Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Context: Darroze has had a difficult spot working its way into my brandy rotation. My first experience with their product was right at the beginning of my brandy tasting, smack in the middle of a couple K+L drops featuring: ‘87 and ‘74 Jean-Bons, the 1981 Cardinat, and #188 Lou Pibous. During one of those purchases, I also tossed in a bottle of Darroze Les Grand Assemblages 20 year. It played light next to the inky goodness of those higher proof, oak-soaked pours. A couple Darroze vintage samples that I tracked down also played lighter - more balanced/linear, fruiter and spicier - than the oddballs K+L was rolling out for us bourbon converts. In my limited exposure, Darroze’s style wasn’t as loud or captivating as the other armagnac I’d tried, but the biggest hurdle to exploring more Darroze was the price tag in Chicago. Instead of ‘80s and ‘90s vintage armagnac being $100 like those K+L picks, 80s-90s vintages were $180-$300. Instead of 1970s going for sub-$150 like the Jean-Bon (which is just ridiculous), they were priced $300-$400. It’s not that the price tags were unfair for what they offered. It was just too much for me to roll the dice with for experiment’s sake. At that price, I wanted a sure thing (and still do).
It’s crazy how much those early K+L bottlings shaped my expectations for profile and price as I continued exploring brandy. Over the last year though, some really exciting teenage Couzard-Lassalle Darroze bottlings and a wonderful vintage tasting through Bodin Street Wine & Spirits got me excited enough to try and track some Darroze down outside of the Chicago market.
1972 Pounon - Darroze - Baco - Bas-Armagnac - 48.2% Nose: This great. Balanced and layered: caramel, oak, grape, florals, milk chocolate. Even a touch of funky/spicy BO. Nice harmony between the disparate parts. Flavor: Quick caramel into tart fruits and bitter oak. Finish goes high and dry and drops most of the flavor beside the oak. Palate Structure: Lacks some structure on the palate. Sort of flabby despite the short length and high notes. Palate seems very muddled after the nose. Alcohol Integration: Heat is fine. But there's not enough umph to clarify some of the noses and it drinks like when I muddy up a pour with too many drops of water - lower complexity, less action, amped up oak.
Score: 4 (Not Vocally Complaining) The nose is really good - full of clarity and character. Then the rest happened.
1987 Pounon - Darroze - Baco - Bas-Armagnac - 48.2% Nose: Roasty and nutty. Strawberry shortcake. Faint brine. Deeper and more dynamic than the ‘72. Flavor: All the roasty sweets hit up front. There are hints of spicy/meaty/rot-y notes that I really dig. The oak drives it home, flirting with some dried red fruits along the way. A splash of fresh fruit at the very tail end. Palate Structure: More of a traditional witch's hat structure here. Clarity and complexity is improved. Alcohol Integration: Weight and length seem improved despite similar ABV.
Score: 7 (Highly Recommend) Very good, but not overly memorable. The structure is simple and familiar. The notes pleasant, but you don't find yourself coming back to them the next day. You’d Dig These If You Like: Bourbon: medium aged, fruit forward
Rating System 10 - Reevaluate The Budget 9 - Stash Two (If Able) 8 - Stash One (At The Right Price) 7 - Highly Recommend It To Strangers 6 - Solid - Above Average 5 - Acceptable For The Situation 4 - Not Vocally Complaining 3 - Wish I Was Drinking Something Else 2 - Nothing Nice To Say 1 - Drain Pour