By: David Othenin-Girard
K&L Staff Member
We knew that the incredible Domaine de Pouchegu was a star from the moment we first sipped this exquisite spirit with Pierre Laporte in his well-appointed but tiny office. The impeccably kept property was more picturesque than most of the smaller farms in the Tenarèze, but it was not ostentatious or regal whatsoever. The property, which Pierre was so proud of, had been cultivated to produce Armagnac since at least 1863 when his family purchased the estate. He believed that the site was occupied for grape cultivation for more than 1,000 years before that. An ancient kiln and fragments of Gallo-Roman pottery were proof of such. In addition, Pierre was a lover of agricultural history, collecting tools and antique machines that he kept in a small museum. His love of brandy was an extension of his devotion to the vines he tended; his main commitment was of course to the plants on that property. The élevage was dictated by what he believed to be the most traditional and expressive versions of the wonderful eau-de-vie produced there. Nearly 100% of the products were aged full term in new Limousin oak. While there's some dispute currently about the grape varietals planted, it seems that Pierre cultivated both Baco and Ugni Blanc on the property. I remember him saying that his Armagnac was built around 100% Baco, but the current bottlers seem to believe that the spirits were distilled from Ugni. In any case, when this excellent producer passed away, I was deeply saddened. The current batch, supposedly the last batch of 1981 in stock at Rare Armagnac Co., is every bit as powerful and complex as previous offerings. The color is a deep mahogany. The nose explodes with an aromatic dichotomy of sweet dried fruits and exotic, bitter herbs. Expect big oak character with vanilla, cinnamon, roasted espresso bean, nutmeg, lacquer, and anise, followed by a big fruit profile of dried plums, stewed apricot, and poached pears. On the palate, the intensity of oak does not relent but keeps from being astringent from an almost maple syrup-like sweetness. Dense, textural, mouth filling, and long, the wildly complex palate completely masks the heat on initial entry. By sip number two, the stuff goes down frighteningly easily. This represents one of the quintessential styles of Armagnac, a style that isn't often sold outside of the region and is perhaps even frowned upon by other producers looking for finesse and elegance. But for those who love big, bold, oak-driven spirits, there are few better choices in any category. Ten years from now, I think we'll undoubtedly be looking back at products like this and telling ourselves we had it so good back in 2021.