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.
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.
Hepple Sloe and Hawthorn Gin is an unusually, full, intense and dry take on the conventional Sloe Gin. The rich flavours have been captured more faithfully than normally possible through Hepple’s pioneering Triple Distilling Technique.
Dry notes of hawthorn are amplified by supercritically extracted juniper, this is a blast of colour and flavour from the hills of beautiful Northumberland.
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.
Established in 1943 and still family owned, Bepi Tosolini represents the highest expression of quality in the grappa sector. Located at the foot of the eastern Friulian hills, Tosolini’s modern facility maintains its original installations and ensures the authenticity of its product.
Distillate of pomace from Moscato grapes. Clear and transparent, with an intense rose aroma and hints of acacia honey. Very soft and gentle on the palate.
Bruno Tosolini personally visits Asti to supervise the selection and ensure quality for this wonderfully fresh grappa.
Typical of the Janneau house style, their VSOP is a blend of carefully selected eaux-de-vie, some matured for up to 20 years in new oak casks in Janneau’s ancient cellars in Condom.
It is a blend of spirits distilled from white wines from the Baco, Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche grape varieties, produced in the two main areas of the Appellation Controlée: Bas Armagnac and Tenaréze.
It is also a combination of two different types of distillation: a double distillation in pot stills, specific to Janneau and a single distillation in a continuous still. The distillation is carried out in winter and by law must be completed by 31st March following the harvest.
The freshly distilled, transparent spirit is aged in 450 litre casks made from oak from the nearby forests of Limousin and Monlezun. Over years of ageing (the V.S.O.P. is aged for at least 7 years) the spirit acquires its woody aromas, typical amber colour and subtle tannin flavours.
Bright and amber in colour with a nose that has aromas of honey, figs, and toasted nuts. The palate is lively with a fruity-yet-dry medium-to-full bodied style; white chocolate and caramel notes lead on to the finish that is long with honey, raisin and spice flavours.
Bottled in the distinctive, fluted basquaise bottle.
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