Nearly everyone has sipped a Cognac at one time or another, but few brandy enthusiasts have more than a passing familiarity with Armagnac. Armagnac and Cognac are sibling regions, so to speak, and we might think of Armagnac as the big brother. More intense and powerful than Cognac, brandies from Armagnac have a rustic edge that complements the intense fruit and spice profile of the spirit.

Chateau de Larressingle is located in the northern reaches of Armagnac, which sits southeast of Bordeaux in France’s Gascony region. This V.S.O.P Armagnac is distilled from the Folle Blanche and Saint-Emilion (Ugni Blanc) grapes, and is blended from spirits that have been aged for no less than eight years; this is twice the region’s minimum aging requirement of four years in barrel to bear the V.S.O.P. designation.

Straight from bottle, the nose offers intense notes of ripe bosc pear, oxidized Granny Smith apple, coriander, nutmeg, and allspice, with faint undertones of stone fruit and chalk. When left in the glass for a few minutes, the spice emerges and begins to push the fruit to the background. The spice component pushes through initially on the palate, after which ripe green apple, dried date and fig, hints of prune, and straw emerge. Interestingly, the finish turns to candied red cherry after twenty or thirty seconds, which, combined with the astringency imparted by eight years in barrel leaves the taster with an unmistakable impression of red Burgundy.

This stunning brandy should be served neat, in a white wine glass or snifter.

*In a rare addendum to our review, we must note that this is one of the most complex and interesting spirits we have tasted in any price range. The evolution of the nose and the palate over time is simply astonishing.