category-image

Encantada

Armagnac Roadtrip

L'Encantada

As our Armagnac roadtrip carries on, one thing that is making itself immediately apparent is the tremendous diversity of Armagnac. We are no strangers to recognizing diversity and trying hard to protect it, as we have been striving to do exactly that in the Cognac region since the early days of Cognac Expert. And so now as we have taken a roadtrip the Armagnac region, spoken to some of the region’s talented producers, and seen and tasted the diversity firsthand, we feel compelled to make one of Bonjour Drinks’ missions to protect the diversity of Armagnac.

To this end, our next stop is none other than L’Encantada Armagnac in Vic-Fezensac.

If we reflect back on where we have come from, we had the distillation prowess at Lassalle Baqué and the folle blanche charm at Domaine de Danis - two independent grower-distiller domaines.

L’Encantada, on the other hand, is the arguably the region’s top negociant-eleveur, although they too now have some vines and will slowly make moves into distillation. During our visit, and in the paragraphs to follow, it will become clear that the word eleveur is particularly important for l’Encantada.

For our more Cognac-inclined readers, L’Encantada as negociant-eleveur is analogous to Cognac Grosperrin in Cognac.

Beginnings

Vincent, Frederic, and Christelle are the wonderful folks behind L’Encantada. The three friends came together in 2011 to create a passion project - but very much a side project - to buy, bottle, and sell brut de fut (cask strength) Armagnacs. They purchased 2 to 3 barrels back in 2011 and have not looked back since. All three of them had main jobs on the side, so none of them depended on this new Armagnac activity. Vincent states smiling, “It was a project to play around with. If we did not sell anything, we would just drink it.” They themselves state that there was no real initial strategy. They just wanted to bottle good Armagnacs, have fun, and figure things out as they went along.

The guiding principle they had from day one, and to this day, was to focus on brut de fut Armagnacs and to bottle and sell what they like - of course with no additives whatsoever. They initially sold informally to close friends, local restaurants, and others from each of their own personal contact lists. Everything they earned early on was put back into getting new and different stock, or barrels. In a way, this so-called side project financed itself and allowed them to gain an ever greater passion for the project and their beloved Armagnac.

Today, there are 350 barrels patiently aging in their 3 cellars in the region, and they have gained a particular following with the general spirits community the world over. Frederic even states that roughly 90% of their clientele come from the general spirits community, not just Armagnac. Bourbon, Whisky, Cognac, and Rum lovers (amongst so many others) have found much to love with L’Encantada Armagnacs. Needless to say, we have too.

Finally, just for your information, Vincent is the cellar master handling the technical part of production, Frederic manages communications and sales, and Christelle organizes all administrative details.

Negociant-ELEVEUR

To keep things simple, a negociant is a producer that selects and purchases stock that will go into the cellar and eventually be bottled. Eleveur is someone who raises something. So it comes as no surprise that a negociant-eleveur is a producer that selects, purchases, and raises Armagnac in its own cellar under its own watchful eye. An eleveur will raise its barrels as if they were their own children.

They recognize that the word negociant is not always looked upon in the most positive light. They would love to add the whole word negociant-eleveur to their labels one day, to place particular emphasis on both their actions as a negociant and an eleveur. If we recall previous conversations with Guilhem Grosperrin in Cognac, he too is always very keen to emphasize eleveur and to highlight what makes a negociant-eleveur very different from just a negociant.

Vincent says, “One huge benefit of being a negociant is that we select and therefore sell only what we like. We won’t have all vintages, but we will have the ones we like and appreciate.” They say the real work of a negociant is to choose quality. Doing so limits their risk since they are choosing what they themselves deem to be quality. If they are not in love with the quality of the Armagnac, they do not buy it. So the barrels that end up aging in an Encantada cellar are deemed worthy and bought - no excess baggage, no unwanted barrels.

Frederic goes on to state, “There are tons of styles, and each style has the right to exist. There are no rules really - no rules about age, color, style, anything. If it’s good, it deserves to be selected, raised and eventually bottled.” In fact, the majority of the Armagnacs they put in the chai are not ready to be bottled and sold. This really emphasizes their work as eleveur, or caretaker of these barrels from the moment they enter the cellar to the moment they are deemed ready and sold. In this role as eleveur they play around a lot, changing the location of the barrels in the cellar, changing the cellar altogether, playing around with different barrel toasts, changing barrel types, etc. This elevage work is continuous, weekly, even daily work.

