Situated in southwest France, Maison Castarède was founded during the reign of Napoleon III and is the oldest armagnac trading house in the world. At the time of its founding in 1832, demand for armagnac was soaring as many believed that its consumption had therapeutic effects — doctors often distilled and prescribed the spirit in order to cure digestive and kidney ailments. Today, armed with six generations of family experience, Florence Castarède continues to shepherd her family legacy onward at the distillery founded by her great-great-great-great grandparents.
Castarède Reserve de la Famille 20 Year Old Armagnac is made from three unique types of grapes: Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Follie Blanche. While "cognac is almost entirely dominated by one grape variety," says Castarède, "there are more than 10 grape varieties permitted to be used in making armagnac. This allows a much broader range of flavors to be found in the final spirit." After the grapes are harvested, they are pressed and fermented into a white wine, before being distilled in a single pass through a traditional alembic still.
Following distillation, the armagnac is aged for a minimum of twenty years in hand-coopered Monlezun oak casks. Monlezun oak tends to be more tightly grained and richer in tannins as compared to French Limousin oak, and is ideal for a slower maturation process. Once the armagnac has begun aging in the Monlezun oak casks, the casks are stored in Maison Castarède's two cellars. The first cellar, which is situated on the banks of the BaÃ¯se River and is over a century old, enjoys a remarkable isothermic environment as a result of its unique location (a portion of the cognac maturing in this cellar is over 125 years old). The second cellar is situated in Mauléon d'Armagnac and is surrounded by Maison Castarède's vineyards.
After a two decade-long beautyrest, each cask of Castarède Armagnac is brought to proof before being bottled by hand. Castarède Reserve de la Famille 20 Year Old Armagnac has a rich, harmonious aroma of ripe fruits, chewy leather and cinnamon. The aroma gives way to notes of roasted coffee, butterscotch, vanilla and honey on the palate, which are well-balanced by a creamy, vanilla undertone. The finish, which is long and sweet, has a hint of caramel.
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