Monday, August 19, 2013

Two New Chateau de Pellehaut Armagnacs from K&L

I was very impressed with last year's Chateau de Pellehaut Armagnacs from K&L's exclusive barrel program so when they announced two new vintage barrels for this year, I was excited to try them.

As you may recall, Chateau de Pellehaut is a grower/distiller from the Tenareze region of Armagnac.

1996 Chateau de Pellehaut, 17 yo, Folle Blanche, K&L Exclusive, 50.4% ($60)

The nose is earthy and rich.  The palate brings out that earthiness with a slight bitterness and some background spice.  This is one of those deep, earthy brandies that I would usually identify with something much older.  It's fantastic stuff and I highly recommend it.  

1983 Chateau de Pellehaut, 30 yo, Ugni Blanc, K&L Exclusive, 47.8% ($85)

Yes, this is a 30 year old Armagnac for $85, another reason why I'm loving brandy these days.  Suck it Scotch! 

The nose on the 1983 is sweet and syrupy with Canadian Whisky notes.  The palate starts off with some of that syrup and orange rind, then moves to spice and earthy notes.  The finish is a bit acidic.

Overall, the 1983 is good, but the 1996 is wonderful.  Last time I tried two Pellehauts, I also preferred the younger one, but in both cases the older version was Ugni Blanc and the younger expression has more Folle Blanche, so I'm not sure if it's the age or the grape that I'm appreciating.  In any case, I found the 1996 drier, spicier and more complex and the 1983 fruitier and sweeter, and I tend to favor dry and spicy over sweet and fruity; your tastes may be different.

Both of these continue to reinforce my perception that we are indeed in a golden age of brandy.  Great prices for wonderful, old brandies.  Enjoy it while it lasts.


numen said...

The global demand for French brandy in particular is really increasing and having a significant impact on pricing of the big Cognac houses, and availability even of the smaller estates. During a recent trip to Cognac, I was told by Remy's rep/guide that the US was the largest purchases of Cognac by volume, but China/Asia was the largest market for the premium products (XO and up), and prices for those were going up.

Armagnac doesn't have the same level of marketing that cognac does, so it's been left alone so far, but there's so little produced that it may not take much demand to dry out the market and jack up prices. There are a few estates (Laberdolive and Boingneres, to name two) that already charge relatively premium prices due to their reputation and recognition, but many more are "hidden" for now because they are making spirits for their own or local consumption, and not actively seeking distributors for their products in foreign markets.

That's why people like the K&L buyers are so important; they're able to score some of those great deals to bring things here.

numen said...

Also, to parrot something from another poster on the cognac forum (reporting something that he heard from cognac producers during a recent trip) -- there's a debate among cognac producers to change the minimum age of eau-de-vie in XO to 10 years from 6. It's probably a lot easier for smaller producers to hit that mark, but the big houses are fighting to keep it at 6. Most XOs from the major houses tend to be significantly younger than those from the smaller houses. The bigger houses may use some older (read 20-25 year old) eaux-de-vie in their XO blends, but I'd suspect that it's more to balance out to some extent the much younger stuff in there. XO from the big houses are also significantly more expensive than the VSOPs, and can bring in much more revenue. They're able to put out significantly more XO if they are able to fill up more of the bottles with younger stuff, which also takes up less space. I'm sure that some of the purchases in China are status-driven (XO over VSOP). The various bureaus that oversee regulations have probably calculated that keeping the XO designation for 6 years is more profitable to France/Cognac in general because of the volume difference between the big four and the smaller estates.

Just something to keep in mind when buying things now, especially when new buyers are wondering whether to spend more for a known name or less to venture into the realm of a smaller producer.

Matt L said...

Always enjoy the blog Sku, but really appreciate it when you get reviews up of things that are still available. Keep up the good work!

sku said...

Numen, thanks for the info. That's very similar to what's happening in Scotch these days. They are taking off age statements in order to add younger whiskeys to the blend.

Matt L., thanks. It's harder than you think. Stuff doesn't stay on the shelf for long these days.

Matt L said...

I hear you man!

WTK said...

Sku, Thanks for your periodic Armagnac posts, you're definitely filling a need with these reviews. Which expression do you rate higher, the '96 Chateau de Pellehaut, or the '85 Domaine de Baraillon?

sku said...

WTK, tough call as both are excellent. Baraillon has more fruit and some sweetness whereas the '96 Pellehaut is drier with a mix of spice and oak. If I had to pick just one, I'd probably go with the Baraillon, but they're both fantastic.

Matt L said...

That's a great question WTK, thanks for asking for the rest of us. I have been on the fence about the Baraillon for a while (been buying too many bottles!) but I think I may go ahead and bite the bullet now.

WTK said...

Sku, you make a compelling case for both expressions, and happily even the Baraillon is still available. Many thanks!