For the Darroze family, Armagnac has been in their history for four generations. Marc Darroze, owner of Darroze Armagnac is a trained oenologist who followed his father’s footsteps in 1996 and now runs the company alone following his father’s retirement.
In this interview, we speak to Marc Darroze about the philosophy of the company, how the range of Armagnacs is sourced, the importance of terroir to the brand and the style of Darroze Armagnac.
Can you give us a brief introduction to Darroze Armagnac and how the company started?
My family has been involved in Armagnac for four generations. The first two generations owned a famous restaurant in Villeneuve-de-Marsan in Gascony and sold Armagnac from demi-jeanne but only by the glass. In the late 60s, my father decided to bottle Armagnac. He met with the same producers and in keeping with the philosophy of the restaurateur, he couldn’t imagine putting Darroze on the label without stating where it came from to show respect for the work of each producer.
How do you source the range of Armagnacs that go under your label?
If I taste an Armagnac that doesn’t give me an energy or an emotion, it doesn’t work. First, I’m looking for emotion and pleasure. In the Unique Collections, we have more than 35 estates, more than 65 different vintages. All are different. I can’t say we have the best Armagnac in the world. We have Armagnac with the best character. If an Armagnac has a strong character, an energy, it’s well matured without too much oaky character, it’s a base but it’s not enough. The most important thing is to give you the feeling that you’re tasting something exceptional.
What’s the difference between the Unique Collection series and the Grands Assemblages?
The Unique Collection is what we are known for as a spirits specialist, with single farm, single estate, single vintage, no caramel added, no dilution, and the pure natural character of each terroir. In the Grands Assemblages, when we blend, we do not only want to find the best blend, we imagine the balance and the character of the blend but we also want to be able to reproduce it in the future. The Grands Assemblages is about consistency in style, the Unique Collection is about diversity.
Who does the blending for the Grands Assemblages?
I do, for all of them. It’s more difficult to make a blend for a young Armagnac than an older one. If you blend 50 to 60 years old Armagnacs and they’re good, it’s difficult to make a bad blend. The challenge is when you blend an 8 yo that you want to be pale, fruity, not too aggressive or pungent, and a 12 yo that’s not too oaky and close to the initial distillation. The challenge is with 8, 12 and 20 yo. After that, 30, 40, 50, 60 yo, honestly, to me, it’s easier and more natural because it has already developed a more mature character.
How many different Armagnacs go into a blend?
Between 8 and 15. If you don’t blend a lot of Armagnac, you take the risk to have your blend too marked by one of them. When you blend many, it’s easier in the future to reproduce the same style.
What factors go into the decision of when to bottle the Armagnac?
We bottle by demand. Of course, we taste regularly to check the evolution of each one and we made the choice not to bottle entire casks but only by demand. The key decision of when it’s ready to bottle is the balance.
For a newcomer to the brand, how would you describe the character and style of Darroze Armagnac?
We decided not to dilute our product. We keep the character of the terroir, the year and so on so we don’t produce an Armagnac which will leave you without a reaction. When you taste an Armagnac from our collection, you can say you like it or don’t like it. It’s something that always gives you a feeling in your body, the feeling we like to put into our bottles. It’s about a reaction and the feeling I mentioned before.
My advice is to start with the 12 yo to educate the palate. It’s good for the price, fruity, well balanced, smooth and can be an introduction to older Armagnacs or the Unique Collection. That’s why we have the Grands Assemblages, to educate people and show them that we produce brandies with character but also ones that are gentle, smooth and elegant.
Of all the estates that you bottle, which is your favourite?
It’s difficult. It’s like asking your favourite child. Usually what I like the most of is the Baco grape, and estates with a majority of Baco grape like Salié, De Rieston. I also like pure folle blanche from Couzard-Lassalle which is pure, elegant, very feminine in style.
What current drinking trends have you experienced in the Armagnac category?
We are focusing on the digestif moment and we know that this moment is becoming rarer. I like a young Armagnac like the 8 yo with ice. It’s not too oaky and adding ice doesn’t make the tannins too dry. We also work with mixologists around the world to make interesting cocktails. It can be the time of Armagnac now.
Do you have any plans to distil your own wine for Armagnac production in the future?
We do. We don’t speak about that but we have some vineyards. First, we help the producers to replant or plant more when necessary. We like to have diversity in our collection and it would be a shame to focus our philosophy on one estate more than the other ones. I’m not sure that we’d put our vineyard name on the bottle, that’s not the most important for us. We are doing as well as our producers and they’re doing as well as we are.
Darroze Armagnac is available through Cerbaco and Spirits of France.
Photo Credit – Supplied. In partnership with Cerbaco.