December 2018's Selection – Samalens Single 8 Armagnac
To see you safely through the depths of winter we've chosen a warming French brandy – the beautiful Samalens Single 8 Armagnac.
Armagnac is a grape brandy. Basically distilled wine. It’s produced in the Armagnac region of south-west France – south of Bordeaux and west of Toulouse, and not a million miles from the Spanish border.
Samalens is an Armagnac producer with great history, dating back to 1882. But yet it hasn't been afraid to try new things.
Samalens is actually one of the biggest Armagnac producers (though they're still tiny compared with the well-known Cognac houses). They have eight stills in their distillery, including one constructed in the 19th century – and their oldest cellar reserves date back to 1888.
The distillery sources its wines from the Bas Armagnac area, which is known as the "best" appellation. The topsoil is composed of boulbène, an alluvial sandy deposit left by the sea, which adds a delicacy and complexity to Samalen's Armagnacs. The wood for their new barrels is taken from local forests in Gascony.
The Samalens Single 8 is an Armagnac that has taken inspiration from whisky production methods – hence why the bottle is shaped like a whisky, rather than the more flattened bottle of most Armagnacs.
While Samalens has the full gamut of traditonal brandies, defined in broad age categories from VS to XO, it has also developed a range it calls Single – aged from 8 to 15 years.
The Single 8 is produced from just one variety of grape: ugni blanc from Bas Armagnac. This acidic grape means a greater proportion of flavour-giving chemicals will survive through distillation. After fermenation, the wines are distilled in both column and pot stills to create a variety of eaux de vie, which are later blended together.