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Review: Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac

Since I’ve started this blog, which must be at least a year ago now, one article has surged to the peak of popularity.  To date my review of E&J XO Brandy has somehow managed 3,043 views, which is significantly (stunningly) more than the blog homepage.  My review of that product is the 4th result that shows up when you search for it on google.  Seriously, go try it.  Freakin’ crazy.  Particularly freakin’ crazy as it may be the cheapest booze I’ve reviewed.  The funny thing of it all is that I have only bought E&J XO Brandy once, the bottle I reviewed.  That review may well be the farthest my voice has reached in this world, hell the first edition printing of Moby Dick was 3,000 copies.  They ended up burning the ones they couldn’t sell.  My article on a $14 bottle of booze has gained popularity quicker than Herman “the harpoon” Melville—probably because he didn’t have that badass nickname until now.  Anyways, to get to the point, I’ve made my impact on Google based on a product I don’t even really drink.  I do, however, drink brandy somewhat regularly, and tonight I come to review the brandy I actually do drink, Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac.

While I’m going to avoid going over the grading system generally applied to brandies, seeing as you already read it on my E&J post, I will give a little backing on what exactly Armagnac is.  See, brandy is basically a distilled wine hooch.  In France they like to name their brandy after the region in which it was made, the most famous of which is Cognac.  You likely know Cognac from rap music videos or rich old men in smoking jackets with oversized snifters.  Well, like Cognac, Armagnac is a brandy which is made in a specific region—what the French call an appellation.  There’s a vocab word for you, kids. Also, stop reading about booze you goddamn 4th grade lush.  Anyways, Armagnac is from the Southwest of France and is known for being a bit more robust, partly the result of being double or single distilled rather than the more commonly triple distilled Cognac, and partly because it is, quite frankly, a less refined product.  I mean that in the best of ways though.  You see, Armagnac is made almost entirely by smaller producers, some of which are essentially long running family farm businesses, and therefore they create a product that is less industrialized, less homogenized, more…passionate. To put it in terms more familiar to the average drinker, your Remy Martin and Courvoisier are like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada: big producers that make a well liked and high quality product.  Armagnac is more like one of the thousands of startup breweries that have exploded over this country, there’s more character, more drive, less money—I come back to it, more passion.  In some cases, centuries of passion, with the same family still on the same farm that has always just kept afloat.

Marie

Marie Duffau, according to my thorough research on the back of the bottle, was started somewhere about 1925 and is now run by the great grandson of Prosper Delord and Marie Duffau.  Granted, this is a bigger brand in their genre, given their US distribution, however you still get the feeling they aren’t that big a company.  Hell, the label looks like it was cut out with those craft zig-zag scissors you use for scrap-booking.  Now, what you want to know is why I keep coming back to this brandy, why I drink $45 Armagnac when I could drink $14 E&J or $23 Courvoisier?  One, because my dad likes it to, which means he buys it and I get to drink it.  Sharing is caring, I’m told.  The main reason though is a bit simpler.  It’s sublime.  So lush, complex, and warming you’ll think you’re suckling the teat of Aphrodite.  I admit, I may have gone too far, so I’ll shut up.  Notes:

Appearance: Beautiful, like a Grade A Medium Amber maple syrup and with long even legs that hang to the edge of the glass. Yes, I used Maple syrup as my reference point, I’m from New Hampshire.

Nose: Full of rich fruit, spiced apple, apricot and even a bit of citrus, backed with a dash more spice, maybe nutmeg, and a hint of vanilla from the oak with just a light wisp of alcohol.  My mouth is watering.

Taste:  Enter orgasm joke here.  Warm and sweet, fine and mellow with the baked apple and lush fruit the nose hinted at, backed by caramel or even honey, and finishing with a very light spice and vanilla that lingers effervescently on the tongue.  Liquid divinity—like my above asinine metaphor warned you.

I think you see now why, when I do drink brandy, I go for the Armagnac, and why I dearly love Ms. Marie Duffau.  Brandy is one of those beautiful luxuries of life that are worth more than $14, worth savoring when you can.  So while yes, you can get a fine cognac for the same price, there is something revelatory to drinking the single distilled family craft that is Marie Duffau Armagnac.

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10 responses to “Review: Marie Duffau Napoleon Armagnac

  1. Jitters

    Great review! Loving the Hors d’ Age (12 years in oak). Excited to try the Napoleon and the Delord 25 year to get a sense of what less or more time spent in cask may offer! 🙂

    • Thanks Jitters! I wish we had a bit more Armagnac selection in my area, the Napoleon is one of the few available, but then again maybe it’s best for my wallet I don’t have more choices!

  2. Waldo ⋅

    I made a sazerac with this brandy last night. Best damn cocktail I’ve had this year. But I found my way to your blog, because I’m trying to learn what the “Napoleon” means on the label. Any idea?

    • Best I tell it’s another age statement, marking a Cognac or Armagnac as older than 4 years. Also, it makes the beverage sound a touch more glorious. Glad you enjoyed, cheers.

  3. Nettie ⋅

    We bought a bottle of this recently after a trip to the West Coast. (We too are from NH) This is a great after dinner drink. Can’t wait to try it in a Sazerac as the prev. writer.
    I’m wondering if you can suggest another aperitif as well? In Seattle, we had a bottle of: Chateau Orignac, Pineau Des Charentes, which unlike the Armagnac had a little more of the orange/vanilla taste without the afterbite of the brandy. Of course, the NH stores have NO IDEA what this was.
    Thanks!!! Enjoyed finding your blog.

    • I had to look up that Pineau Des Charentes, but it does sound quite lovely, and I imagine it makes a fine aperitif. As substitutes available in NH may I recommend a classic such as Lillet, or perhaps an aperitivo (changing countries) such as Aperol or Campari? For perhaps a more non-traditional choice I imagine a Cuarenta y Tres on the rocks may be pleasant, though a touch syrupy on the palate, perhaps. Finally, my preference may be something a bit more unusual, Domaine de Canton on the rocks. Though it again suffers from a touch of the syrup-syndrome, the ice will cut that down and being that it is a cognac based ginger liquor it should whet your appetite and settle your stomach for the meal. (Disclaimer: most people would argue for Domaine as a Digestif, I would go with that as well, I just enjoy ginger and cognac any time at all.) Cheers!

  4. Mike ⋅

    I love this review! You convinced me to buy a bottle, which incidentally is cheaper than Courvoisier VS in these parts. One of the finest spirits i’ve tried at this price.

  5. Douglas ⋅

    Drinking this now. Loving your review, and passing the word along. Thank you for a great and useful read.

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