There's fresh buzz in the time-honoured world of French brandy. Armagnac, Cognac's rustic country cousin, is having a moment. Here are three to search out now:
SUGAR AND SPICE
This is delightfully delicate as far as Armagnac goes. From an excellent producer that's been around since the 17th century, it's juicy and redolent of sweet stone fruit, apple, orange peel and brown sugar, with penetrating warmth underscored by baking spices and brown butter.
Armagnac de Montal VSOP, $53.55 in Ontario.
Delord's small-batch approach is evident from its bottle. Labels are handwritten and necks are hand-dipped in wax. The liquid inside matches the fetching package of this long-aged X.O., too. Deep amber in colour, it's smooth and generous, with a luscious stewed-fruit character and layered overtones of caramel, chocolate, nutmeg, coffee grounds and vanilla. Think of it as Christmas in a glass.
Delord Bas-Armagnac X.O., $80.90 in Ontario, $89.99 in B.C., $65 in Que.
Founded in 1882, Samalens remains in family hands and blends its spirits from an inventory of barrels that have been maturing for decades, including some from as far back as 1888. This relatively youthful bottling is round and ample, with a seductively buttery texture that carries notes of marinated cherry and peach before it turns lively with spice and smoke, with the campfire building into the finish.
Samalens Bas Armagnac VSOP, $55.95 in Ontario, $55.91 in Man.