Work with the barrels, work in the chai, and work with time.

Vincent says:

We have to play around, we do not have a choice. We do not have 15 barrels of the same Armagnac to blend and keep a consistent profile. We most often have one barrel, so we need to get it right during the elevage.

It’s a complete myth to think that we select and buy barrels and that they are ready to go right away. Some are sure, but not all. Domaine Pouy for example, has great potential but it needs work and time.

Change barrels - stronger or lighter barrels depending on the Armagnac. Move to more humid locations. Move up or down in the cellar.

They admit they can make mistakes during the elevage, but they always keep trying things and playing around, always guided by smell and taste.

We asked how they treat truly exceptional barrels, barrels with the age, quality and aroma and flavor profile that could indeed be bottled immediately. Vincent pays extra close attention to these casks. This will entail tasting them more frequently, paying more attention to them, checking in regularly to make sure they do not slip into an unwanted direction. In short, even more care and attention.

Since this eleveur activity pertains to the actions taken in the chai, a few words are needed about Encantada’s chais. They have three cellars. The historical cellar is at their main location in Vic-Fezensac at the same premises of their tasting room and office. Another is just down the street also in Vic-Fezensac. We spent a bulk of our visit in this chai, and it reminded us of some Cognac chai as they are located in town amongst other homes and residential buildings. The third cellar is moderate to humid and is located closer to the Landes department, closer to where their vines are planted about an hour’s drive away. The cellar conditions are different from one site to another, which allows for great impact when moving a cask from one cellar to another, or even from one part of the cellar to another part of the same cellar. Also, keeping stock in three different locations spreads the risk. Dry goods storage and a bottling line (by gravity) are on site at the main location.

This discussion on the activity of a negociant-eleveur nicely contrasts the conversations had with Remi at Lassalle Baqué and with Victoire at Domaine de Danis. Negociant-eleveurs are just a different branch of the same Armagnac tree. And what we especially love is how this showcases the diversity of the region.

Vines

The above section went to great lengths to stress Encantada’s work as a negociant-eleveur, with special emphasis on the eleveur part. But Encantada has also made forays into winemaking and distillation. A small domaine, Domaine La Freche, from which they slowly acquired some old stock of Armagnac also made a small amount of vines available. After some consideration, the team of three jumped on it and bought a few hectares. These vines are roughly one hour away from their home base in Vic-Fezensac, which does not facilitate the task, but it certainly was not something to stop them.

Encantada has just about 2 hectares of vines: 1 hectare of Baco, 0.5 hectares of Folle Blanche, and in 2022 they just planted another 0.5 hectares to Folle Blanche. As we learned from Victiore at Domaine de Danis, 2022 was rough and did not spare Encantada either. Their 1.5 hectares of vines, plus the 0.5 hectare of planted young vines, got ravaged by hail, frost, and then heat - although the hail was the most devastating. They kept a mere 200 liters and sold off the rest. Needless to say, it was a difficult first year and they admittedly comment that the quality suffered as a result.

Still, any domaine’s first year of harvest and distillation has its own sentimental value. So despite the difficulties of the year and the seemingly poor quality, they will still hold a soft spot for their own 2022 product. Also, since the quantity was tiny in 2022, they did buy some additional blanche, or fresh spirit in 2022, leaving only 8 barrels of that vintage to age in the cellar.

It is interesting to see how Encantada over time takes on new challenges to occupy more and more spaces in the Armagnac production chain: first it began with their negociant-eleveur activity selecting and aging barrels, now they are growing vines and making wine, and soon regular distillation will follow from 2022. Just listening to both Vincent and Frederic, it seems tremendously valuable for them in their understanding and appreciation of Armagnac to sit at multiple stages of the production process.

Some exciting things to come from an already exciting producer!

