Thursday, September 09, 2010

Armagnac from Grandma's Closet

My pal Deetrane showed up at our poker game the other night with a bottle of Armagnac and an interesting story. Many years ago his grandmother was given a bottle of Armagnac. This was in the late 1950's, early 1960's - Deetrane will correct me if my dates are wrong. She put the bottle in the closet and forgot about it.

Recently she dug it out and gave it to Deetrane. Many people would think about the perfect time to open the bottle and who to drink it with, and that's fine - that's probably what I would have done. But Deetrane's impulse is always to share, and with many people. So he brought the bottle to our poker game. He had already opened it, but there was plenty of 40-50 year old Armagnac in there when he came by, let me assure you.

The label reads "Ch de Malliac," and under that it reads "Hors d'age 12-5617." And to the upper left of the 12 there is a circular symbol like the one used to indicate degrees when writing the temperature. My guess is that this brandy was made in 1956. Perhaps the 12 refers to the barrel number? I really don't know. Chateau de Malliac is a well established Armagnac producer, but I couldn't find any information on old bottles when poking around the web.

Deetrane's grandma's Armagnac was fascinating. If it were a person, it would be a handsome logger who lives in the forest, and who cleaned up and shaved for dinner. The alcohol was quite prominent on the nose, and it wasn't easy to get a clean read on other aromas. Overall, it reminded me a bit of an Oloroso Sherry - walnuts, very complex. Dark and earthy on the palate with rich tones of burnt orange peel and coffee. And I was surprised to find some fruit too - something fleshy that made itself felt here and there.

What is really old Armagnac supposed to taste like? I really like Armagnac - from what I've tasted, I prefer it to Cognac. But I've never had an old Armagnac and I have no context whatsoever for tasting. If you've had old Armagnac before, what did you find?


deetrane said...

Sorry, there were a few things I might have mentioned about this when serving it, but the poker game wasn't exactly the right venue.

When she first gave me this bottle I went online to find out what the deal was.

Like Cognac, Armagnac is both a region (in Gascony) and distilled beverage derived from grapes. The "Hors d'Age" designation, which means "beyond age" is the oldest on the age scale of VS, VSOP, and XO, etc., which denote the relative age of the components of a non-vintage blend. An Hors d'Age armagnac is supposed be blended from wines that are at least 10 years old.

Unlike other distilled spirits though, Armagnac is also bottled as a single vintage (apparently the only brandy to be bottled so).

I tried to figure out what the numbers meant but had no luck with that either.

Here are some nice photo's someone took of the Chateau, however:

Michael said...

Once the spirit is in the bottle I'm pretty sure it doesn't really develop, or improve any more, so it is the period of barrel ageing before bottling that determines the "real age" of the Armagnac.

Brooklynguy said...

makes sense Michael. I bet, in fact, that over lots of time, the quality might actually be negatively impacted.

Shawna L Watson said...

wanna swap links?

rhit said...

"If it were a person, it would be a handsome logger who lives in the forest, and who cleaned up and shaved for dinner."


croosadabilia said...

im strolling into brooklyn for a couple days tomarow, ill be in williamsburg... any necessary wine destinations/recomendations?

sherry wine club said...

. I like this red wine aroma. A sip into the mouth and let it rest, you will find the taste wonderful with its riches of the fruits and spices.

Unknown said...

I’m intrigued by Deetrane’s story because I have a similar one of my own. My father’s wife’s grandfather was the Polish Ambassador to France in the early 1960s, and he received this bottle as a gift. It sat in a cabinet in Poland for 50 years before my father discovered it and brought it back to the US. In order to sell it, I’ve been trying to find out as much as possible. After speaking with people from the BNIA and Chateau de Malliac, I’ve learned that it was produced in the 40s/50s. I can tell you that Deetrane’s bottle actually reads "Hors d'age No. 5617" – and from what I’ve learned, 5617 is just a number, not indicative of the year of production. I wish that Chateau de Malliac hadn’t been so laconic with their labels; it would be easier to figure out what’s in these bottles.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this story! I also have an old old bottle of this. My label reads "Hors d'age No. 2439" I would love to know more about this bottle if anyone has any info.

Anonymous said...

Good day all,

I have bottle #5625 which I estimate comes from the 1900s-1920s based on the numbering scheme which *may* be linear across their products. You can see bottle #2479 dated in 1904 at

Another of the 1904s sport the #2734 at meaning they bottle roughly 250 bottles per vintage year.

Again, if the scheme is linear, bottles in the 5,000 range would be early 20th century. The 1904s retail for about $4k... although that doesn't mean much for the "Hors d'Age" version.

Cheers to that !

- Ben (Bald Eagle)

Anonymous said...

You may not get further information about that argmanac cause argmanac makers are so small firm that they do not have even concept of brend, management. So it is natural that old argmanac bottle do not have label with detail information.
Nobody knows how it tastes before opening bottle. that is argmanac.