L’Encantada is an independent bottler, but instead of focusing on Scotch whisky like many independent bottling outfits, they focus on lesser-known Armagnacs from small producers. Armagnac is the older but less heralded cousin to Cognac. It’s a type of brandy produced in the Armagnac region (hence the name) of Gascony in Southwest France.
L’Encantada’s small team of three is led by Cellar Master Vincent Cornu. He bottles a range of cask-strength, terroir-driven Armagnacs, including vintage expressions dating back to the 1970s. I recently had the chance to taste the following expressions.
Domaine Lous Pibous ‘93 Vintage Cask #13
This Armagnac is produced from the Folle Blanche grape variety. The liquid is aged in new charred oak casks, which give off a lot of powerful aromas. On the nose, there are rich notes of butterscotch, orange essence, vanilla, toffee, cardamom, and white pepper. The aromatics are amazing. Moving to the palate, intense flavors of viscous caramel, white grape, white pepper, and orange-vanilla envelop your taste buds before an earthy note rounds things out. This might be the best Armagnac I’ve ever tasted.
Domaine Le Freche ‘90 Vintage Cask #49
Coming from the Bas-Armagnac region, this spirit was produced from Baco Blanc grapes and aged in French oak casks for about 29 years. According to Frédéric Chappe, L’Encantada’s marketing and sales manager, this expressiion comes from Armagnac Le Freche, with vines near Lastide d’Armagnac.
Acetone and rubber greet you on the nose with notes of butterscotch followed by toffee. Marcona almonds and pungent cheese show through as you dive deeper into the aromas. Flavors include dry cheese, grape, and white pepper, with a finish reminiscent of the funk you’ll find in Fijian rum. That funk and interesting bitterness play well together, giving this Armagnac an especially unique character.
L’Encantada 20 Year Selection
This is a blend of Armagnacs aged at least 20 years, sourced from three different estates, and made from all four of the allowed grape varietals. Ugni Blanc, Folle Blance, Baco Blanc, and Colombard. On the nose, it’s got bitter caramel, sea salt, acidic notes and vanilla. Flavors include milk chocolate and vanilla wafer followed by a warm maple sweetness. There is a slight bitter note to this along with a nice malty and oaky flavor as well.
Domaine Lous Pibous ‘04 Vintage Cask #223
Another expression made with Folle Blanche grapes, this Armagnac features deep and complex notes. Aromas include amaretto, vanilla, and coffee, and is akin to an almond cream liqueur or boozy almond milk. Flavors include bitter lime, chalk, dark chocolate, vanilla, white pepper, and oak.
Domaine Les Bidets ‘85 Vintage Cask #07
This expression is produced in the Arthez-d’Armagnac region using 100% Baco grapes at Domaines Les Bidets (The Bidets estate). It’s acidic on the nose, with undertones of earthiness and rancio. There’s lots of caramel and dark chocolate, with a chalky and slightly citric back-note. There is also an element of wax, and the chalk note is reminiscent of Necco wafers.
These grapes produced a much more acidic spirit than the other L’Encantada expressions. It’s a unique change from the usual, and showed flavors of bitter chocolate, almond, oak, and vanilla. It’s worth trying for sure, but this particular expression is not as impressive as the others.