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Looking to invest in a bottle of brandy? Read our expert review of this armagnac variety from distillery Marquis de Montesquiou
An endorsement for the robust and stubborn category of armagnac. This complex but approachable brandy is layered with vanilla and orange peel, held together by a stringy caramel. Eminently drinkable and offering great value for money, this is a must-have for those looking to get to know armagnac.
Cognac isn’t the only style of brandy made in France, it’s not even the oldest. The oldest style of brandy in France - perhaps the oldest wine spirit in the world – is armagnac, with references to its distillation dating back to the year 1411, cognac isn’t mentioned until at least the 1600s. This particularly local affair isn’t just a spirit, it's a central part of the Gascony identity.
Armagnac is defined by geography and process. To be called an Armagnac, a brandy must be made from grapes grown and distilled in a legally defined area of Gascony. The region was granted AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) status in 1936 and has retained it ever since – an AOC certificate is a guarantee that a product came from a specific place and was made using specific methods (other examples include Roquefort cheese and Puy green lentils).
The differences between cognac and armagnac are many. Armagnac is made using continuous distillation whilst cognac is made using double batch distillation. The terroir of the regions also differ entirely, the harsher winters in Gascony contribute to a much more robust spirit.
At first, like many spirits, armagnac was imbibed for medicinal purposes. In 1310, Prior, doctor and eventual Cardinal, Vital du Four, extolled the 40 virtues of the spirit, claiming that it was good for everything from preserving meats to frying eggs and preserving youth.
The history of the Montesquiou family dates back even further than the Cardinal, the bloodline’s Gascony roots can be traced all the way back to the year 1040. Perhaps the most famous Montesquiou was d’Artagnan, musketeer of the King of France.
Marquis de Montesquiou’s armagnacs are made using grapes from the Bas Armagnac and La Ténarèze crus, the two most venerated crus in the delimitated Armagnac region. Distillation is still carried out according to the same methods used by the house’s ancestors, employing copper stills.
More archaic still is the use of itinerant alembics, essentially freelance distillers who travel about the region, working with winegrowers to distill their harvest into eaux-de-vie.
The Marquis de Montesquiou Fine is made using young eaux-de-vie, giving it a lively character that is strengthened by the use of robust Bas Armagnac grapes.
The nose is an explosion of smashed fruits and herbs, along with creamy vanilla and a little cinnamon.
The palate is slick with butter and caramel, vanilla and orange peel with suggestions of cardamom and cloves brought in alongside pepper and nutmeg.
This review was last updated in December 2020. If you have any questions, suggestions for future reviews or spot anything that has changed in price or availability please get in touch at email@example.com.