Lassalle Baque Armagnac

Armagnac Roadtrip

Uncover Lassalle Baqué

Since 2009 we’ve made a habit of roaming around the Cognac region looking for small artisanal producers. Our goal has been and always will be to tell the story of small production Cognac and to shine the light on the diversity of Cognac. But it’s only natural that we also set our sights on other French spirits, and the most obvious of all the French spirits is Armagnac. So we made a few calls, planned a few visits, jumped in the car and made this happen.

Our keen focus is to tell the story of small authentic Armagnac producers. We want to showcase their production, but we also want to crack the door open into their universe: their domaines, the history, the vines, distillation, aging and of course tasting. On the first morning of this highly anticipated regional exploration, we put 10am down on our calendars to meet Rémi Brocardo at Chateau Lassalle Baqué. One roadside-repaired flat tire - true story - and fifteen minutes later we were slowly driving up the tree lined lane ready to dive right in.

When we arrived into the courtyard at the Lassalle Baqué estate, nestled in the heart of the Ténarèze just outside of Montréal, we were immediately struck by the profound sense of authenticity and history emanating from everything our eyes took in. Rémi Brocardo, our host and the man behind Lassalle Baqué, took the time to carefully explain all facets of the domaine from its history, to the vineyards, distillation, aging, and of course the Armagnacs.

Before taking our first steps to see the vines, we couldn’t help but notice how the property itself stood as if untouched by time. Rémi explained that the Lassalle Baqué domaine was established in 1884, but that the actual site and some of its still-standing building structures were around much before then. The fort tower, one of three in the immediate area forming a triangle with the Montèal village in the middle, was erected in the 1300s. That same tower was shortened in the 1600s, and the material that was recovered from the shortening of the tower was used to expand the other section of the building. The “most recent” wing of the property was completed in 1774. Despite the relative age, here we were in front of these timeless structures which house a small but ultra-precise high quality Armagnac operation.

Rémi Brocardo took over the domaine and its production officially in 2018. Before then, between the years 1996 and 2016, there was no distillation taking place, which explains the lack of any Armagnac from those years. During that period of years, the wines were sold to the local cave cooperative. In 2017, after the short period of distillation dormancy, Rémi fired up the alambic to distill under his mother’s name, and in 2018 he officially established Chateau Lassalle Baqué under his own name - and has been distilling each year since. For the years before 1995, Rémi’s parents were at the helm making the wines and distilling small quantities each year, which would be sold to various negociants in the region. There was no bottled Lassalle Baqué Armagnac during this period of time. The first bottled Lassalle Baqué Armagnacs saw the light of day once Rémi was on board, in 2018. His older vintages come from a few select barrels that his parents kept in the cellar over the years.

It’s important to note that current production is all in on Armagnac. There are no Cotes de Gascogne wines made on site today, which is somewhat of a rarity as that is a heavily exported product and can be considered a locomotive for the region. It’s also very interesting to know that Rémi began working as a distillateur ambulant in 2014, an activity he continues to this day.

What’s immediately clear is that this is a very small estate with authenticity, humility, family, and quality at its core. But we are lightyears away from a large production here; Lassalle Baqué barely bottles 2000 Armagnacs per year. Micro quantities of the highest quality.

The Vineyard & Terroir

Moving out into the vineyards we learned that the domaine traditionally had 8 hectares of vines but has recently been expanded to its current 15 hectares. Rémi himself says it will be hard to expand beyond this amount since the labor required from doing so would be more than the mostly one-man show (Rémi) could handle. All 15 hectares of vines are situated within one kilometer of the domaine. The domaine also has another agricultural activity: 130 hectares of cereals and grains which Rémi’s father manages.

It’s natural for us to draw parallels with our beloved Cognac region. And one thing thus far is making itself very clear: Armagnac producers like Rémi at Lassalle Baqué are about on the polar opposite end of the spectrum from the brands and sometimes industrial and commercial nature of Cognac. Many small Armagnac producers have several other agricultural activities and are involved in all aspects of the domaine’s production.

Much has been said about Armagnac’s three production zones, Bas-Armagnac, Tenareze and Haut Armagnac. Lassalle Baqué’s vines are situated in the heart of the Tenareze growing area, a stunningly beautiful and hilly countryside. Several of the plots of vines are situated on a plateau with abrupt drop offs on either side. The soil is very typical of the Tenareze zone: either clay-limestone or boulbene soils. The plateau vines are primarily of the boulbene terroir, a soil type that gets so muddy following rain that Rémi cannot step one foot within the vine rows, and which gets so firm during the dry months that working the soil becomes no easy task. It's a terroir with personality, but which has all the conditions reunited to make a perfect wine for distillation.