Distillation

Now comes Encantada’s first moves into the world of distillation. They recently purchased a tiny mobile “pattes d’araignee” (spider legs) alambic. They are only able to distill 2 hectoliters per day. This unique and almost antique column still has 6 plates and can be fired either by gas or wood. Although they recently bought this treasure, it was stored in an old farm for 30 years before making it into their hands. In fact, this exact style of alambic made by the Sier family was produced back in 1920. It’s a style of alambic that just does not exist anymore. The old gentleman who sold the alambic to Encantada said jokingly at the time of sale, “I think there are all the pieces to put it back together.” This tiny spider leg alambic required quite some work to get operational again.

As the folks at Encantada are not distillers by trade, it will take some time for them to learn the intricate details of distillation and the technique - and to get to know their new alambic for which they are now the proud owners. For last year’s first distillation, they called in Remi Brocardo from Lassalle Baqué (we told you he was an absolute distillation guru) to have a look and get a first vibe for this relic alambic. They, and the distillers who assist them in the early days, need to learn the alambic and get to know its exact personality.

“We adapt to the alambic,” both Vincent and Frederic state. They will continue to have a distiller, Remi for example, come assist in the first years of distillation. They do not have any plans whatsoever to impose any degree for spirit dripping from the still. They let the distiller determine what’s best for the alambic and the wine inside of it. 

To impose things in terms of distillation degree, constrains the alambic. Also it depends on the degree of the wine. So we impose nothing and let the distiller decide for that year’s wine - and let the machine do its work.

Vincent did say that last year their spirit dripped off the still at 56-57% alcohol. Stay tuned as Encantada’s distilling days will ramp up very soon. We’ll need to be patient to taste the finished Armagnac, though.

As is to be expected during a long visit to any producer, the conversation will wander, with topics swerving back and forth but always providing interesting discussion. We noted a few interesting comments during our time in the Encantada cellars tasting and chatting away.

On hail: Frederic states, “The old timers in the region say: ‘annee de grele, annee de rien’” This basically means: year of hail, year of nothing. This same sentiment was echoed by all producers visited to this point, particularly Domaine de Danis.

On reduction: We asked if they ever reduce any of their Armagnacs, even right off the still for example. In Cognac it is not unheard of for a producer to immediately reduce the fresh spirit from 70-72% down to 60%, or some other degree, immediately off the still. Encantada is only just getting started with distilling, but they have never heard or seen this practice done in the Armagnac region. Their brut de fut is a true cask strength - no reduction at all.

On the crus, or production zones: For them, it’s not really worth the time and effort to compare crus and try to classify them. It is common for the Tenareze to have Bas-Armagnac soil, and vice versa. Even Victoire at Domaine de Danis posited this same thing: She is clearly in the Tenareze but does not make any mention of it on her labels since she has a Bas-Armagnac terroir.

Cotes de Gascogne: “Our main competitor in the region is Cotes de Gascogne.” The wine for Cotes de Gascogne costs more than the wine destined for distillation. So if a producer grows Ugni Blanc, he or she will need to decide by the end of July if he or she will make Cotes de Gascogne wine or Armagnac. Many are turning to Cotes de Gascogne since they get a better price for their wine.

On producer notoriety: “There are lots of small producers we work with, some of which will become more known than Encantada itself. For example, in the United States, take our Lous Pibous. Many folks know Pibous more than they know l’Encantada, because they love that style.” They acknowledge the role of hype in the notoriety of a small domaine or not, but ultimately they say this is positive as it draws more of the general spirits audience into Armagnac.

We can agree - and we did taste some Lous Pibous.

The Style Spectrum

When we were first walking into the cellar to taste from barrels, Frederic mentioned:

The idea is that if someone wishes to explore l’Encantada, they get a sort of entry into the world of Armagnac and its diversity and all its styles. There will be things people like and do not like, but it will be easy to see the diversity.

Just as Encantada is very proud with their role as negociant-eleveur, they too take great pride in the variety of styles they have sitting in their cellar, even styles which may seem atypical or break the traditional Armagnac codes. They are aware that people will like some styles and not others, but it’s common to enter Armagnac liking one style and developing towards another style quickly thereafter.

