Monday, May 16, 2016

Domaine de Baraillon 1986

There are a few brandies that are so consistently of excellent quality that I will reflexively buy them whenever they come out, sort of how I used to with new Ardbeg releases before they started to suck. Included in these automatic buys are 1990s Chateau de Pellehaut Armagnac, Navarre Cognac and 1980s Domaine de Baraillon Armagnac.

Knowing how good those brandies are, I jumped at the chance to get another when K&L announced a new, 1986 Domaine de Baraillon, bottled this year.  Let's see if it measures up.

Domaine de Baraillon 1986, 30 years old, 46% abv ($80)

The nose is beautiful and what I've come to expect from Baraillon with fruit and spice, almost like a mulled wine. The palate opens with the spice, cinnamon and clove, then develops orange rind and sweet brandy notes. Like the nose, it has mulled wine notes and maybe even Vermouth. The finish is dry and spicy.

This is a classic Baraillon, fantastic stuff and a great deal for a 30 year old brandy.

Unfortunately, it looks like this one sold out quickly, but sometimes additional bottles of these releases do pop up, so you might want to watch for it.


Florin said...

It's ironic that it sold out the day before you posted! I bought a bottle yesterday when there were 3 left, then by the evening they were all gone. Someone must have access to your preview posts!

Until yesterday I had tasted 3 bottles of Armagnac, all ≤5 years of age, and I had thought I didn't like Armagnac.
(I suspect lots of caramel and boisé.) Yesterday I opened a 1996 Chateau de Pellehaut, and was blown away! So that's what you've been going on about all these years...

If I can draw an overarching conclusion, now that I am an Armagnac expert: it seems that under 10 years of age Armagnac is a rough deal but the quality-to-price ratio completely reverses for aged Armagnac.

sku said...

Florin, I absolutely agree. I think grape brandy in general does better with more age, but Armagnac in particular seems to need it.

Anonymous said...

Drats! Was hoping to taste the bottle that's currently en-route to decide if I wanted a few more. Guess that Armagnac market is heating up, though not enough to price a 30-year product above $80. Muahahahaha...

Funky Tape said...

I think they had it for maybe a week before it sold out. You really have to watch the 'coming soon' listings and then also get on the new arrivals Tues-Friday email list.

I still have some 10 yr open, which is good but nothing exceptional. Bought the 30 to compare to both the 10 and 20 yr. I think I know where it's headed.

Regarding what Florin said, I was drinking the 2004 Charron next to C&K Butchertown the other day. Even diluted down to similar proof (Charron is 102), the Frenchman held ground. Even at only 11 yrs, it still had more depth and layers to it. To me, immature brandy has this Starburst candy quality to it which is pretty heavy in C&K being a funky blend and all.

Just my $.02 but I think a single estate cask of a specific vintage may be more important than its age. The Darroze 20 yr blend I cut my teeth on now tastes tannic and boarder line over-oaked. OTOH, Ive also had 30+ yr armagnacs that where super delicate and the wood influence was way in the background.

Anonymous said...

Age certainly isn't indicative of quality, though it also doesn't hurt. Why not take a flyer on one of these old brandies, especially when they're available at reasonable prices?

In my limited experience, I've found that selecting Armagnac blind using proof as the first limiting factor is pretty helpful for building a list of contenders; you can tell a lot about what the people bottling the brandy think about the product when they choose not to water it down. I also think 80-proof spirits tend to lack the punch I yearn for, unless you're talking about hyper-aged brandies that are AGED down to 40%, rather than diluted for bottling.

From there you can argue grape varietals, estates, regions, terroir, vintage, etc., but the only way to really get to know this stuff is to pick a price point and buy some! The worst that can happen is you learn something new. I've had some Darroze bottling I agree that sub-$50 there's probably not much value in Armagnac when compared to whiskey, but there is a ton of fun to be had in the $50-75 range. I've yet to be disappointed!

On the topic of Darroze: I've experimented with some of their single-vintage/single-estate bottlings that K&L offers, most recently the 1975 Domaine de Tillet Bas Armagnac. For the most part, they have been shockingly good.