Spirits/Armagnac/Domaine de Baraillon
Domaine de Baraillon - Bas-Armagnac
When driving by Domaine de Baraillon, you wouldn’t know that they produce armagnac except for the large barrel on the side of the road that has the name of their family written on it. Their home sits back from the road just outside Lannemaignan on the Gers/Landes border, surrounded by sunflower, corn and wheat fields, as well as vineyards. If you choose to make your way down the short drive, you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing collections of Gascon nectar you can find in the region.
The Claverie family has occupied their house since 1749. When parking your car in front of it, you will notice ducks, geese and perhaps a dog running around, and several outbuildings containing farm equipment, old cars and rarely-used tools. It’s what one might refer to as a ramshackle property: things have not been tidied up for the tourists. It’s one of the reasons that we love the Domaine de Baraillon: it doesn’t get much more authentic than this.
The Claverie’s armagnacs are a blend of two properties: 4 hectares belonging to patriarch Paul’s sister in Le Freche and 12 hectares surrounding his house, planted in Baco, Colombard and Ugni Blanc. They once used the distiller Loubere in Labastide d’Armagnac, but in 2012 bought their own still in which they now transform their wines into spirit. The fresh eau de vie normally goes into 5,000 liter vats before being transferred into barrels, some new, some older. Every couple of years, he aerates his armagnacs to promote oxidation. Every so often, he will blend all of the barrels from an individual vintage to ensure consistent color and taste.
Paul is now in his late seventies, and his daughter Laurence gives her father a firm helping hand. They have two chais, one in a building constructed in the eighties that houses the still and more recent vintages. And a smaller building, closer to the house, that lodges vintages from the sixties and seventies, as well as a well-curated collection of vintages dating back to the late 1800s, distilled by Paul’s father and grandfather. In this dark building laced with cobwebs, time stands still.
Domaine de Baraillon - Bas Armagnac - 1998
video: Oscar Beckmann and Michael Housewright
Between this paradise and the family house is a small tasting room. Against a wall they used to have a table that was haphazardly covered with bottles, upon which each one had a vintage written on a white sticker. Visitors were allowed to taste whatever they liked: you want some 1923—there it is, go ahead. Some 1955, help yourself! You talk about being a kid in a candy shop!
They have since arranged the bottles in a more orderly fashion atop some shelves on the wall. But the same hospitality remains, offering the unique chance to taste over a century of spirits distilled and aged on one single property.