As well as whisky tastings, I go to similar events for other drinks too. This one being for an Armagnac house. Armagnac is "the other brandy", that shouldn't be confused with cognac. Darroze mature and bottle armagnacs from lots of small vineyards and distillers in the Bas Armagnac region, but generally release them as seperate bottlings per vineyard and vintage.
I didn't know much about armagnac before tonight. I feel not only somewhat refreshed but also edumacated. Hurrah! Even so, my tasting notes are somewhat incomplete, because not being much of a brandy drinker, I don't really have the vocabulary to describe the drink that I have for whisky. I wasn't the only person present to make that observation.
Réserve Darroze, 10yo, 43%: this blended armagnac is their cheapest offering, but even so it's still around 50 quid. The nose was orange liqueur and honey. My reaction to this - as indeed was that of lots of other people - was that it wasn't anything special. It's a good pub brandy, apart from the price.
Domaine de Rieston, 1992, 52%: roses in the nose, caramel and peppermint taste.
Domaine au Martin, 1987, 48.4%: despite being 22 years old (all the armagnacs tasted were bottled in 2009), this was still described as a young armagnac! The nose was golden syrup, citrus and a touch of soap. The taste peppery and white port, although without the sweetness of white port.
Domaine de Busquet, 1979, 50%: caramel nose, the taste is licquorice with a long soft finish. Very easy to drink, and would go well with a Montecristo. At this point we're starting to get into pretty special territory.
Domaine de Pounon, 1969, 40%: this was really very good, the nose slightly meaty, mushrooms, paper and pencil shavings, the taste dry, developing into sandalwood with a decently long finish.
Château de Gaube, 1959, 44%: my favourite of the lot, but it was a tough call deciding between it and the previous one. The nose had light coffee and wood shavings and again some orange. The taste was umami, fudge and nuts. Unfortunately this chateau no longer exists, so the only spirit that's available is that which is now in Darroze's cellars. Which explains the rather eye-watering price. A price that I thought was worth paying, incidentally, as I bought a bottle.
Une Larme d'Armagnac, 42%: this is another blend, but one aimed at footballers' wives, nouveaux riches Russians, and other tasteless conspicuous consumers. It's very nice, with a toffee and blackcurrant nose, spice, wood and nuts taste, and a looooong finish, but by blending something like 15 different spirits together it lacks individual character. That alone puts it below the Pounon and Gaube in my opinion, but it's over 700 quid, and comes in a horrible chavvy bottle.