In terms of grape varieties, Ugni Blanc is king but Rémi is putting particular emphasis to bring back Bacco. He states, “Bacco really is the grape variety par excellence for distillation. It’s major advantage is that it is very resistant to vine disease, notably mildiou and oidium.” Of the 15 hectares of vines, 3 are planted to Bacco, the rest being Ugni Blanc and some Colombard. He points out that all Bacco was ripped out from the estate from 1995 to 2000. Bacco at the time was out of fashion and even had a moment where it risked being removed from the AOC. But nevertheless, Rémi insists that it generally behaves well on acidic soils and really makes some fantastic wines for distillation. So under his watchful eye since 2018, Bacco is making a slow comeback in the Lassalle Baqué production.

While Rémi manages his vines under the “conventional” label he is quick to point out that he severely limits his treatments in the vines. On a small plot of young 1 year old vines not a single treatment has been performed. And for his other plots there are typically only 6 treatments per year, using dose amounts which are between half and quarter the normal size. For so-called trickier years in terms of climatic conditions, he’ll do 9 to 10 treatments. All of this is to say that the work in the vineyard is extremely precise, reflective, and performed with a light touch. Our stroll among the vines left us with a very strong impression that the vines were alive and well, dynamic and in very good health.

Harvest takes place in early September. Rémi prefers to harvest grapes just under the perfect ripeness. In fact, he does not want fully ripe grapes harvested. He absolutely insists on his wine for distillation to be at a lower alcohol level with a nice high acidity present.

Despite the light touch in the vineyard, there are still some climatic risks that threaten the region each year. Rémi points out that Spring always presents a risk of frost and the mid-May to mid-June period can bring in some ravaging bouts of hail. In 2022, roughly 50% of the harvest was decimated due to hail. By and large though, he says the particular microclimate of his domaine has left him largely unscathed to this point. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Distillation Wizardry

As we moved from the vines into the cellar we learned that Rémi is also a distillateur ambulant in the region. Think of this as a travelling alambic, moving from one domaine to another to perform the distillation for that producer. Rémi distills for roughly 30 small producers in the region, suggesting that he is very much part of the fabric of the Armagnac region and that he has serious know-how when it comes to distillation.

Distilling for 30 or so producers in the region affords Rémi the opportunity to distill wines from all the region’s production areas - or crus. He spends 3-4 days at each domain for all distillation duties. This also gives a small window into each producer’s production: how they work, their philosophy, their style, what they do, what they don’t do, etc. On this subject he comments that there are really two types of producers, when it comes to the vital step of distillation: The older generation that imposes the alcoholic degree from which the spirit drips from the still (53%, 54%, or 56, and so on) and the rest who give full confidence to Rémi to bring the best out of that year’s wines. As an interesting side note, Rémi estimates that roughly 15% of the region’s producers actually possess their own alambic. For the rest, they typically call on the previously mentioned distillateur ambulant, or do what is called distillation a façon.

To be clear, one vital difference from Cognac we’ve quickly learned while in the Armagnac region is that the AOC allows the eaux-de-vie to drip from the still anywhere between 52% and 72.4% alcohol (eaux-de-vie which will make Cognac leaves the still between 70% and 72% generally speaking). Producers have this choice to make, and the decision undoubtedly has a massive impact on the final product that leaves the still, and then ages for years before bottling and enjoyment. He concludes by saying, “I think that with an Armagnac single distillation we are going to allow the typicity of the terroir and the vintage to express itself more - due in large part to the lower distillation alcoholic degree. Take an eau-de-vie that drips from a still after double distillation at 70% versus one that drips from a single distillation at 55% - that’s an enormous difference.”

Aside from being a seeming encyclopedia on the principles of distillation, Rémi seems to be very in tune with distillation, regardless of if the alcohol degree is imposed or if he can find the exact sweet spot himself. We have to believe that this depth of experience shapes how he approaches distilling his own Armagnacs.

