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.

Review: Courvoisier VSOP Cognac

If you’re an avid reader of this blog (which, let’s be honest, you aren’t) then you’ve probably noticed an upward trend the booze I’ve been drinking.  I’ve been getting all high class with single malts and now a trump card, VSOP Cognac.  I’ve come a long way from drinking vanilla flavored E&J XO.* Anyways, I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I am, shall we say more financially liquid, than before.  I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that anything above $25 didn’t come from my wallet—this was a gift from my old man, who is ever grateful that my student loans now come from my accounts.  Regardless of where it comes from, drinking Cognac has an air of elegance, sophistication and superiority.  Not necessarily superiority in social class mind you, I mean superiority in drinking class; it’s a sign of some maturity and taste.  Perhaps there are some of you thinking about (and youtubing) the song “Pass the Courvoisier,” and you’re probably thinking that kind of kills the cache of the beverage.  I’m not going to assert that Busta Rhymes is a man of exquisite taste, but go ahead disregard that.  What I am saying, and perhaps I should have gotten to this point far earlier, is that good Cognac has not only a fine flavor, but a culture of sophistication with a secret language, a rich history.  With fancy French wine regions as it’s provenance (this is 50-50 Grand and Petit Champagne) and fancy grade names, V.S.O.P. meaning Very Superior Old Pale, the language of Cognac is almost like a secret code for the knowing drinker.  Take into account the fact that Courvoisier is known as the Cognac of Napoleon (also Busta), and you know that this is drink with history.  Rival Hennessey can only boast the dictatorship of Kim Jung-Il, amateur.

So what do you get once you’ve joined the brotherhood?  Here’s my impressions: Warm on the tongue with an herbal aroma, a rounded molasses body, and a rich vanilla finish with a warm bite that cuts through and lingers like a furnace in the back of your throat.  Overall it’s quite well balanced with pleasant dark overtones, though the heat isn’t actually my favorite.  Somehow, though I love high proof bourbon, this heat was unexpected and I’m not crazy about it.  I am pretty crazy about the rest of the flavors though, and most of all, I’m crazy about the way it makes me feel.  Beyond that oh so wonderful cognac buzz, which wraps your brain up like warm a down sleeping bag, there is that wonderful feeling that you’re drinking in good company when you drink VSOP Courvoisier—even if you’re just watching Seinfeld alone and still in your workout clothes.

 Image

*My E&J XO Brandy post is actually by far my most read, so perhaps I should keep my damned mouth shut.