Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Depression Era Brandy: Domaine de Baraillon 1933
Domaine de Baraillon is one of my favorite Armagnac houses, and I was lucky enough to have enough friends who were interested to make a split somewhat reasonable for this rare brandy that K&L plucked out of France this year. I've done lots of previous reviews of Baraillon Armagnacs, including an even older one from 1893.
This Armagnac was distilled in 1933 and moved to glass demijohns in the mid-1980s, so it had about 50 years in wood. It was bottled at cask strength. Unfortunately, it's no longer available, but I thought it was unique enough to be worth recording.
Domaine de Baraillon 1933, 40% abv ($800)
The nose on this is massive and just bursting with fruit. There's grape, raisin, prune and it just comes rushing at you like a big fruit bomb. The palate gives a quick burst of sweet then quickly turns dry, spicy and oaky with pepper. It trails off with light bitter notes that grow into a very earthy, bitter finish, but the fruit is still there on the nose of the finish.
This is a pretty extraordinary brandy. Like the other Baraillons, it has elements of fruit, spice and oak, but where the others balance them together, this one divides them, giving you one after the other - fruit on the nose, spice and oak on the palate, earthiness on the finish. While it's less balanced at any given point, the progression is really interesting and makes me keep going back for another sip to start the whole thing over again.
This is a really wonderful brandy. Yes, $800 is really expensive, but it's about as much as you would pay for this year's Pappy 20 on the secondary market, so there's that.
UPDATE: A few people have asked me how this can be cask strength if it's only 40% abv. Well, it's old and it lost proof over the years. It's likely that Baraillon was monitoring the abv and moved it to glass when it hit 40% to keep it from dropping any further in the cask. Interestingly, despite its low proof, it doesn't taste at all diluted, which makes me wonder if there is a flavor difference between a brandy (or whiskey) that naturally reduced to a certain proof over time versus one that had water added prior to bottling in order to dilute it.