On diversity Vincent says, “We don’t listen to the same music all day every day,” so we should not necessarily have the same Armagnac every day. We smelled and tasted Armagnac young and old; some with yellow fruit, others with white fruit; some fruit notes were fresh, others were cooked or candied; some were young and vigorous, others were melted and hauntingly complex. There is a time and a place for any Armagnac. And wherever someone is in his or her Armagnac journey, there is a suitable Encantada Armagnac that’s for sure.

Vincent comments:

We started early on with Armagnacs which were very typically Armagnac. Very good Armagnacs, but very much in the spirit of traditional Armagnac. Aromatically speaking, they were mainly on prunes, violet, full bodied, spices, and oak. Today, we try and hit all the styles, which has its difficulties since blind they might not at all present the typical markers of Armagnac. People can get lost so we have to be very careful what we present to each person and how we present it.

He runs around from corner to corner in the chai eager to pour the next Armagnac for us to taste, pointing out its unique characteristics.

We recall some Domaine Pouy Armagnac having interesting vegetal notes and being much in the direction for whisky lovers, while some of the Cuxtan Armagnacs showed off a beautiful cooked candied pineapple. Even one young barrel of 2015 Armagnac had a light struck match sulfer note, which was actually not unpleasant. This apparently is accentuated by that particular cask so they will tinker with other barrels for that spirit to calm down that flinty note. There really is everything in the cellar.

It goes without saying the inherent aroma and flavor profile of the Armagnacs they select and bring in their chai are all very different, but Vincent’s work with the barrels also can help accentuate this diversity. Even just moving the barrel from one low corner of the cellar to a high corner has a massive impact on the Armagnac. He states, “It has a crazy impact, really a huge impact.” Similarly, older barrels can be used to “patine” the Armagnac, essentially allowing the Armagnac to settle, become more cohesive with better integrated flavors and interesting textures.

They also play around with different finishes too. Sure, they lose their Armagnac appellation status when doing a finish but nevertheless they are intrigued to play around still. We saw barrels from Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, Worthy Park, and Ledaig, amongst others in a back corner of the chai. When doing a finish, they seek to feel the finish but never forget that the underlying spirit is an Armagnac. In just over a decade Encantada has been able to develop a good network of contacts in the spirits industry. Consequently, they often exchange barrels with other spirits producers.

Let’s not forget, they can play around as much as they like but ultimately time is the common denominator in the important elevage process. Vincent and Frederic are quick to humbly point this out.

Each of the 25 different domaines in their cellar has a story that’s worth telling, and Armagnacs that have something to reveal at all ages.

The Armagnacs

All Armagnacs from L’Encantada are brut de fut - cask strength - and contain no additives whatsoever. One of the reasons they love brut de fut Armagnacs is because they linger, and always seem to have more interesting length on the palate. During our visit when we tasted easily 50 different Armagnacs, very rarely did the alcohol level ever come up in the discussion. It was secondary, and most Armagnacs wore their alcohols beautifully. For the few that were particularly intense, they are not intended to be bottled anytime soon and were poured for us to see Armagnacs at different stages of their elevage. If it has been bottled, you can be sure the alcohol level is spot on.

Concerning labels, they insist on including a maximum amount of information, such as the domaine name, vintage, bottling date, years spent in oak, lot number, distiller/producer name, bottle number, etc. For this reason, Encantada will only acquire barrels with perfect traceability so they can include all those interesting details on the labels without any issue.

For the 20 and 25 Year old blends, the batches will vary; however, they are aiming for a consistent profile - even though both Armagnacs have very different aromatic profiles. Interestingly, in a tasting they pour the 25 Year before the 20 Year old as it has a fruit profile and a richness and roundness that make it easier-access than the 20 Year. In fact, the 20 Year is an Armagnac that serves as a great gateway to their single domaine cask strength Armagnacs. Its profile is spicier, more complex, and seemingly more intense.

Before we jump into our L’Encantada selection, two other interesting comments from Frederic and Vincent stood out as perfectly encapsulating the spirit at L’Encantada:

Frederic

We are looking for gourmandise and length in the mouth - an expression of pleasure.

Vincent

We really want to share Armagnacs that create an emotion, not perfect Armagnacs since everything has faults, but Armagnacs that while tasting make us live.

