Right from the 15th century, the English Kings have come and gone from the armagnac producing region we know as Gascony. The is near perfect for the production of the wines and brandies which have been enjoyed and shipped all over the world. The fruitier flavours than those from the cognac region to the north, and the slightly coarser qclimateualities of armagnac have created a uniqueness that cannot be rivalled anywhere else in the world. The lower distillation range and use of the vertical plate stills, whereby only a single distillation is necessary, is suited well to the fruitier Folle Blanche and Baco grape varieties. It is not for nothing that the flavours of plums and prunes are characteristic of the brandies so loved by the region's peoples. It is quoted in the records in Auch in 1441 as “distilled spirit relieves pain, keeps one young and brings with it joy and relaxation”. Oh what joy!
So it comes with no great surprises that understanding the nature of the spirit and its enormously varied character, that we can both enjoy it ourselves and also pass our knowledge on to others. Remember first and foremost that it is a spirit. It is in most cases supplied at 40% abv, having been aged in oak casks for many years, even decades. Although we may choose to mix white armagnac's with a range of other drinks, adding anything, including water to an armagnac will destroy its balance and contaminate its unique fruitiness, destroying the qualities created over the centuries by skills and experience by the Armagnaçais.
Like cognacs, and for that matter any other spirits, the glass is all important. The tulip glass is favoured with all the great French spirit producers. Pour a quantity into the glass and gently roll it around so that all of the sides are coated in the nectar. Never swirl it, as this will release the strong alcohols, blinding the aroma. Remember that half the enjoyment of the brandy is in the smell. Allow it to stand for a short while before bringing it to the nose to detect the prune aromas. Taste the spirit and allow it to reach all parts of the mouth, particularly the back of the tongue.