Armagnac VSOP Round 1 – Saint-Vivant VS Tariquet

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Round 1 of VSOP Armagnac. Why? Well, checking my inventory I noticed that I have 3 different bottles of VSOPs so why not? They’re similarly priced and of the same style and age, so let’s get to it! (I reviewed Saint-Vivant by itself earlier this week here.)

1) Saint Vivant VSOP – 40% ABV – 750ml, (Condom, Gers, France), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • first distilled in 1559 by nobleman Saint Vivant de la Salle.
  • (I think) it’s in the Armagnac-Ténarèze terrior, one of three terriors in which Armagnac may only be produced.
  • aged at least 5 years (VSOP designation, wiki)

VS

2) Tariquet – 40% ABV – 750ml, (Eauze, Gers, France), $52 CAD @ Aristocrat Liq 82nd (Edm)

  • Château du Tariquet, since 1683 (according to the box)
  • distilled from 60% Ugni Blanc, 40% Baco grapes, in the Bas-Armagnac terrior.
  • aged for at least 7 YEARS

Criteria:

Nose: Saint-Vivant is half alcohol, and half flavour aromas consisting of vanilla, oak, caramel, and a bit of toast. Tariquet is much, MUCH gentler on the nose, with about 1/3 less alcohol nasal burn. Its profile consists of more caramel than vanilla, and lemon curd. Hands down the winner is Tariquet.

Taste & Texture: Having reviewed St-Vivant earlier, I was really looking forward to trying Tariquet. Tasting St-Vivant again brought back the overwhelming alcohol detection up front, bold in-your-face aggressive vanilla-caramel, and licorice-warm long finish with spice and burn. Tariquet, you are so much smoother. You taste floral up front, like chamomile and lemon, with gingerbread-caramel-vanilla-oak dominating the mids, finishing with spiced numbness. The choice is an easy one, Tariquet you win.

Final Notes:

  • Tariquet exhibits a slightly darker golden brown hue than Saint-Vivant
  • Saint-Vivant may have bolder flavours, but it gets muddled up by the overwhelming alcohol jaggedness also in there.
  • Tariquet comes in a (giftable) box. Otherwise it’s just another thing to recycle.
  • Bottom line: Saint-Vivant is a notch BELOW my enjoyability threshold, whereas TARIQUET is just ABOVE my enjoyability threshold. I’m curious to try an XO Armagnac next.

WINNER = Tariquet VSOP (Round 1 Champ)

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Saint Vivant VSOP Armagnac (France)

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  • My Rating: C-

Saint Vivant VSOP Armagnac, 40% ABV, 750ml, (Condom, Gers, France)

Some things I learned about Armagnac via the internets:

  • 1x distilled, traditionally to 52% ABV and then Monlezun Black Oak barrel aged for years. Typically not diluted with water. (VS Cognac which is 2x distilled)
  • VS = 2 years, VSOP = 5 years, XO/Napoleon = 6 years, Hors d’Age = 10+ years
  • Nosing should be done progressively from chest height, chin, lips, and finally nose. Allow time for alcohol to evaporate because initial nosing can be harsh
  • ditch the brandy snifter for this “rounded belly and tapered chimney” glass

Armagnac Glassware

  • Style: (VSOP) Armagnac
  • Taste Profile: sweet caramel -> vanilla/oak/licorice -> plum/grape
  • Where I got it : BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $60 – 750ml, sometime in 2011
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to brandy aficionados: no

Visual: Unique shaped bottle with a dimple allows for an ergonomic grip (A+). Pours light-medium (5)-dark brown.

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Nose: (after 20 minutes) direct inhalation is still extremely harsh. (Lip-height) vanilla, oak, caramel.

  • Nosing = D+

Attack: sweet, sweet caramel, (9)-nasal burn as you sip

Mid-palate: (MAIN) (8)-vanilla, (5)-oak, (8)-licorice

Finish: (3)-plum/raisin, (4)-concord grape

  • Flavour = C+

Summary: Nosing is way too harsh. Flavours are decent but you must have patience with this one. Body is underwhelming. Unbalanced (licorice and alcohol overbearing). Overall not recommended; Spend more money on a higher quality Armagnac. (Note: all numbers above are on a 10-point scale, with 1 being weak and 10 being the strongest)