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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 12/ 3/2010

Spirits: But you are, Blanche, you are

By Jason Wilson

In this week's column, I dealt broadly with brandy, one of the six primary liquor categories (along with gin, vodka, rum, tequila, and whiskey). Brandy, of course, encompasses such vastly different individual spirits and regions that it's more difficult to develop a thorough understanding as it is with some of the other categories. But one thing we can say about brandy is that Americans don't have enough of an appreciation of it. That is something that I hope will change.

As it happens, this week I have been traveling in Gascony, in southwest France, visiting numerous producers of Armagnac. Despite the locals' attempts to engorge me with their foie gras at every meal, as well as with unending Three Musketeers references, I have very much enjoyed several days of tastings. Armagnac is one of the world's great brandies, rivaling those of nearby Cognac. I will write a much more expansive take on this trip in next few weeks, so look out for that.

In the meantime, I wanted to pick up the discussion of white brandies that started this week, and mention a very interesting one that I encountered on my Armagnac journey. In my column, I noted the growing interest in white brandies, such as premium pisco from Peru and Remy Martin's new Remy V product.

In Armagnac, nearly every producer now makes a Blanche, a white brandy. In fact, there is actually now an appellation for Blanche, which was created only in 2005. Unlike Armagnac, Blanche rests a minimum of just months after distillation (in neutral containers without any wood contact) before it is bottled and released. If this rings a bell, it's very much like the way high-quality pisco is made in Peru.

One of the key differences is that Blanche is distilled from different grapes, mainly Ugni Blanc, Baco, and Folle Blanche (same as what eventually becomes Armagnac after barrel aging).

At the moment, Blanche is being marketed as a alternative to vodka or other white spirits for use in cocktail making. I see it as something that could be used interchangeably in cocktails that call for pisco such as the Pisco Sour, Pisco Punch, or the Lima Lima that recommended this week ... though you would then call it a Gascony Gascony, I guess.

Wilson is the author of "Boozehound" (Ten Speed Press, 2010). He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter.

By Jason Wilson  | December 3, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Spirits  | Tags:  Jason Wilson, spirits  
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Eaux-de-vie in general are very much an acquired taste.

The traditional wood-aged Armagnac is more accessible than, for example, grappa or marc. And it's too good by itself to be used as a mixing liquor.

This "white-spirit" Armagnac seems like nothing more than a way to get the alcohol to market quickly and cheaply.

Posted by: heinpe | December 4, 2010 10:03 AM | Report abuse

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