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)

D’eaubonne VSOP (French brandy bottled in Canada)

D’eaubonne VSOP, 40% ABV – 375ml, (bottled in Toronto, ON, Canada)

on the front label:

“A Fine Blend of Imported French V.S.O.P. and Napoleon Brandies.”

  • Style: VSOP French Brandy (5+ years)
  • My Rating: C-
  • Taste Profile: High alcohol/numbness -> caramel/banana/wood -> rough alcohol/warmth
  • Where I got it: BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $12, 2010
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to brandy aficionados: no way

Tasting notes: pours on the watery side for brandy, light orange. Massive amounts of alcohol and nasal burn on the nose, with caramel. Drinks with high tingliness and anticipation of nasal burn, numbness, and alcohol up front, background is highly numbing, minty, caramel, 7/10-sweetness, banana, medium warmth, and quite a rough alcoholic finish. Medium complexity, medium depth, not good transitions, okay carry, borderline drinkability. Flavour is there but the jaggedness makes it hard to sip.