In 1990 Claire Montesquiou returned to her family tradition of Armagnac distillation, one that began in 900 AD, but had stalled in the 1960s with a sale to Pernod Richard. She and her husband purchased the small Domaine d’Esperance estate, located on the hillside of Gascony’s renowned Bas-Armagnac area. Of the 30 hectares of vines, about 8 are dedicated to making Armagnac – growing Baco 22 A and Folle Blanche. The rest is used to produce table wine, which supports the business as their Armagnac ages. The estate uses 2 small stills. The first is over a hundred years old, the second belongs to the traveling distiller Pierre Machalovsky, who lends the still to the estate. Distillation is slow – about 4 casks of 420 liters per every 24 hours. The estate distills only about for about a week per year, due to its size. Baco 22 A and Folle Blanche are distilled and aged separately. When the Armagnac needs to be proofed down, distilled water is added little by little, at least 6 months before bottling. The family uses local Gascon Oak casks, toasted to a medium level and produced about 15km from the estate, by one of the last independent coopers in the area. The estate uses two cellars – one dating back to the 17th century, and second, more modern cellar, built in 2003 – which hold about 240 casks.
Domaine d’Esperance 5 Year Bas Armagnac is distilled at 54% alc/vol, before ageing first in new casks made from the local wood from the Gascony forest for about 1 year. After that Domaine d’Esperance 5 Year Bas Armagnac is moved into older Gascon wood barrels for the remainder on the ageing process. The youngest Armagnac in the blend is 5 years old, and others showing greater age. Domaine d’Esperance 5 Year Bas Armagnac is bottled at 40% alc/vol, with no coloring, sugar of boise added.
NOSE: Spice, peppercorns, caraway seed.
PALATE: Oily, initial sweetness, beeswax, toffee, tobacco, pine, oak.
FINISH: Short, clean, spice, touch of oak.