When the eau-de-vie comes in contact with the wood in the quiet atmosphere of the cellar and under the watchful eye of the cellar master, this is the time for ‘élevage’ or ageing. The eau-de-vie refines its personality and assures its identity. This step is as delicate as it is essential, so in order to be the best, the Armagnac must be ‘well brought up’ or aged.
On leaving the alambic, the eau-de-vie is placed in four hundred litre pièces (barrels) made by the expert hand of the cooper from oaks that have been taken directly from their forests. It is then that the exchange begins between the eau-de-vie and its cocoon of new wood that will transmit its aromatic strength and its tannins over a period of six months to two years. The exchange then continues in pièces known as « épuisées » « exhausted », as they have already given their colour and aromas, but due to their porosity, continue to enrich the legacy of the first union. This new marriage can extend for just a few months or up to fifty years, depending on the style desired.
Each one of these pièces finds its place in the darkness of the cellars with their beaten earth floors and thick walls. It is there in this calm atmosphere that it is almost mysterious, that the eaux-de-vie endure the different changes in temperature, humidity and chosen aeration.
These are the choices of the cellar master. With his hands he takes samples of the eaux-de-vie to control the « taking on of wood ». With his nose, he distinguishes the perfumes and with his mouth he tastes the flavours. He takes care of the future Armagnacs and decides on the time that they will need in order for them to give their best.
Thus, the Gascon nectar transforms itself under these three influences and as it moves it takes the memories with it. All the different woods, all the characteristics of the cellar and all the subjectivity of its master give a large palette of tints and aromas. Though there is no reference for taste here as that is something that each and every one of us must discover for ourselves.
Tags: armagnac, spirit, craftspirits, craft
Similar articlesArmagnac [aʁmaɲak]