Why Buy: One of our “boots on the ground” in France is the great cask-hunting team at PM Spirits, who were ecstatic to have us taste this trio from the small, super-detailed Armagnac estate, Domaine d'Esperance (headlined by their 98-point XO Bas-Armagnac). We're happy to report that they're as singular and delicious as advertised: small-batch, long-aged spirits made the right way: with time and love.

What They're Saying: In its 98-point rave of the XO Bas-Armagnac, the Wine Enthusiast hailed its “wonderful aroma [that] suggests juicy orchard fruit brushed with vanilla and cocoa,” its “supersoft palate,” and its “delicate” finish.

The Story: Title this one: “Back to the Future.” In the 1960s, Pernod purchased Claire de Montesquiou’s family estate. Armagnac was not a priority for the company, however, and, as the decades went on, production had stalled. The precipitous decline of the spirit’s fortunes was not just a sad state of affairs for de Montesquiou; it was personal, existential: her family had been making Armagnac since 900 AD. In 1990, she and her husband purchased Domaine d'Esperance, a small vineyard in the Sables Fauves region of Gascony, in the heart of the renowned Bas-Armagnac, and promptly set about restoring the family’s lineage. Their estate is as small (of the 30 available hectares, only 8 are devoted to Armagnac) as the terroir is exquisite. The clay- and iron-rich soils could hardly be more conducive to growing the varieties of  grapes (primarily, Baco 22 A and Folle Blanche) that make up these elegant, age-worthy Armagnacs. 

Method:  Armagnac has never been a business for getting rich; it remains, for its comparatively small band of practitioners, a distinct labor of love and a long trip back in time. The “old ways” are the only ways, and there is nothing new under the sun. Distillation is slow at Domaine d'Esperance – about 4 casks of 420 liters are produced every 24 hours. The estate distills for one week per year, using one of two small stills (one is over 100 years old, the other is a mobile version that belongs to a traveling distiller). Only local wood, from the Gascony forest, is used to oak the spirits, and aging takes place in two cellars (one of which dates to the 17th century).


* 2001 Single Cask Armagnac: after a single distillation to around 53% ABV on a traditional Armagnacais column still, the spirit was left to age in Gascon oak for 21 years. This single cask was distilled from 100% Folle Blanche. (Finicky though the grape can be, it also produces some of the world's most elegant distillates.)

* XO Bas-Armagnac: a blend of 4 different vintages, the youngest of which is 10 years old. It aged in a new cask made of wood from the Gascony forest for a year, after which  it was transferred to older Gascony wood barrels.

* 18 Year Blend: 7 casks (5 of them made from Baco 22 A, 2 from Folle Blanche) make up the final mix. Distilled on a traditional Armagnacais column still, it aged in Gascon oak for between 18 and 29 years.

Our Tasting Notes: What struck us, at our recent tastings,  was that here, before us, were three Armagnacs, all from the same producer, that tasted nothing like one another. That’s a major achievement, folks, and proof of just how much attention and delineation this estate gives to each and every one of its spirits. We came away from our session without clear favorites (the 2001 Single Cask was perhaps the most finessed of the three, the XO the most lively and zesty, the 18 Year the richest and most complex), but instead, and better, with deep admiration for this degree of artisanship and artistry. Remarkable

Fun Fact: In addition to making world-class spirits, the Montesquious also run a cooking school.

Our Guarantee: We always buy and source direct, so rest assured: your spirits will arrive in your hands with pristine provenance. Secure your order today!

*Offer NOT valid in-store. This offer is made pre-arrival, with spirits estimated to be delivered to your preferred store in Spring 2024. All sale prices are the lowest available at Total Wine & More and ONLY valid through Concierge Sales. No further discounts or coupons may be applied. Offer not valid in CT, KS, MI, NC, NY, TN, VA, & WA. This offer is for ONE WEEK, or until sold out, and will expire on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.