At Château de Lacquy, the eau-de-vie distilled from each varietal ages separately, exclusively in oak barrels made from Quercus robur (pedunculate oak) that hold 400 / 420 litres and rest peacefully in the cellar, or chai.
The Armagnac coming out of the still is clear. It goes directly from the still to a barrel made of European, or pedunculate oak (Quercus robur) from local forests or from the Limousin area, 400 to 420 litres in size. There, it will age. Pedunculate oak differs from its cousin, sessile or durmast oak (Quercus petraea) in that its wood is less dense and better suited to ageing Armagnac eaux-de-vie.
Approximately 50% of the barrels are new each year. Barrels are made by hand in the totally traditional manner, by the local barrel-maker Bartholomo in Le Frèche. Bartholomo toasts the casks (bousinage) to different degrees – strong toasting of the wood, medium and low. As it ages the Armagnac evaporates slightly (what we call “the angels’ share”) and takes on colour. It becomes more supple, the alcohol per volume goes down, and the most volatile ethers disappear. Slowly, thus, as it ages, it develops its lovely velouté and gradually develops the aromas that forge its character. Each barrel evolves differently with time, each barrel is monitored carefully; colour and alcohol degree are checked. The Armagnacs are tasted and aerated. The cellar master can decide to change them from one barrel to another.
The angels’ share accounts for approximately 4% the first year, then 3% each year during the next couple of years, and stabilizes at 2% after about 20 years. The alcohol drops rapidly the first year, from 53% to 48% after 5 to 8 years, then down to 46% when the Armagnac is 15 to 20 years old. In the ageing cellar at Château de Lacquy, the oldest barrelled Armagnacs settle down generally at 43%.
The quality of the cellar itself is one of the most important elements for good ageing of the Armagnac. The floor of the Château de Lacquy cellar is still made of beaten earth, which naturally eliminates condensation and regulates hygrometry naturally. The cellar has natural ventilation and the temperature varies slowly. Humidity is high. All these factors are vital to good ageing.
The inventory of the Armagnacs stored in the cellar is computerised, per year and per varietal. Our inventory provides for approximately 35 years of annual sales. For most of the Armagnac region, inventory provides for approximately 7 years of sales.