Wednesday, March 2, 2016

No, I Can't Recommend a Good Armagnac

For the past few years, I've been singing the praises of brandy, and Armagnac in particular. As a result, I get a lot of requests for Armagnac recommendations. This is always tough. While there is great Armagnac to be had at great prices, it's not very widespread.

There are just two people who seem responsible for bringing in the majority of the great Armagnac (and many other French spirits for that matter) available in the US.  Charles Neal, in California, is a long-time importer of French spirits. He brings in all of K&L's special Armagnac picks as well as many others. Nicolas Palazzi is a New York based importer/distributor. His company, PM Spirits, brings in tons of good stuff from all over France. The problem is, these guys have limited reach. Neal's best stuff are the K&L picks, but he also brings in barrels for D&M in San Francisco.  In Southern California, you can find Palazzi's stuff at K&L and Everson Royce in Pasadena, and it's in a number of NY venues including Astor Wines.

But what if you're not in New York or California?  Well, you can order on-line from K&L or Astor, but if you're in a no-shipping state, you're in trouble. The Armagnac selection in most liquor stores, including many that have huge whiskey selections, is tiny, and the stuff that is there tends to be from a few big producers or blenders that make fairly indistinct stuff (Tariquet, Laubade, Castarede, etc.).

As for all of those fun things I write about, Pellehaut, Baraillon, Domaine d'Aurensan, you're probably out of luck. The big exception is Darroze. They are one of the best bottlers in Armagnac and bottle lots of cask strength, single grower expressions as well as a number of excellent blends. They are the one really great Armagnac bottler that has more widespread availability, though they are also more expensive than most smaller producers.

And while it would be great to have fantastic Armagnac available everywhere, it's probably never going to happen. Most Armagnac producers are tiny. Neal and Palazzi (and the K&L Davids) spend their time hunting around dusty barns in Gascony to find the good stuff. It's like American Pickers, but with brandy and in France. And the same is largely true for Calvados and even Cognac.

So, I'm sorry that I can't recommend a great Armagnac, even though you live in a big city with great liquor stores, but who knows what the future holds? There is definitely room for more Armagnac in the US and so hopefully, as it grows in popularity, we will start to see more of it in more places.


Unknown said...

Surprised to see that Heavenly Spirits has been left out of this article. We import and represent a few of the best artisanal Armagnac producers such as Dartigalongue (the oldest house in Bas Armagnac), Delord, Marie Duffau and Artez (single varietals), which are distributed in 26 states and accounting for 20% of all Armagnac sold in the US.

Anonymous said...

A minor disagreement: château de laubade xo is quite good and very affordable. I run a bar and stock the charles neal when available--currently have the pellehaut, and one of my absolute favortie château de briat. That being said the laubade, while not as interesting, is truly quite good, and I would always recommend it if others are not available. Plus I am in wisconsin, and brandy of's are the state drink--I have laubade vs as our rail brandy--very affordable and a great "rail" brandy.

DC Creative said...

Hi Steve,
Thanks for writing. It's always good to see Armagnac mentioned on blogs and in the news. You have already heard from some of our Heavenly Spirits team, but I needed to add my voice to the post because I really don't understand how you could have overlooked us if you did your research. HEAVENLY SPIRITS IS THE BIGGEST IMPORTER OF FINE QUALITY ARMAGNAC IN THE USA. We work very hard to bring the best to the US. If anyone asks you again to recommend a great Armagnac - Please tell them to check out our web site to find the best selling and the very best tasting armagnac available in the USA.

All the Best, Daniel Cooney

Anonymous said...

Wow, I really just wish someone would spam this comments section with the name of a store that could sell me some Armagnac. I only live in 26 out of the 50 states in America. Where could I possibly buy the very best tasting Armagnac available???
Alas, I may never know. Back to buying bourbon for me.

Anonymous said...

Even Bryan Davis thinks these comments are embarrassing.

David D said...

Can you put this blog post into a flashy instagram format? Reading is just so 2010 I can't take it anymore.