Alembic Charentais still at Paul Beau (image courtesy of Leonardo Comercio)

The Undying Magic of French Brandy

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The polar vortex/bomb cyclone/cold weather might be over, but winter sure isn't; and with a few more months of chilly temperatures, we're all looking for something to keep us cozy until spring buds. I've made French brandy my libation of choice. What's keeping your heart and spirit warm?

Laberdolive 1976 and 1989

Though the history of French brandy is a long and storied one,  the current state of historic regions such as Cognac is dominated by conglomeration and consolidation. And though many of the cuvees put out by the four biggest brands (that dominate up to 90% of the world's Cognac market) vigorously market themselves using this illustrious tradition, the adulterated and anemic beverages contained within the glitzy bottles could not be further from the magnificent distillates that built the region's reputation. And Cognac is not alone in this plight. More and more pressure is put on small producers in Armagnac and Calvados to produce more, to produce quickly, and in doing so, to dilute standards.

We pride ourselves at Chambers Street Wines on seeking out the purest expressions of French brandy, made in traditional methods without additives or adulteration. No added coloring, no sugar, no boise (essentially liquid tannins, a substance commonly added to Cognac/Armagnac to make them appear more aged). We think of these spirits as true agricultural products, lovingly nurtured and raised by the people who produce them, from the raw material to the years of careful and patient maturation. Through years of tasting and the hard work done by the amazing people who built the spirits department at Chambers Street, we've amassed a collection of French brandy that we feel incredibly passionate about, made by farmers and artisans backed by generations of tradition. From the deep, rustic Calvados of the Camut brothers in Normandy, to pure and elegant Cognac from Guillon-Paintauraud and Paul Beau, and intense and savory Armagnac of Pellehaut and Ravignan, there is something for everyone to appreciate. We've even scored some of the elusive Laberdolive Armagnac bottles, usually reserved for the grand restaurants of France and rarely seen on these shores. We hope that you join us in our appreciation of French brandy, and have as much fun with these bottles as we've been having.

As a plus, we have a few copies left of By the Smoke and the Smell by Thad Vogler, spirits guru and owner of the bars Agricole and Trou Normand in San Francisco. In this wonderful travelogue, Thad recounts numerous experiences visiting the people and places that make some of our favorite spirits, including a few of the producers we've featured in the email. An engrossing read for anyone looking to learn more about the world of craft spirits. Oskar Kostecki

 

*This offer is only available for pick-up, delivery in New York City, or shipping in New York State.

Camut NV Calvados Pays d'Auge 6 ans d'âge

We have a wonderful customer who drinks a fair share of brandy and prefers the six year expression to the more exclusive bottlings--his preference is not unfounded. Camut 6 has delicious, green apple fruit with a hint of vanilla. A touch of oak smoke is there, but fruit is really the focus of this spirit. Six years may not sound like a long time, but trust us, it’s plenty. John Rankin

  • brandy
  • 6 in stock
  • no discount
  • $83.99

Camut NV Calvados Pays d'Auge 12 ans d'âge

At 12 years old, this Calvados shows extremely youthful and vibrant apple, caramel, and sweet cream aromas. These marry well with perfectly integrated spice and oak notes that add depth and intrigue. This is an absolute treat and is a big step up in complexity from the Camut estate's wildly delicious 6-year Calvados. Tim Gagnon

  • brandy
  • 7 in stock
  • no discount
  • $134.99

Cyril Zangs NV Apple Brandy Double Zero

This phenomenal, clear apple brandy is the result of a collaboration between the great cider producer Cyril Zangs and Calvados distiller Jean Roger Groult. Over 30 varieties of apples are first cellared for a few months to concentrate sugars and flavors, and then gently pressed into a cider that ages on it's lees for 10 months. Jean Roger Groult then distills the cider on his tiny direct fire still, making very precise cuts to isolate the heart of the spirit, with a resting time of a few weeks between the first and second distillation to further concentrate and enhance the flavors. There is wonderful texture and weight to this un-aged brandy, with the purity of the apple notes complimented with baking spice, hints of cinnamon, and a savory, umami character of earth and dried foliage. An exceptional and unique spirit from Normandy. Oskar Kostecki

  • brandy
  • 5 in stock
  • no discount
  • $79.99

Dudognon 10 Year Old Cognac Grande Champagne 'Reserve'

The Dudognon Reserve is one of the best values in Cognac. Made without additives or coloring, it's a pale gold color with subtle citrus and white fruit aromas. The palate is clean and long with tea, earth, citrus and spice. Far superior to the brand-name VS or VSOP blends and really worth trying. John Rankin

  • brandy
  • 5 in stock
  • no discount
  • $43.99

Guillon-Painturaud Cognac Grande Champagne VSOP

Guillon-Painturaud's VSOP is a fantastic 15-year-old Cognac that punches way above its price point. This spirit is all about fresh orange and sweet marmalade fruits with plenty of cut. We are happy to be able to carry this independent producer's fantastic Cognac, and the 15-hectare estate that can trace its history back to 1610 is an exciting find. JR

