Armagnac is a distinctive style of French brandy (grape distillate) produced in the region of the same name in the heart of Gascogny. The officially demarcated area for the production of Armagnac encompasses three districts which lie in the "departements" of Gers, Landes and Lot-et-Garonne. The 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 Armanac. Haut-Armagnac is the least significant of the three in terms of production quality and quantity.
Armagnac claims a longer history than Cognac, probably produced by the Moors in the 12th century, and certainly from the 15th century onwards. Isolated from efficient transport links, it remained very much a locally consumed product until the middle of the 18th century. Production contrasts significantly with the much more industrial methods employed in Cognac.
Although it undergoes the same long ageing in oak barrels, Armagnac is mainly distilled once and at a lower % of alcohol than Cognac, which results in more intense fruit character and rustic flavours. Armagnac is mainly aged in local oak casks which impart subtle colour and complex flavour which is distinctively different from the more pronounced sweet vanillin character of the cognac caks
In terms of ageing, an "XXX" or "VS" armagnac blends several armagnacs matured at least two years in wood. For the VSOP, the minimum is at least five years, and for XO, at least six. Older and more complex armagnacs from a single year are dated "vintages";
There are 10 authorised grape varieties for the production of Armagnac, although Ugni Blanc, Baco 22A , Folle Blanche and Colombard dominate the blend.
There remains a mood of experimentation in Armagnac: they freely use more fragrant grape varieties, along with a variety of distillation methods. It is slightly more rustic in style than Cognac, softer and rounder, with a fuller flavour on both nose and palate.
Berrys lists an impressive library of vintage Armagnacs from the family-owned house of Nismes-Declou which traces its origins back to 1832. It produces Armagnacs of extraordinary intensity and finesse, allied with the capacity of ageing effortlessly for up to a century, and sometimes even longer.