Nine of the world's best Armagnacs to drink this winter

Spirit news

Thu 19 Nov 2020

Armagnac has stood in the shadows of its more illustrious neighbour, Cognac, for far too long. Cognac may have the brands and the bling, but Armagnac has history on its side. It predates Cognac by a good 200 years, and because it’s only distilled once, many believe it retains more flavour and character than twice-distilled Cognac.

Made in the Gascony area in south-west France, Armagnac is, essentially, distilled wine made from a handful of grape varieties, including Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche and the snappily named Baco 22A. After distillation, it’s aged in hefty 400-litre wooden barrels.

But why should you drink it? Well, it’s a wonderfully characterful spirit, offering notes of roasted nuts, winter spices, leather and fruit. It ages beautifully, and it’s also fantastic value for money. You can find Armagnacs aged for 30 years for around the £100 mark – try finding a 30-year-old Cognac or single malt whisky for that price.

You’ll also find plenty of single-vintage Armagnacs, which makes them a great gift to mark special birthdays and anniversaries. IWSC Gold award-winner Château De Pellehaut 1994 Armagnac is a smart example, drawing praise from the judges for its ‘warm, spicy’ character and notes of ‘walnuts, saddle leather and suede’.

Need further convincing? Back in the 14th century, Cardinal Vital Du Four proclaimed that drinking Armagnac ‘renders men joyous, preserves youth, retards senility, loosens the tongue and emboldens the wit’. If that hasn’t convinced you to try it, nothing will. Here are the best Armagnacs according to the 2020 IWSC.

Pure Folle Blanche 15 YO Bas-Armagnaciwsc-top-armagnac-2.png
Château du Tariquet

Very elegant with intriguing rancio nose, but it has retained its freshness. Very luxurious, the alcohol is working the aromatics perfectly; clotted cream, raspberry jam and chocolate truffles in the end. 47.2% RRP £74 enquire at Drinks & Co

Château De Pellehaut 2005 Armagnaciwsc-top-armagnac-1.png
SCV Beraut

A great, very pronounced and focused example of equilibrium between sweetness and savoury notes supported by refreshing sour, rancio elements. Seamless and smooth. 49% RRP £60 n/a in UK

Château De Pellehaut Selection L’Age Tendre Armagnac
SCV Beraut

Tremendous nose, so elegant, so refined! Slightly soapy start to palate but eventually comes through revealing delicious floral character. Pleasant finish with a little rye toast. 40% n/a in UK

Pure Folle Blanche 12 YO Bas-Armagnac
Château du Tariquet

Long aged notes and a very beautiful, harmonious wood reminiscent of rich mahogany and cedar. Succulent fruit, crepe suzette and Christmas pudding mix support the harmony; jammy and comforting with plenty to explore. 48.2% RRP £44 from Shop4Whisky

AOC Blanche Armagnac
Château du Tariquet

Floral and open with a great, vivid start, some citrus peel and plenty of nice lychee and rose. The palate is balanced nicely with a sweet, floral note and zesty tangerines. 46% RRP £38 enquire at WineStyle

Château De Pellehaut 1994 Armagnac
SCV Berautiwsc-top-armagnac-6.png

A lovely example of ageing done well. The sweetness and the dry tannins work in tandem. There's a warm spicy note on the mid-palate. It opens up nicely with a drop of water showing some walnuts, saddle leather and suede. 47.8% n/a in UK

XO Bas-Armagnac
Château du Tariquet1-iwsc-top-armagnac-8.png

Very smooth and silky with some candied fruit and baking spices. There's a positive warm lift on the mid-palate - superb; complex and full of intrigue - amazing finish, a true delight. 
40% RRP £34 from Waitrose Cellar

Le Légendaire Bas-Armagnac
Château du Tariquet1-iwsc-top-armagnac-9.png

Beautifully balanced, vivacious and big. There's power but also gentle aromas and flavours knitted together tightly. Very vivid and eventful with a big, comfortingly warm, wood-spiced finish. 42% RRP £42 from Majestic

2005 Vintage Armagnac
Château de Lacquy

Lifted and very expressive with grape and herb notes. Very spicy like a visit to a traditional barber shop. Entertaining and complex but a little unusual with the spicy herb and candied citrus notes. 48% n/a in UK

View more Spirit recommedations from IWSC:

Six of the world's best Cognac