  • brandy
  • 4 in stock
  • no discount
  • $58.99

Paul Beau NV Cognac Grande Champagne Hors d'Age

Located in the heart of Cognac's premier cru "Grand Champagne," the Beau family has a long history of making exceptional artisan Cognacs. The Beaus use old wooden barrels and a majority of Ugni Blanc to facilitate a clear expression of terroir. This creates an absolutely lovely spirit that has been aged an average of thirty years, well over the requirements to label "Hors d'Age." The perfect after-dinner drink with a balance of dried fruit and very nice minerality. JR

  • brandy
  • 5 in stock
  • no discount
  • $124.99

Jean Grosperrin 1989 Cognac de Collection L'Isle d'Oleron

This beautiful single cask of Cognac comes from the collection of Jean Grosperrin, negociant extraordinaire and champion of pure spirits; no added sugar, boise (essentially liquid tannin, made by reducing oak chips in boiling water) or other additives. This is a 25-year-old Cognac with grapes coming from the sandy soils of the island of Oleron, off the west coast of France. The island was once renowned for its production, but years of increased tourism have resulted in only a handful of growers remaining. Rich but elegant, this cask balances still fresh flavors of fruit (apple, pear, pear skin) with baking spice, sultana, almonds, marzipan, and a slight salted caramel quality. This Cognac is fully evolved, with unmistakable savory, umami notes of rancio  on the long and complex finish, but without sacrificing any of the lift and freshness. This is an utterly charming single cask of pure and authentic spirit with lots of soul. Perfect as an after dinner drink, or a gift for the brandy lover in your life. Oskar Kostecki

  • brandy
  • 3 in stock
  • no discount
  • $224.99

Chateau de Briat 2000 Bas Armagnac Bacco

The 2000 Bacco fully exudes the traditional Château de Briat house style: decadent, yet complex and structured, with a focus on new oak. Again, from the diary of John Rankin: On the nose it is luscious with sweet caramel, the chewy soft kind, and orange zest rising from the glass. On the palate it is rich and silky – very drinkable – with a touch of spice and a sugary milk chocolate finish. With this flavor profile and the château’s affinity for new oak, this would be a fantastic crossover spirit for Bourbon lovers! Tim Gagnon

  • brandy
  • 14 in stock
  • no discount
  • $63.99

Ravignan 1985 (Bottled 2017) Bas-Armagnac 32 years old

This is the “new” release from one of our favorite estates in Bas-Armagnac. Ravignan spares no expense in creating France’s premier brandy. French oak barrels are air-dried for a full seven years before being filled with a spirit distilled to the very low 50% alcohol. After almost 30 years the spirit reduces in strength to about 42 percent, but gains in complexity and develops a beautiful flavor of roasted hazelnuts, wood smoke and a touch of prune. Perfect for 1985 birth years! John Rankin                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         The new 2017 bottling shines once again. The palate is thick and viscous, with notes of salted caramel and shaved dark chocolate transitioning to a beautiful dried fruit character of apricots, prunes and sultana. A hint of rancio peaks out from underneath the leather and woodspice, with a faint whiff of pickled ume plums and balsamic. Intense, but elegant, this is Bas-Armagnac at its finest, and one of the best values in the store. Oskar Kostecki

  • brandy
  • 7 in stock
  • no discount
  • $109.99

Laberdolive 1976 Laberdolive Armagnac

With no fear of sounding overly hyperbolic, I can say that the Laberdolive 1976 Armagnac is one of the finest spirits I've had the opportunity to taste. Incredibly elegant on the nose and palate, it shows notes of caramel, salted toffee, baking spice, cedar, dried apricot, sultana, beeswax, honey, chamomile, and grape jellies. The finish is long and savory, revealing tobacco leaves, undergrowth, moss  and autumn foliage. It is intensely rich without being heavy, and the spirit dances effortlessly across one's palate. A truly mythical distillate. Oskar Kostecki

  • brandy
  • 1 in stock
  • no discount
  • $479.99

Sorry, the Following have Already Sold

Pellehaut 1989 Armagnac Ténarèze Ugni Blanc

This Armagnac shows a vibrant orange color with hints of caramel. Tastes mature, but even after 28 years in cask there is a grippy quality and some citrus-toned fruit. This is an excellent introduction to vintage Armagnac and a fabulous value.  John Rankin

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $69.99

Laberdolive 1989 Laberdolive Armagnac

Laberdolive is only available in excruciatingly sparse quantity in the United States,  with most of it being snapped up by the grand restaurants of France. We feel incredibly lucky to be able to offer a few vintages of this remarkable spirit. Though I haven't personally tasted the 1989, based on other vintages of the 1970's and 1980's that I have had the pleasure to sample, I am in no doubt that the 1989 will not disappoint. Oskar Kostecki

  • Out of Stock
  • brandy
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $259.99

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