Armagnac is a French brandy produced in the heart of Gascogny, to the south east of Bordeaux. Within the region there are three defined areas: Bas-Armagnac - produces the highest quality, most refined and complex Armagnacs. Ténarèze - yields most of the production and is known for its perfumed style of Armagnac. Haut-Armagnac is the least important of the three both in terms of quality and quantity.
Armagnac is generally distilled once (as opposed to twice in Cognac) and this can promote a more intense fruit character and an "earthy", rustic flavour. Armagnac is mainly aged in local oak barrels which give more complexity and less sweetness to the finished spirit than their Cognac counterparts.
Cognac is a grape brandy from the eponymous French region situated just north of Bordeaux. The permitted grape varieties include Ugni Blanc (predominantly), Folle Blanche and Colombard. The rules governing its production state that Cognac must be distilled twice in traditionally shaped Charentais copper pot stills and aged for at least 2 years in French oak barrels.
The indication of age on the label reflects that of the youngest spirit used in the blend. Some of the more commonly seen age terms are: VS (at least two years in cask), VSOP - Very Superior Old Pale (at least 4 years) XO or Napoléon or Hors d'Age (at least six years).
In reality, most Cognac is aged for considerably longer than these legal minimums.
Calvados is apple brandy distilled from cider produced in Normandy and makes an interesting alternative to Cognac or Armagnac at the end of a meal.
Alternatively, why not try "le trou Normand", or "the Norman hole". This is a small glass of calvados taken between the courses of a long meal - considered to revive the apetite, it's guaranteed to enliven any dinner party!
Made from pomace, the discarded grape seeds, stalks and stems that are a by-product of the winemaking process, Grappa has been around since the Middle Ages.
Traditionally, Grappa is served (either at room temperature or chilled) in small glasses and served after the meal, as the Italians believe that it aids digestion.
Gin has enjoyed an astonishing revival over the past few years with distilleries popping up all over the place. Whilst all will have juniper at the heart of their flavouring, the variety of additional botanical element leads to a tremendous range of styles.
Founded in 1821, Dolin is one of the few remaining independent producers of Vermouth and the last producing Vermouth de Chambéry. Dolin continue to make the authentic product according to the principles which earned Chambéry France’s only A.O. for Vermouth back in 1932. This means:
♦ Production must be in Chambéry itself.
♦ Maceration of real plants rather than extracts.
♦ The addition of sugar as opposed to other sweetners.
The process begins with the purchase of base wine (100% Ugni Blanc), light in alcohol (10% by volume), and as neutral as possible, both on the nose and palate. To this is added sugar and a selection of alpine herbs and botanicals, which are left to macerate for several months. Finally, the Vermouth is fortified to 17.5° by the addition of neutral grape spirit.
Dolin Chambéry is lighter, cleaner and less pungent than big name commercial vermouths. The nose is fresh and restrained and the palate dry and complex with a bitter sweet style.
Serve as a long drink with ice and tonic, with your favourite gin or vodka for a wonderful Martini, or neat over plenty of ice.
Mentzendorff Kümmel was born out of the creativity of a Dutch aristocrat, the Baron Von Blanckenhagen, and the talents of a young entrepreneur called Ludwig Mentzendorff.
Originally distilled in the remote village of Allash near the Latvian Port of Riga, this luscious caraway based digestif quietly grew to such popularity that Ludwig decided to export it to the United Kingdom under his name in 1850.
This unique schnapps-like liqueur is now distilled in Saumur, France, true to its original recipe.
Kümmel is often described as “grownups’ gripe water”, that ancient remedy for children’s colic and general indigestion. Serve ice cold.
Strangely the drink is often associated with golfers and golf clubs where it is known as “putting mixture” – players have a glass to relax them before going out to play. It will certainly relax you, but as to improving the putting?…..!
Maison Briottet is a family business founded in 1836.
Their crème de cassis is made from the Noir de Bourgogne variety of blackcurrant. The berries are harvested exclusively in the Côte d’Or department in Burgundy.
The blackcurrants are lightly crushed and then steeped in water and neutral alcohol for about 10 weeks, after which white sugar is added to adjust the sweetness. This long maceration period maximises the extraction of flavours and colour from the blackcurrants and the high alcohol level (20% vol) adds extra complexity and makes the cassis very stable.
Rich aromas with full blackcurrant overtones. A good and rich texture that piles up the blackcurrant flavours.
Cassis has a multitude of uses but is most renowned as the essential ingredient of the white wine and cassis mix known as Kir – named after Canon Félix Kir who was a priest, a hero of the French Resistance and mayor of Dijon from 1945 until his death in 1968, and who served the drink at all the civic events in Dijon.
A gin developed from a centuries old recipe blended with pure Northumbrian spring water and hedgerow botanicals including elderflower. The elderflower produced a distinctive nose to this gin which produces a softer gin and is particularly suited to combinations with softer tonic and cocktails.
Pineau des Charentes is a Vin de Liqueur from the Charentais (Cognac) region of western France. It is made by adding Cognac Eaux de Vie to fresh grape must (unfermented grape juice). The spirit raises the alcohol level to prevent any fermentation leaving it sweet and fragrant.
The Pineau Blanc from Château de Beaulon is made from Semillon and Sauvignon grape varieties and is aged for 5 years in oak casks.
Delicate, fresh and fruity with notes of white flowers, honey and vanilla on the nose. The palate is sweet with mandarin and dried apricot flavours.
Heering Cherry Liqueur contains only natural ingredients – no artificial colouring or flavouring.
Made to an original 1818 recipe, Cherry Heering as it is often called, is made by crushing cherries (including the stones) and infusing a neutral spirit. Herbs and spices are added before oak cask maturation for at least 3 years.
An essential ingredient of a “Singapore Sling” and vital for a “Percy Special”.
The Percy Special is peculiar to Northumberland and the Borders and is supposed to have been the invention of the 10th Duke of Northumberland. It is whisky and cherry brandy mixed 50:50 with the Duke apparently (and very sensibly) insisting on Cherry Heering!
Château de Montifaud has been in the Vallet family for 6 generations.
More than 90 hectares of vineyard are located in the two finest regions – “Grande Champagne” and “Petite Champagne”.
The base wines (Ugni Blanc) are stored on their lees for 2-3 months until distillation. This gives the resulting Cognac more aroma, mellowness and length. The wine is then double distilled in centuries old copper stills and aged naturally in oak.
From the Petite Champagne, the VS is a light and floral Cognac with an appealling soft character.
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