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 XO Bas Armagnac bottling is 10 years old. It is distilled at 54% alc/vol, and then casked. It first ages in a new cask made from the local wood from the Gascony forest for about one year. Following that, the spirit is moved to older Gascon wood barrels for the remainder of the ageing period. Domaine d’Esperance XO Bas Armagnac is a blend of 4 different vintages, with the youngest Armagnac in the blend being 10 years of age. Domaine d’Esperance XO Bas Armagnac is bottled at 40% alc/vol, natural color, no sugar or boise added.
NOSE: Baked apples, spices, cinnamon, honey.
PALATE: Fruity, caramel, vanilla, pear, butterscotch.
FINISH: Medium, spice, fruit, touch of sweetness.