Wednesday 13 March 2024

Old Master Spirits' 1974 Chateau Garreau 48 year old Bas Armagnac [Tasted #659]

A while ago I suggested we were covering enough non-whisky dark spirits on the blog to have a "Monthly #malternatives" post. Whilst that hasn't quite come to fruition (see last month's post on our recent blog hiccup...), I don't plan to stop enjoying great malternatives alongside my whisky, and so on that note, here's a #malternative for March...

Arriving once again courtesy of those affable Melburnians behind Old Master Spirits, this release is a 48 year old Bas Armagnac from Chateau Garreau, distilled in 1974 and bottled at a natural cask strength of 51.2% ABV.

(You can read my thoughts on several of Old Master Spirits' previous releases here, including previous vintage and NAS Brandies. In those posts I cover why I love what these guys do, and how their #malternatives are very much made for whisky lovers.)

According to Old Master Spirits (and the producer) 1974's season saw a perfect balance of sunshine and rain. A combination of Baco & Ugni Blanc grapes were distilled using a 100+-year-old traditional alembic column still (from 1919), and matured for 48 years in a single French oak cask from Gascony in Chateau Garreau’s underground wet cellar. 

The Armagnac was bottled in late 2022, but has been delayed to 2024 so those turning 50 years old could have a fairly-priced birthday vintage spirit (as someone who held a birthday tasting last year with ~20 bottles from 1983, I absolutely love this approach). This will be Old Master Spirits' only Armagnac release this year, and there are only 152 bottles.

The thing that sets Garreau apart is its underground wet cellar, built by Prince Soukowo Kabylin in the 19th century. The only underground cellar in the region, it's nicknamed ‘the burrow’ & made simply of four dirts walls, with roots visibly breaking through the dirt. The walls soak up water from each rainfall to keep a wet and humid environment. All casks in use are Gascon Oak from Cooper Bartholomo. 

We've enjoyed all of Old Master Spirits' releases so far - so how does this one stack up...?

Old Master Spirits 1974 Chateau Garreau 48 year old Bas Armagnac (51.2% ABV, 48yo, Single Cask, France, One of 152 bottles, $269AUD)

Colour: Copper-brown Gold

Nose: Spiced fruit and pot-pourri at first, followed (after some air) by some rich, almost port-like berry notes. There are hints of confectionary, alongside stewed cherries / cherry pie.

Palate: Slightly savoury at first - minced pies, oak, with some herbal dried fruit notes. After some time in the mouth, more fruit comes through - cherries again, apricot and some lemon peel. This is really good stuff.

Finish: Very long, with oak, fruit and Christmas spices in perfect balance. Basically imagine you took a bite of mum's Christmas cake and you could still taste it 15 minutes later. Yum!

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 92/100 (Martin). Another winner from these guys, what more is there to say? Brandy lovers should love this, but I reckon most whisky lovers will too.

Old Master Spirits' 1974 Chateau Garreau  Bas Armagnac 48yo goes on sale this Thursday (14th March 2024) for a very reasonable $269AUD. 152 bottles in total.

Thanks Deni & David for the sample.