Last time we reported that Whistle Pig founder, Raj Bhakta, had bought the armagnac house Maison Ryst Dupeyron. One wonders if he intends to do for armagnac what he did for rye whiskey over the past decade? After just 12 years of trading, Whistle Pig has become the leading supplier of rye whiskey and sells over 1.2 million cases per year. Bhakta’s interest in armagnac began in 2017 when Whistle Pig took its priciest rye whiskey and finished it in armagnac barrels. The result, the Black Prince, won best overall whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. No longer a shareholder in Whistle Pig, Bhakta is now embarking on a new project with his armagnac house purchase. His first release, Bhakta 50, is a blend of 8 vintages with a minimum age of 50 years which has been finished in smoky, Islay Scotch casks followed by new armagnac casks. Bhakta feels that this “freshens up” the old spirit, although as a result, it can no longer be called ‘armagnac’. Keen to bridge the gap between whiskey and armagnac he wants to be creative and “deliver a product of great value and rarity”. It will be interesting to see if such innovation boosts armagnac’s presence across the brown spirits marketplace.
Famous Armagnac Houses
We have just added a new product line to our list. Domaine du Cardiant Bas Armagnac is available in a range of vintages - 1998, 1994, 1988, 1983, 1974, 1973 and 1954 - as well as a very sexy looking XO decanter. This exciting new Armagnac comes from the top Armagnac region and has already created a sensation at our works with its beautiful nutty and prune flavours. Its seriously good and well worth the price.
What can we say about Delord, a wonderful producer of the finest armagnacs in the region? The firm has supplied consistently high quality armagnacs to Brandyclassics for nearly a decade and we have had nothing but praise for this fine firm. Based in Lannepax in the eastern side of Bas Armagnac, between Nogaro and Condom. Condom is geographically the central town of Armagnac, but Delord is based in the second cru known as Tenarèze.
The firm was founded in 1893 by Prosper Delord, a travelling distiller who fell in love with the wonderfully fruity eaux de vie of the region. The firm became known as Delord Brothers when his two sons, Gaston and Georges took over the distillery. They were equally passionate about the wonderful spirits they were able to make. More recently Jacques and Pierre Delord have continued the family traditions and have handed down to the current sons, Jerome and Sylvain, ensuring that the family traditions live on.
Grape varieties are the traditional Folle Blanche, Ugni Blanc and Colombard and they still use the old still of their forefathers which is only capable of producing around 30 litres of eau de vie an hour. But a look into their cellars reveals more than 700 x 350 litre barrels, that are home to armagnacs dating from the beginning of the last century.
Delord still use the basquaise flat green bottle, although most of their armagnacs are now shipped in the modern tall bottle, all with hand personalised labels. These armagnacs are all distilled at the lower end of the range and have the wonderfully pruney style.
The firm Castarède is naturally proud of being the oldest business in Armagnac. They were founded in 1832 by Jules Nismes at the suggestion of a young subprefect, who later became famous as the Baron Haussmann who replanned Paris for the Emperor Napoleon III. The firm was sited at the furthest point to which the River Baise is navigable and provides direct access to Bordeaux down the River Garonne.
The firm is still owned by the Castarède family, who are also proprietors of the picturesque Château de Maniban at Mauléon d’Armagnac. The Maniban family were members of the legal aristocracy, the noblesse de la robe, who played such an important role in developing Bordeaux’s fine wine estates. They were the first to introduce armagnac to the court of Louis XV and have been associated in the past with many names of the rich and famous.
The firm is not a distiller, it buys its armagnacs exclusively from the Bas Armagnac, most of which were distilled between 1900 and 2000. They keep them in wood until they have reduced naturally to 40%, before transferring them to glass bonbonnes without additives.
Their cellars are at Pont-de-Bordes, Lavardac balancing on the side of a high ridge over the river and create a picturesque view. Florence Castarède is the charming and current family owner of the firm and she has created a range of vintages which is the mainstay of the business today. Most of her armagnacs have been distilled mid range and have flavours of crystallised fruit.