Cornering Lassalle Baqué specifically, Rémi states, “The principal distinction between Cognac and Armagnac is the distillation.” He sees quality Armagnac production as a triangle with the best quality wine at one vertex, good distillation at another vertex, and patient and attentive oak aging in the cellar at the third point. For Lassalle Baqué, Rémi makes no doubt that everything begins with the wine. Without a good wine for distillation, no good Armagnac can be made. He emphasizes that for Armagnac’s single distillation, the quality of the wine is more important compared to that of a wine to be double distilled. “Once again, the quality of the wine is primordial.” This notion is expressed multiple times and he cannot seem to stress it enough. After all, before Armagnac, there is wine.

A side note about double distillation

Max asked Rémi what the deal is with double distillation in Armagnac. On paper we know it’s allowed but rarely do we hear of anyone using an alambic Charentais. Rémi comments, “An alambic Charentais is authorized, but with conditions: If a producer has an alambic Charentais, there must also be an alambic Armagnacais on site at the distillery. And, the alambic Armagnacais must be turned on at least once during the year.” For example, if a producer wants to spend 3 months using his or her alambic Charentais and 1 day using the alambic Armagnacais, no problem. The key is the continuous column still must be in operation once during the distillation period. Interesting - and somewhat odd to say the least. Two rather large producers, Delord and Janneau, are said to double distill with an alambic Charentais. But as we now know, a continuous column still will not be far, and it will have run at least once.

The Chai

The chai at Lassalle Baqué is relatively small but very typical of the region, and contains a small back door leading to a jaw dropping beautifully tended garden. The floor is cool, somewhat damp earth, or dirt, and overall the cellar possesses a nice humidity with good ventilation. The south facing chai has good temperature variations that vary with the seasons and a particular hydrometry which allows the aging spirit to lose between 0.1-0.3% alcoholic volume per year and 3-4% total liquid evaporation per year (the angel's share). The chai itself holds roughly 60-70 hectoliters of pure alcohol. The oldest vintages are from the years just before his parents stopped distilling: 1990, 1992, and 1995. The youngest eaux-de-vie are from when Rémi took over and began distilling again - from vintages 2017 onwards.

All of the oak barrels are “pieces” of 400 to 420 liters, all made from wide grain Gascon oak. Rémi has a preference for two tonnelleries in the region: Bartholomo and Tonnellerie de l’Adour - although the former makes up the vast majority of pieces in the cellar. Although he has some medium toasted barrels for Armagnac destined for longer aging, the preferred toast (chauffe in French) is “forte,” or strong, which Rémi says gives toasted notes, good spiciness, and very importantly structures the eau-de-vie early on. However, as we have learned from our short time discussing with Rémi, nothing is done with a heavy hand. The eaux-de-vie spend anywhere from 10 to 13 months in these strong toasted barrels, depending on the alcohol level of the eau-de-vie and the grape variety. For example, colombard will spend between 10 and 11 months in these strong toasted barrels, whereas ugni blanc will spend 12 to 13 months in these toasted pieces. The eaux-de-vie get what they need and are quickly transferred to old barrels.

There will be a time in the near future where some fine grained oak is added to the cellar, but it is costly. For information, a brand new Armagnac barrel is roughly 950-990 euros, and a fine grained oak barrel of the same size is roughly 1200 euros. That’s not nothing.

The Armagnacs

Outstanding value for money

Lassalle Baqué 1990 Vintage Armagnac

$ 112
excl. TAX excl. shipping

Growth Area: Armagnac Tenarèze

ABV: 43%

Armagnac Age: Vintage 1990

Bottle Size: 70cl

The Armagnac saw a tiny reduction before bottling - from 44.5-45% down to 43%. It saw a brand new oak barrel for its first two years of aging. Subsequently, the eau-de-vie was transferred to an older barrel, leaving room for the 1992 vintage to come in.

“The 1990 is the good all-rounder. Whenever I receive visitors to the domaine who want to explore Armagnac, this is the first pour for sure. It’s easy to access, it’s gourmand, it’s aromatic, it’s got a nice richness, and the alcohol is not too present. It’s all on ripe fruit - very gourmand - but with a nicely present oak profile. So yes, a great all-rounder. It’s an Armagnac that will open with time in the glass. You can pour a glass, leave it for an hour and come back to something that has evolved in a very positive sense.”

“To differentiate between the different Armagnac growing regions, Bas-Armagnac, Tenareze, and Haut Armagnac - even though there are very few Haut Armagnac - the length is the key. In fact, Tenareze Armagnacs will very often have much better length. In the Bas Armagnac, you will have something explosive on the initial attack, very very gourmand and fine, but with a finish that vanishes quickly. For me at least that is how I can distinguish Armagnacs from each region, based on the tastings I have done.”

