Armagnac to highlight dining event

Food and wine enthusiasts will have the opportunity to sample rare vintage Armagnacs while enjoying a six-course meal at the Grand Old House on Thursday.

Lazlo Boros hold a bottle of House of Castarede Armagnac from 1908

Grand Old Houses Lazlo Boros hold a bottle of House of Castarede Armagnac from 1908. The vintage will be one of many sampled at a Slow Food tasting event on Thursday. Photo: Alan Markoff

Armagnac, a French brandy made from wine, is similar to cognac, but more complex.

Grand Old House Manager Martin Richter said Armagnac is less refined than cognac – it is generally only distilled once – and as a result, it maintains much more character of the grapes.

‘It has much more flavour and style to it,’ he said. ‘Cognac from year to year tastes the same. The difference between Armagnac from one year to the next can be night and day.’

In addition, most cognac is mass produced and blended to create consistent quality, while Armagnac is still mainly produced by small rural farmers. Some high quality Armagnacs from a single year are bottled as a vintage product, and while it can contain certain imperfections as a result, it also has more character.

‘Armagnac is for people who know what they are drinking,’ Mr. Richter said. ‘It’s for people who like to experiment, who like new experiences.’

The Grand Old House started collecting vintage House of Castarède Armagnacs in 2000 and it has continued adding to the collection ever since, Mr. Richter said.

‘We now have one of the biggest collections world wide,’ he said. ‘Some of the ones we have are no longer available. We bought the last bottle of 1900 and 1908.’

In all, Grand Old House has more than 40 House of Castarède vintages, almost all of them available.

Among those that will be sampled at the tasting event are vintages from 1893, 1900, 1908, 1970 and 1979.

Mr. Richter said younger Armagnacs will also be paired and served with various courses of the meal.

Florence Castarède, heir to House of Castarède, will fly to Cayman from France to preside over the tasting. Founded in 1832, the House of Castarède is the oldest Armagnac trading house and is in the Bas Armagnac region of southern France.

The tasting, which is an event organised for Cayman’s Slow Food group, will also feature a master cigar blender and roller from the Partagas factory in Havana, who will hand roll one cigar for each guest.

Although not nearly as well known as cognac, Armagnac has actually been around about two centuries longer.

‘It is a beverage with a great history,’ said Mr. Richter.