During our few hours to L’Encantada, we tasted some Armagnacs already in bottle and plenty others still aging in barrels. Armagnacs from the following domaines showed outrageous quality and massive diversity: Cuxtan, La Freche, du Pin, Lous Pibous, Le Pouy, Saurine, Artigue, Labatisse, amongst others. Some will only see the light of day in the future, but it was a treat to check in on them during the crucial but time-dependent elevage process.

Armagnac L'Encantada Selection 20 ans

Armagnac L'Encantada Selection 20 ans

$ 69
excl. TAX excl. shipping

An Armagnac to bridge the gap between the 25 Year and the Encantada single domaine brut de fut offerings. Spicy, complex, increased intensity, good maturity.

Growth area Bas Armagnac

Bottle size 500ml

ABV 44.5%

More than an estate, it's the terroir that speaks here. Produced by estates that all come from the great Bas Armagnac region, this l’Encantada 20 Year old Armagnac is a supple blend. This is a highly aromatic brut de fût, typical of Bas Armagnac, reveals notes of honey on tasting.

Color: Copper-brown, warm and inviting Nose: The nose suggests great power and intensity. The dominant aroma of prunes is immediately evident, providing a deep, sweetly spiced and slightly tart character. This is beautifully complemented by the fragrant notes of vanilla, lending a gentle sweetness and comforting warmth. A hint of honey follows.

Palate: The taste profile is defined by precious woods, a flavor that adds a sense of luxury and an earthy depth. This is joined by the same honey detected on the nose, which provides a consistent sweetness across the sensory experience. The surprising addition of roasted almonds brings an enjoyable nuttiness and an added layer of complexity, offering a delicious counterpoint to the sweeter flavors.

Finish: Long and rich. It draws out the flavors in a slow, leisurely manner, allowing you to savor every note. The interplay of prunes, vanilla, honey, precious woods, and roasted almonds comes together beautifully

Armagnac L'Encantada Selection 25 ans

Easy-access. Fruit, roundness, richness. A perfect gateway Armagnac.

Growth area Bas Armagnac

Bottle size 500ml

ABV 45.5%

A blend of Bas-Armagnac and Grand Bas Armagnac, terroirs renowned for the finesse and intensely floral, fruity character of their eaux-de-vie.

Color: Orange-brown

Nose: Rich, concentrated. Imbued with classicism, the first nose reveals notes of prune and apricot. Balsamic (cedar), it evolves on toffee and tawny sands (boulbènes). Then flowers (lily, iris) spread their heady perfumes. Gradually, it becomes more exotic (mango). Figs and blood oranges add freshness.

Palate: Lively, unctuous. On the tip of the tongue, tangy notes of fresh fruit like grape and apple, and exotic fruit (passion fruit) add just the right amount of acidity. It broadens to show creamy almond milk and a slightly earthy gentian root note. The finish is naturally tertiary giving off notes of cocoa bean, black licorice, and toasted walnut. Finish: Long, finely tannic. It highlights the terroir from which it was born. The image of the hourglass and the slow passage of time jumps to mind. From fresh fruit (grape) to candied fruit (apricot) and from heady flowers (honeysuckle) to undergrowth notes (mushrooms), it steadily gains in maturity. Retro-olfaction shows ginger and cinnamon spice. Orange blossom emerges from the empty glass.

Armagnac L'Encantada Selection 25 ans

L'Encantada Domaine Du Pin 2006 Armagnac

L'Encantada Domaine Du Pin 2006 Armagnac

$ 98
excl. TAX excl. shipping

A frank attack. The first sensations are unctuousness, caramel ice cream, peach pie, roasted almonds. A hint of cinnamon appears. Aromas of nougat, notes of confectionery, baked apple and vivacity are the common thread.

Growth area Bas Armagnac

Bottle size 500ml

ABV 54.4%

Domaine du Pin is located in the small commune of Ayzieu. It lies in the north-western part of the Gers department. The region lies between the valleys of the Auzoue, Gélise, Douze and Midou, and is exposed to an oceanic climate. From the estate, you can see the Eglise du Pin, an atypical building with a half-timbered bell tower. Patrick and his wife patiently vinified and distilled 2/3 barrels a year in preparation for their retirement. It's now up to L’Encantada to ensure that this beautiful heritage lives on.

