Armagnac: Virtuous by Nature

18 July, 2014

Agostino Perrone, the Connaught Hotel in London’s director of mixology, visited the region. He says: “Having a bigger view of the variety and range of products deriving from different soils, different grapes it is significant and key for the bartenders.

“I was amazed because of such difference in styles between the producers also – this is an advantage for us when we need to mix cocktails for different occasions,” he says.

“Starting from the blanche armagnac to the most aged vintage, there is plenty of choice to introduce our guests in this amazing world of spirits and part of France which still works in a very traditional way,” concludes Perrone (see Perrone’s Armagnac cocktail recipe).

Alex Kratena of the Artesian Bar, winner of Drinks International’s The World’s 50 Best Bars for the past two years, has also visited Gascony. He says: “Armagnac is a truly fascinating spirit. The relationship between the people and the land, the feel and sense of place makes it really difficult for me to think of any other category so deeply rooted in a community, which has such a big connection to the land.

“Armagnac is big and bold, yet it can be extremely delicate and each producer pursues their own special signature style,” he says.

“I enjoy it neat, I really like it mixed, but I will never forget how it tasted standing on the top of the hills overseeing the vineyards,” says Kratena.

Janneau is one of the oldest Armagnac houses, founded in 1851. It controls every aspect of distilling, ageing and blending and claims to have reintroduced the double distillation method (pot and continuous) to the region which, it says, makes its armagnacs unique.

On-trade distribution

Janneau marketing manager Corinne Bucchioni tells Drinks International: “If armagnac is well distributed in the on-trade and in the independent off-licence sector, it might be well represented in the multiple grocers in some countries. Travel Retail is increasingly important.

“Armagnac is still considered to be a ‘niche’ category and is not yet a well-known spirit in the growing developing markets such as China, India and Brazil.”

Mark Symonds marketing director of Janneau’s UK agents, Fells, says the brand has 60% of the branded armagnac sector in the UK.

It comprises: a Traditional range, which comes in fancy flasks for elite bars and prestige accounts such as the Savoy and Connaught and the likes of Harrods, Selfridge and Harvey Nicholls; and the Single Distillery range, which are fruity, softer, more smooth blends, for the more price-sensitive retail sector.

Last month Janneau launched its new image: a new logo, new packaging and a new website. Janneau also introduced two limited-edition armagnacs with a Trilogy vintage pack and a Golden Age 50-year-old vintage, 1964.

Bucchioni’s message to buyers/specifiers, is: “Instead of listing the fifth or sixth cognac brand, offer armagnac – it’s better value for money and can give more impulse to sales.”

Armagnac Castarède in Bas-Armagnac claims to be the oldest trading house of armagnac in France. Its oldest vintage dates back to 1888. It claims to be available in 56 countries.

To celebrate Castarède’s 180th anniversary, Florence Castarède and her father Jean launched a non-reduced, 47% special cuvée, based upon the Folle Blanche grape from the estate.

She says: “We will develop soon a range with a few non-reduced vintages.

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