Maryse Escoubet is one of the two Armagnac producers to own a boutique on the Place Royale in Labastide-d’Armagnac, a real treasure trove for the region’s eaux-de-vie. Visitors, welcomed by Maryse or by Mathieu, will become acquainted with these floral nectars from Bas-Armagnac very quickly. “Some, mainly women,” says Maryse, “are a bit scared to taste because they think it’s too strong. So, I invite them to come and see for themselves”. Enthusiasts get to join in a tasting initiation of homemade eaux-de-vie from the Domaine de Luquet. First of all, they learn to appreciate the colour, then gently swirl the alcohol in the glass (which can be warmed up by holding in the palm of the hand) so that its molecules, after colliding with each other, gradually release their aromas. After having delicately sniffed with the tip of the nose, they moisten their tongue and palate, on a quest to discover notes of violet, vanilla, plum, candied citrus fruit, cocoa or woody tastes embraced inside the amber liquid.
An alcohol from 1964
Maryse, who owns a small 7-hectare estate where only 2 are covered with vines, has however a substantial stock of old alcohols, with the oldest dating back to 1964. Among the most well-loved are that of 1995, powerful and woody, of 2000, with great fruit harmony and exquisite notes of rancio, and those of 1989 and 1990. The 1977 is a highly-rare, unusual vintage, and the “blanche”, still colourless, as it has not been in contact with the oak, is a must-discover. For aperitifs, as original cocktails or ice-cold for tasting foie gras and smoked salmon, it is one of the lesser known treasures of the AOC (PDO).
Baco grape variety
After the tasting session, visitors can tour the estate. Located less than 5 kilometres from the boutique, in the village of Betbezer-d’Armagnac, Domaine de Luquet is a recently-restored old farm comprising 3 buildings and housing a large, half-buried ageing cellar. Since 2000, the vineyards have been planted with pure Baco variety vines, very well adapted to the tawny-coloured sandy soil of Bas-Armagnac and appreciated for the roundness and smoothness it gives to eaux-de-vie. In the past, however, there was also the Ugni-Blanc variety, and even the Folle-Blanche (aka Piquepoult), whose very fruity fragrances highlight the elegance of one of the estate’s rare 1999 vintages.
And, it’s here that, come autumn-time, grapes are harvested and distillation takes place using a mobile still. Before the long ageing process in oak casks (420-425-litre barrels), where floral and fruity flavours from distillation blend perfectly with ripe fruit, grilled and woody notes from the wood tannins.
The Domaine de Luquet sells vintage Armagnac, a VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), a blend from the casks selected, from the Blanche d’Armagnac and the Armagnac fruit. The boutique is open in July and August every day from 10am to 7pm, including Sundays. Spring and autumn: from Tuesday to Sunday, 10:30am to 6:30pm.
Maryse Escoubet, 19 place Royale, 40240 Labastide-d’Armagnac.
Tel: +33 (0)5 58 44 81 24.