Armagnac Guide


  • VS: or Very Special, the youngest Armagnac which must have at least two years ageing in oak barrel;
  • VSOP: or “Very Superior Old Pale”, in Armagnac language, means at least 4 years ageing in oak barrels;
  • XO:Extra Old, means, in Armagnac language, that the Armagnac aged for at least 10 years in oak barrels;
  • Hors d’Âge:means that it has had over 10 years ageing in oak barrels.
  • Part des Anges – The Angels’ Share:During the first years, there is 4% evaporation of the volume. This then stabilises at 3% then decreases to 1% after 20 years. The alcohol degree lowers by 52% the first year to 48% after 7 to 10 years, then to 46% after 15-20 years. In the storehouse at Château de Lacquy, the oldest barrelled Armagnacs generally settle down at 43%. This necessary evaporation is referred to as the “Angels’ Share”.
  • Bousinage – Toasting:term used in barrel-making to define the toasting of the wood after shaping the staves. The objective is to bring out the aromas of the wood, such as vanilla and toasted bread. From the chemistry standpoint, this “toasting” partially breaks down the wood’s macromolecules into smaller, aromatic molecules that are easier for the eau-to-vie to absorb. Wood macromolecules are lignin, cellulose, hemicellulose. Each wood-toasting level has a different aromatic profile and balance between the different volatile compounds that are formed.
  • Barrel strength:this term has been appropriated and spread by whisky makers, and means that the alcohol comes out of the barrel at its natural degree, without any addition of water. This is fairly implausible, technically speaking, for whisky and generally for all alcohols distilled at more than 85% vol. alcohol: they are diluted with significant proportions of distilled water to reduce strength at some point in the ageing process, especially since whisky makers claim an “Angels’ share” of 2%. Armagnac that is distilled at 53% vol. alcohol, loses approximately 10% over 25 years’ time, depending on the quality of the storehouse. Here, the term “barrel strength” is entirely meaningful, for this is eau-de-vie that has never been diluted at all.
  • Single cask:this term has been coined by whisky makers and means that the whisky comes from one single barrel.
  • Blend: blending is the art of assembling Armagnacs from different barrels, taking into account the characteristics, the aromas, the alcohol rate, the colour, and other considerations, of each barrel. The essential step of blending is a secret step that takes place in the privacy of the chai
  • Reduction: means the technique of reducing the alcohol content by slowly adding a mix of distilled water and Armagnac to the blend. With Armagnac, the reduction step is very slight, for the blend itself is generally at 48% (10% water to reduce to 42.5%). Since whisky is distilled at 85%, it has to be diluted with 100% water to reduce it to 42.5%.
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