Tuesday, September 2, 2014
New K&L Brandies
This is the third year of K&L's exclusive brandy program in which they tour Cognac and Armagnac looking for great brandy for us. The selections in the past years have been exquisite; some of my top spirits picks for last year were K&L's exclusive brandies. This year's selection is now available, and K&L kindly sent me some samples from one of their tastings. I'll start with two days of Armagnacs and end with a day of Cognacs.
Chateau de Laballe Armagnac
This is K&L's frist set of bottles from Chateau de Laballe in the Cazaubon area of Bas Armagnac.
2004 Chateau de Laballe, 10 yo, 52.4% abv ($100)
The nose is spicy and woody. The palate begins with some acidic (though not off putting) apple cider notes then fades to spice and some good bitter notes. The finish is vanilla and spice. This is a nice one that could almost be mistaken for a Calvados with its bright fruit notes. It's very nice.
1992 Chateau de Laballe, 22 yo, 49.5% abv ($120)
The nose is musty and oaky like an old bourbon. The palate has some of the same acidic notes as the 2004 but balanced by a heavy measure of oak. As with the nose, there are a lot of bourbon notes and even some aged rum taste flavors. It has a nice sweet/oaky balance. The finish is the first time I get any of the more typical Armagnac spiciness. This one is also very nice and the big oak notes make it a great brandy for bourbon lovers.
Domaine de Baraillon Armagnac
Since K&L has been offering up Domaine de Baraillon Armagnac, it has become one of my all time favorite brandies, characterized by bold spicy notes. Here are this year's bottles.
Domaine de Baraillon 20 yo, 46% abv ($70)
The nose on this one has lots of the same spice you get in old ryes with some sandalwood. The palate has fruit juice and spice with the spice leading into the finish which has a peppery note. This is a nice Armagnac with a great balance between sweet and spicy and at this price, it's a no-brainer.
1995 Domaine de Baraillon Folle Blanche, 19 yo, 45% abv ($90)
This one has a subtle nose with light spice notes. The palate has mild spice with some rancio bitterness, then the spice grows into the finish. This is a really nice one that has some nice spicy action.
1988 Domaine de Baraillon Folle Blanche, 26 yo, 46% abv ($110)
This one has a really nice nose with lots of oak and some spice. The palate has molasses, oak and baking spices. It's syrupy and thick in a very satisfying way. The early molasses sweetness yields to a nice bitter note that carries into the finish where it meets up with the spice. This one's a keeper, carrying all my favorite traits of Armagnac in general and Baraillon in particular.
1974 Domaine de Baraillon , 40 yo, 42% abv ($140)
This is a 100% baco brandy. The nose is a big fruit bomb. The palate has a nice balance of fruit and spice. Some oak and bitterness comes in late palate and the finish is slightly medicinal. Oh, and did I mention this is a 40 year old brandy for $140...as I'm fond of saying, it's the golden age of brandy. Unfortunately, it's already sold out, but hopefully they will get some more eventually.
1986 Domaine de Pouchegu, 27 yo, 45% abv ($110)
It's worth reading David Driscoll's write up of his visit to Domaine de Pouchegu, a very small producer in the Tenareze region. Pouchegu had already stopped distilling for the foreseeable future when, sadly, their proprietor passed away, so this may the last bottle around.
The nose on this 1986 Pouchegu is very bourbon like with huge oak notes. When you spend time with it though, some fruit comes out. The palate is huge too with dried fruit, mulling spices, wine, cinnamon, slightly acidic; there's just a whole lot going on in here. The finish is a spice box with a good measure of that wood from the nose. This one is a big winner. Get a bottle now!
As usual, the quality of these brandies is exceedingly high. The Laballes marry an acidic fruity note with Armagnac spice while the Baraillons have a milder fruit note with more spice. The Pouchegu has all of that with a good measure of wood. They're all good.
My favorites of the Baraillons were the '88 and the '74 which are both great, the '88 being a bit sweeter and the '74 having heavier oak notes. That being said, for the price, it's hard to beat the 20 year old Baraillon as an enjoyable but not simplistic sipper.
But the Pouchegu blew me away with its bold flavors and wood and spice balance. It's wonderful stuff, and if you're a bourbon fan, in particular, this is the brandy for you.
Tomorrow, I'll look at K&L's new Armagnacs from one of my favorite houses: Chateau de Pellehaut.