finally, some nice earthy notes. This is a really wonderful brandy with so much spice, but in layers that add to its complexity.  Really wonderful stuff, it's one to put on the list.

 Darroze Domaine de Salie 1977, 35 yo, 44% abv

The nose on this is even woodier than the 1988 but with less spice and a soapy note.  The palate is surprisingly sweet with pears that trail into the finish.  This one is a sweeter, more one note brandy.  It lacks the sophisticated wood and spice interaction that the 1988 has.  Between the two, I definitely prefer the '88.  I don't list a price for this one because it's the only one of the three that I couldn't find currently available.

Darroze Domaine de Coquillon 1974, 33 yo, 48.2% abv ($211)

The nose on this one is very bold with wood and spice, though the wood is more like the polished wood of a library, than the raw wood I get in the other two.  The palate is really striking with tobacco, chocolate, clove and molasses.  It finishes with sweet, earthy notes then develops a strong, numbing menthol.  This is a dense, flavorful brandy.  The nose and early palate are wonderful but then it becomes a bit too sweet and syrupy, which makes me wonder if there are boise and sweeteners in it. 

Darroze clearly knows what they are doing, and I'll be looking for new bottles from new growers.  Back in the good old days, Wine & Liquor Depot in Van Nuys used to have a huge selection of Darroze bottlings.  As with their independent Scotch, the selection has dwindled, but last time I visited, there was still a smattering of old Darroze bottles on the shelves.  It's certainly worth checking out if you're looking for these.


David D said...

Part of the reason the Darroze has dwindled in retailers is because they lost their importer. For more than a year they had no representation in the U.S. Now they're back with a small wine importer who, while supportive, doesn't have the ability to invest in more than a few expressions at a time. We've got a smattering of what's available right now. We tasted through everything Darroze had back in 2012. It took us like five hours. They've got the goods.

sku said...

Thanks for the info David. Hopefully, the pipeline will open back up at some point. It would be great to have more of these on the shelf here.

I didn't recall you bringing in any Darroze exclusives in 2012. Did you visit them on either of your trips?

David D said...

We did visit them and we did have a marathon tasting session. It was overwhelming. We didn't bring any in because they weren't as competitive price-wise. Unlike Scotland, where there are very few distilleries who will sell us whisky directly, almost every estate in Armagnac is willing to do business. Darroze, in essence, is another middleman who adds on their percentage to the price. Some of their brandies are truly worth the extra cash, but we couldn't justify an extra $50 to $70 in most cases.

fussychicken said...

Haha, when I saw this title, my first though was, "oh man, Sku is going to make me take a trip up to Wine and Liquor Depot."

Its clearly been too long since I've been up there, but it is interesting to hear that they are finally selling their Darroze bottlings. It used to be a huge display.

numen said...

David D, good point on being the middle man (the role of the negociant there), though Darroze, in some cases, controls the entire output for some estates because he bought out the producers. It may be more like Number One Drinks and Karuizawa than the random IB.

Sku, you wouldn't believe how tough it was to find some Darroze expressions if you're looking for particular estates. I had to get my Darroze '77s directly from France (about 80 Euro/bottle).

numen said...


Also, Domaine de Salie is 100% Baco grape and Coquillon uses 60% Baco and 40% Ugni Blanc. Darroze bottlings also come with little information sheets about the bottle, usually with information about the estate and some tasting notes. That's where I'm pulling the information. Darroze claims not to add anything, even water, to the Armagnacs that he bottles, but he's just buying from barrel.

sevens said...

Anyone know anything about the following? A shop local to me has access to them but I can't find any info and not sure if I should grab anything. Are these really great? Rare?
Busquet 1972
Peyrot 1965
Pounon 1970

Thanks in advance for any help.

numen said...

Hi sevens,

I've had the Peyrot and the Pounon, but have yet to have anything from Busquet. Do you know how much time in barrel those bottles have? The Peyrot was excellent despite showing a lot of citric character from its time in barrel. Unfortunately, I don't recall the grape varietals used or the locations of either the estates. Looking back through my notes on Pounon, I'd assume that there's a little bacco and maybe ugni blanc, but that's just silly speculation on my part.

I thought that the Peyrot was a touch better than the two Pounons that I've had, but it's a minor degree and falls within the realm of personal preference than fundamental quality.

All are "rare" in that the production of them was limited, and it's probably not easy to get or replace. Some expressions from Darroze are brought almost exclusively for the US, others stay in Europe.

I hope that this helps a little

sevens said...


Thank you very much for the information - much appreciated! I couldn't resist purchasing a bottle. Mora's in NY had a few bottles of the Busquet 1972 at what I think is a fair price. I think they have a couple left and I might go back and get them if I like this as much as I think I will. It is 100% Baco, distilled to 54% and bottled after 40 years in barrel at 47%. Thanks sku for posting about darroze because I wouldn't have even thought to look if I didn't see the blog. Thanks again Numen for the info.

numen said...


Congratulations on the purchase! I hope that you enjoy it, and look forward to getting your thoughts on it. In general, there isn't much in the way of information, discussion, or reviews of brandy, but a few people post on thecognacforum (myself included) with our takes on various things.