An exceptional Nose: Armagnac
The ‘nose’ of Armagnac is an integral part of what makes the enjoyment of the spirit. It can be a real challenge to know what you’re actually meant to be experiencing. Experts mention various aromas, such as vanilla, citrus fruits, peach, caramel, vanilla, or tobacco. But for those whose senses aren’t quite as well tuned as those who inhale Armagnac for a living, I will try to give you some guidance.
There are mainly 5 major aromas that give Armagnac its unique character. Vanilla, prune, caramel, orange, and rancio.
It certainly doesn’t end there, there are another more than 80 subtle, aromas, that have been classified by the Bureau National Interprofessionnel de l'Armagnac (B.N.I.A.)
The Perfumes of Armagnac
From the youngest Armagnac to the oldest vintages, their evolution is gradual and continuous: there is no abrupt or brutal aromatic boundary between a VSOP (more than 4 years in wood) and a 10 years old. The aromas become enriched and enhanced when in contact with the barrel and the test of time. The cellar master’s work will further embellish the aromatic palette of the blended Armagnacs.
Heat on the nose and aromas that evoke cooking and concentration of fruity and floral notes are the aromatic base for young Armagnac.
The perfumes that follow witness the marriage of the spirit with the wood (patisserie notes for example). After twenty years, some Armagnacs display notes of « rancio », a term that describes a great maturity in the spirit. A bit bitter, like walnuts. Some people compare the taste of Rancio to truffles, earthy and hints of soy sauce.
Age is everything
Aromas are dependent on age. When it comes to Armagnac, it’s definitely a case of the older the better. Once Armagnac is well aged the aromas have a defined difference. Floral and fruity tones change from fresh peach and plums to more defined aromas of concentrated prunes, figs, and dried apricots. Oak moves to more complex cedar, and pine. And the light floral tones mature into those of lime flower, honey, and hyacinth.
In Armagnacs that have been aged for over 15 years, you can expect to find tones of licorice, port, chocolate, spices, toffee, tobacco, and nuts.
The science bit…
Now according to various scientific studies, there are 230 key aromas (known as odorants). But for individual smells of various foodstuffs (such as the really obvious smells–bacon, wine, roasted meat, strawberries…) the particular aromas are made up from between 3-40 key molecules. And while the smell of butter utilizes 3 key molecules, and strawberries 12, Armagnac is one of the most complex smellings of all foodstuffs – it’s made up of 36 different key odor molecules.
If you want to get a little deeper into the science, click here.
Happy tasting !!