Lassalle Baqué 1990 Vintage Armagnac

Taylor's favorite

Lassalle Baqué 1992 Vintage Armagnac

Taylor's favorite

Lassalle Baqué 1992 Vintage Armagnac

$ 102
excl. TAX excl. shipping

Growth Area: Armagnac Tenarèze

ABV: 43%

Armagnac Age: Vintage 1992

Bottle Size: 70cl

This Armagnac did not see any new oak. Rather, after distillation it was put in the barrel that was holding the 1990 Armagnac. In short, no new oak for this 1992, and it is noticeable on the nose and palate.

“The 1992 is more intense. We are of course still on very ripe fruit and gourmandise, but with an extra dose of intensity - and more richness. About the alcohol level, I find 43% to be a good reference degree. For my Armagnacs that are reduced, 43% is my reference point. This 1992 is more for demanding palates, someone who is not getting their first introduction to Armagnac. It’s a little bit drier but the alcohol level really works well I feel. It’s a little bomb!”

Wink, wink: There is a Cask Strength version of this 1992 gem in the works. Stay tuned. It’s an aromatic bomb, essentially the same DNA as the 1992 above but amplified in all areas. Precisely, it is from the same distillation lot as the standard 1992 Armagnac above, but it is Rémi’s best 1992 barrel. The side-by-side tasting of the two is fascinating. Pure fireworks!

Lassalle Baqué XO Armagnac

$ 91
excl. TAX excl. shipping

Growth Area: Armagnac Tenarèze

ABV: 43%

Armagnac Age: XO - 30 Years Old

Bottle Size: 70cl

“So the XO could really in fact be an XXO since it’s a blend but one that is 30 years old. Same DNA, same gourmandise. There is also more of a note of orange peel and a light bitterness, which is quite interesting.”

This Lassalle Baqué XO is a supercharged XO, with an advanced age not seen too often with many other XO's - in Cognac and Armagnac alike. And it represents tremendous value for money, surpassing so many others in its class. This really is textbook Armagnac. It's got candied fruit, spice, and oak, which are a few of the hallmark markers of classic Armagnac.

This could very well be an Armagnac reference point. Depth, balance, and complexity. There's so much to like here!

Lassalle Baqué XO Armagnac

Max's favorite

Lassalle Baqué 1964 Vintage Armagnac

Max's favorite

Lassalle Baqué 1964 Vintage Armagnac

$ 235
excl. TAX excl. shipping

Growth Area: Armagnac Tenarèze

ABV: 41%

Armagnac Age: Vintage 1964

Bottle Size: 70cl

“This is less explosive for sure. Very different from the other Armagnacs, another typicity, not as focused on ripe fruit as the others. It’s definitely more on toasted and grilled notes, coffee, and other notes that are a little bit heavier. Walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts too. Interestingly, it is more lively than the 1976, despite its older age."

An Armagnac with the same DNA as the others in the Lassalle Baqué range but expresses itself differently. The fresh and candied fruit take a backseat to a multitude of nutty, spicy, and roasted and toasted notes. That all being said, it's significant age has not left many, if any, wrinkles on it at all.

Proof that Armagnac from the same producer, the same vineyards, the same cellar, etc. can produce Armagnac that share characteristic traits but still express their own unique identity. This 1964 complements the Lassalle Baqué range wonderfully.

Discover Armagnac

Our Armagnac Roadtrip

Wrapping up

Words cannot express our sincere thanks to Rémi for his time and precise patient explanations. Aside from learning everything about the great work being done at the Lassalle Baqué estate, we came away with a deeper knowledge - and appreciation - of Armagnac and its incredibly rich diversity.

Rémi is a dynamic young producer with his head on straight doing things guided by authenticity, quality, and respect - both for the spirit of Armagnac, his vines, and the consumer. We finished our visit back in the same beautiful courtyard where we began. We both were trying to digest everything we had just taken in. It was an information and sensory overload, but of the very best kind. We are so pleased to share the Armagnacs of Lassalle Baqué with any and all who are interested in Armagnac. And more importantly, we are thrilled to give you a slight glimpse into Lassalle Baqué and the great work done by Rémi. This is a domaine to watch very very closely

Things are moving here; the trajectory is positive and it is steep. Aside from now being featured on Bonjour Drinks, there will be some near future big arrivals from this domaine - and from some very serious key players in the spirits world. But for now, our priority is to highlight the diversity and work of this truly wonderful Armagnac domaine. Cheers to Lassalle Baqué.

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