Armagnac like whisky doesn’t necessarily get better with age. It just gets,.. different. With single malt whisky, this is well demonstrated by Glenmorangie where I find their standard 10yo equally as good as their Quarter Century. With both whisky & armagnac however, the real treasures do tend to come from the well matured juice – as long as they don’t become too woody or tannic. Starting then with the younger juice and going up the years, let’s get Down with Darroze – one of the most widely known & respected houses.
Darroze 8yo  Grands Assemblages 43%
- N: Starts with a strange yet unmistakable note of [Seabrook’s] cream cheese & chive crisps. Trying hard to get my nose out the crips packet, I move to cheese puffs, onion rings, fish n chips, beeswax and light tropical fruits [mango/papaya] with a rum-like [briny olive] vegetal quality for sure,… but I’m stalling. I thought that initial note would dissipate after an hour or so, but not a bit of it. However I look at it I keep returning to those crispy cheesy snacks, touching on a little emulsion. Let me point out, it’s not an unpleasant note, simply a distinct one.
- T: Do the crisps translate here? A little. It’s stupefyingly basic neat. Add water for a considerably more full-bodied and precocious young Armagnac with a competitive spirit. Soon salivates with a Cognac-y & malty [sherried & bourbon cask?] sweetness alongside ready-pears and light-fresh/sweet vanilla cream – albeit still a little cheesy, chive-y & salty and with one popadom bite. Slowly turns almost malty-vanilla liqueur-like – see Glenturret malt liqueur [blog].
- F: With a long fade it finishing cleanly on appropriately sweet, dry and grape-y, honeyed pear.
- C: A decent [Genever style], spirit-led young Armagnac, worth purchasing for the unforgettable crisp profile alone – assuming that’s not sample specific. it would appear Serge [WF] had a different sample profile.
Scores 84 points
I just realised I’ve reviewed this very recently [blog]. Let’s see how I read things 6-7 weeks on.
Darroze 12yo  Grands Assemblages 43% WF82
- N: Colour-wise, only a whisker darker than the 8yo. Today this one displays fruity varnish, black pepper cutlets, waxy icecream, smooth leather, unsalted pistachios, cake glaze, raspberry>rhubarb coulis>oranges & apricot fruits [juice/candy/soda drinks], and a little maltiness – grain whisky styley. How/why does armagnac so often appear malty? Is this association mainly down to similar casks used for the production of both whisky & armagnac? Remember the rules for Armagnac don’t restrict the oak type for ageing to any region, so does that mean we could reasonably expect to pick out notes of Jim Beam in more recent armagnac releases? Let’s hope not.
- T: Compared to the 8yo, there’s a more silken fruity>hessian flow as well as an emerging fusty depth and soft freshness coming from aniseed, topped off with a dash of cherry-aid. Further down the line we’ve nutty-fusty/malty runny caramel on melon & pear juice. Recognisably Darroze-esque, but that statement will only be truly tested in a blind event.
- F: Cherry ice-pops with a slither of glacier cherries – glycerol-light. Controlled yet permeating fruity waxy-ish vanilla>crumble [that rumbles on], with hints of ripe-as pineapple, waxed apple and more [Guadeloupe] melon throughout.
- C: Clean, competent, interesting and tasty. Though I’ve had time to pick out more detail compared to my first encounter, I’m giving it a point less. That’s partly down to the context of tonight’s session as well as an acknowledgement that the modern/current cask influence here makes for some slightly tedious limitations.
Scores 83 points
Would you Adam & Eve it? I had this recently too [same link as above]. I didn’t regard this very highly first time around, but only gave it a provisional score [of 80], given I was unacceptably rushed.
Darroze 1997 19yo Domaine de Jouanchicot 49.6%
I don’t often comment on colour but this possesses a spectacularly beautiful rusty rose golden hue.
- N: A potent & vivid mix that includes rum-like Shreddies, waxy savoury/sweet carbolic vegetal, a drop of petrol, paint brushes in white spirit, paint fungal, vanilla emulsion and lemon/lime mousse. Despite all these colours, they are only compliments to the fine distillate.
- T: Instantly oozes fusty-dry-fruity>honeyed,<honeysuckle nectar – sustained as the body fills out. Takes time to unravel and is cooking in middle the stages. Fresh~waxy vanilla cream into…
- F: ,.. dry, subtle toffee-d/fusty Shredded Wheat, vanilla wafer and a softening unsalted popadom. Lingers with touches of marzipan, cherry & Velvet Falernum liqueur [blog], and a fine fusty<hessian matting. Model armagnac finish – chalky, oily & tannic.
- C: Darroze is my go-to house that consistently produces/presents armagnac of high quality. This is a fine example of the Darroze house style, now I’ve had the appropriate time to get inside it. I wouldn’t expect a bottle to last too long.
Scores 85 points
Darroze 30yo  Grands Assemblages 43% WF88
- N: Compared to the 19yo colour-wise, this is deep rosé. Nose-wise the earthy/plant-fresh bouquet-sweet fruits are mature and integrated with the straight-clear honeyed varnish. Also integrated is the nutty fungal note – more on pistachios than any other nuts, though pistachios are actually an edible part of the seed. Other clearly defined notes include mascarpone with fig=honey liqueur, blood orange>generic pharmaceutical-food industry orange-flavoured produce and forest-damp soil. It’s a subtlety changing, complex nose that kept me occupied.
- T: Boom! Starts immediately with an injection of [stand-offish] leathery/woody, sweet/sour fruity juiciness with herbs & spices developing. Namely dried parsley, clove, heather, dried mint, dried marjoram and fennel seeds – all rather aromatic and talkative. There’s some travel into a dry squidgy-waxy fresh.
- F: Dry, bitter woody>fresh grass and more dried parsley. [Serge says “basil”]. It gradually lifts clean, leaving behind only suggestive possibilities of a fennel & cinnamon freshness. Resonates with fig and some cherry & prunes with blackberry blossom>>violets at the death.
- C: A great performance from an old pro. Wood-wise we are just ok, though I’ve heard cracking things regarding the even older 40 & 50yo Grands Assemblages.
Scores 87 points