Color: Light mahogany Nose: Caramel, vanilla, spices and prunes. A few heady flowers spice things up. Dark chocolate and nougat appear after opening.

Palate: A frank attack. The first sensations are unctuousness, caramel ice cream, peach pie, roasted almonds. A hint of cinnamon appears. Aromas of nougat, notes of confectionery, baked apple and vivacity are the common thread.

Finish: A smooth, full-bodied finish. A fine vintage for rum lovers to discover.

L'Encantada Domaine Cutxan 1997 Armagnac

$ 125
excl. TAX excl. shipping

Easy-access. Fruit, roundness, richness. A perfect gateway Armagnac.

Growth area Bas Armagnac

Bottle size 500ml

ABV 41.9%

Cutxan is the name of a neighboring hamlet to this estate, located in the Bas-Armagnac region in the commune of Cazaubon, where the terroir is windy and sandy, and the site is extremely peaceful. In the autumn, only the flight of goshawks and the distinctive phonetics disturb the vines. The cellar is rather damp, and the beautiful barrels made by the local cooper sublimate these Armagnacs.

Color: Amber

Nose: Very rich aromas, we sense that this estate has much to reveal. The first nose elegantly reveals a wide range of aromas: plums, dried flowers, exotic fruits and caramelized pineapple. A hint of spice with saffron, turmeric and liquorice.

Palate: A lovely sensation of volume on the palate. This particular texture gives way to flavors of vanilla, ripe fruit and a hint of acacia honey. Finish: The finish is spicy with curry and saffron. This Domaine Cutxan is charming and evolves with every sip. We think this Armagnac changes the meaning of the word "brut de fût"...with its smoothness and persistence on the palate!

L'Encantada Domaine Cutxan 1997 Armagnac

L'Encantada Domaine le Sablé 1976 Armagnac

L'Encantada Domaine le Sablé 1976 Armagnac

$ 161
excl. TAX excl. shipping

The domaine only distilled three years: 1973, 1974, and 1976. They then pulled their vines and replanted to corn. First domaine barrel purchase by L’Encantada. Single barrel, 45 years in the same cask. Spectacular nose! Supple, elegant, fruity, tranquil. Can be enjoyed as aperitif or digestif alike. High drinkability!

Growth area Bas Armagnac

Bottle size 500ml

ABV 40.2%

In the heart of Bas-Armagnac, the village of Lagrange was home to the Le Sablé Armagnac estate, before its vines were uprooted. Only three rare and exceptional vintages were produced: 1973, 1974 and 1976. Distilled from the Baco grape variety, these eaux-de-vie are round and smooth. A typical example of the Armagnac d'auteur, it was aged for 40 years in barrels on the estate in the cellar before being transferred to dame-jeanne. Grape variety: 100% Baco.

Color: Old orange gold Nose: The initial scent that hits your nose is chocolate. This dominant aroma is rich and comforting, showing great depth. A light peppery perfume follows, adding an unexpected but delightful twist. It adds complexity, tickling the senses in a pleasant, invigorating way.

Palate: A long, persistent fullness. This full-bodied nature lingers on your taste buds long after the first sip. It shows great depth and complexity, presenting an almost tactile sensation of richness in the mouth.

Finish: A balanced interplay between the flavors and the texture. It leaves a final impression that marries the taste of the barrel—its rich, woody, almost smoky quality—with the substance and mouthfeel of the drink. Cohesive and captivating.

Wrapping up

How do we even find words to wrap up such a visit? Well, we won’t need to since Vincent eloquently summarized by saying:

We do not know where exactly we are going, but we are going.

Yes they are, and we are thrilled to have L’Encantada as part of our Bonjour Drinks selection. Special thanks to Vincent and Frederic for the hours spent during our visit. Christelle indeed jumped in to say hi and introduce herself, before getting back to her busy workload. What a fantastic third stop on this Armagnac roadtrip. Cheers Encantada. And cheers Armagnac!

Product added to wishlist
Product added to compare.
To give you the best possible experience, this site uses cookies and by continuing to use the site you agree that we can save them.  Our Privacy Policy
You have successfully followed this brand