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About this Blog

Welcome to Po'Nutrition Fax! This blog is about alcohol - it has nothing to do with health or wellness, and the only relationship between this and Edgar Allen Poe is that he was an alcoholic.

I used to work in a liquor store and developed a taste for all different types of booze. As my collection grew, I felt the need to share my knowledge of, interest in, and experiences with my purchases - from the standards (e.g. whisk(e)y, gin) to the less-than-standard (e.g. kirschwasser, raki). You'll also find a lot on beer (another love of mine).

This is not about how much I can drink nor do I promote over-excess of alcohol. As with most blogs, there is some self-reflection included with most of the reviews. The point is to encourage everyone to reflect on what they drink.

Leave comments or ask questions! Also, "follow" me if you like what you read - I am not making money from this blog but if I see more interest in this and hear some feedback, it will encourage me to write more.

Cheers!
Mike

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Delord Bas Napoleon Armagnac


As posted earlier today, I decided to write about drinking. It was quickly written and I don't feel I adequately explained why alcohol is important to me. All of this sounds as though I am obsessed with alcohol but I can assure you that I am not. My love for it is an extension of my personality - it's the little things in life that are important to me. The best way for me to explain this is through a little story.

For years I was obsessed with having a perfect mug for my coffee. The way I see it, if I have to get up early and go to a job that I really don't want to go to, then I need to have something enjoyable in the morning. My enjoyment comes as a quiet morning reading the news, with a glass of juice, a bowl of cereal/oatmeal, and a delicious cup of coffee. However, I don't like to buy cheap coffee. Since I drink my coffee black, I can't cover up any of the off-flavors in bad coffee with cream or sugar. Therefore, it has to be really good coffee. Obviously, I'm not made of money so I can't purchase coffee without regard to price. However, whatever it is I'm willing to pay for my coffee, I should enjoy that coffee for what it is and not just as a nervous system stimulator. Therefore this good coffee needs a good mug. Again, this is about having a good morning - I should feel comfortable at all times. The mug needs to be an extension of myself. I shouldn't feel as though I have this thing in my hand that contains coffee. I shouldn't have to consciously think of the mug at all. It should just be there. I'll stop here and say I never actually gave a mug this much thought before but as I reflect on it now, this explanation makes sense. Anyway, I never had that level of comfort until my friend introduced me to Bennington Potters trigger-handle coffee mugs. He inherited these mugs from his grandmother and there were plenty of mornings that I truly enjoyed my coffee in these mugs. Some of the mugs were glazed, others were not but they all felt perfectly comfortable in my hands. When he moved out, I was devasted because he took the mugs with him. However, he knew how important they had become to me so he and his partner bought me some for my following birthday. I had my mornings again. I could enjoy my coffee fully once more. I still don't like getting up to go to work but at least I have my mornings to help me ease into the rest of the day and those mugs make it that much better.

How does all of this tie into alcohol? Alcohol is something we enjoy with nearly every meal, something we enjoy with friends and family, or just something we have while sitting on the porch, or reading a book, or watching a movie. For example, when you have dinner with friends, you might have a bottle or two of wine. If it's cheap wine then things are still fun, but when it's a good bottle of wine, everything is better. Alcohol is like the coffee mug - when it is right, it augments the experience. That is why I buy the "strange" liquors that I do or why I am willing to spend just a few dollars extra on others - if I can make that simple thing just that much better, it makes everything else better.

Plus, the history and science behind all this alcohol is fascinating too. That's also why I want to write about it...

This first post will be about the armagnac that rests in the decanter on my credenza.

Armagnac is a member of the the brandy family. Brandy is basically distilled wine. Most brandies are made from grapes but you also have other fruit brandies. Some of these others include Kirschwasser (cherries), Framboise (raspberries), and grappa (grape pomace). There are plenty of other finer points to address on these brandies but those are for another time. Today, I'm having some Armagnac.

Perhaps the most famous brandy is cognac. Armagnac is cognac's lesser-known but equally pretentious brother. Like cognac, armagnac is French and comes from a region of France with the same name. Both are distilled spirits and both are aged in oak barrels. However, the major distinctions between the two is how they are produced. Cognac is twice-distilled in pot stills, armagnac distilled only once in column stills. What's the difference? Distillation is what purifies the spirit. Each time the spirit is distilled, more and more non-ethyl-alcohol chemicals are pulled out of the spirit. The armagnac makers claim that distilling only once helps to preserve more of the flavors inherent to the drink, whereas the cognac makers claim the distilling twice makes the drink smoother and more elegant. While I enjoy both, I tend to agree with the amagnac makers more - cognac is slightly smoother but armagnac tastes better. However, history has been kinder to cognac so it has the current edge in popularity.

I like to look at the Russian language here for some insight into cognac's dominance. The Russian word for "brandy" is "konyak" (transliterated here). My guess is that the Russian Imperial court and their love of all things French (starting with Peter the Great) introduced brandy to their country via cognac. Cognac probably had a slight edge on armagnac to begin with, but with the Russian Imperial Court wanting it now too things could only go up for cognac. Poor armagnac. But at least the rest of us will benefit from cognac's dominance - we get something that is just as good as cognac but for less money!

It is a cold and gloomy Saturday afternoon and I opted for some brandy to warm me up a bit. Unfortunately I don't really remember which armagnac it is, but I'm pretty sure it's Delord Bas Napoleon Armagnac. It retails normally for around $35 and has won a lot of praises for its quality (relative to price). I have to agree. It has a beautiful copper color and a bouquet of dried figs, honey, and hints of marjoram. The first sip bites at the tongue slightly but that quickly subsides into the warm feeling that brandy always produces, with the flavors of the grapes and oak coming out more fully here than on the nose. The body is light so the taste disappears quicker than I'd like it to but an enjoyable brandy on the whole. I will probably step away from this computer and enjoy this brandy with a good book now.

I hope you will try an armagnac the next time you see one.

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