It’s a certain Marquis de Bonas who, in XIXth century, developed the Armagnac still. Unlike the Cognac still, this one allows an ongoing production of brandy thanks to a continuous distillation process called “simple heater”.
Wine in the tank initially circulates in the still from its bottom. Alcohol vapors are cooled in the coil and, in the end, brandy comes out between with 52° and 62° of alcohol. At this moment Armagnac already has a fruity flavor and aromatic richness.
They are flavors associated with the nature of the grape variety from which they originate. They are not all immediately apparent, and will be primarily released from all precursors during the fermentation. In Armagnac, they do not dominate the brandy but participate in its complexity.
The fermentation aromas
A large amount of flavors derive from the transformation of “duraison” molecules (???) during fermentation. The transformation of sugar into alcohol is accompanied by a chain of enzymatic reactions that alter significantly and exalt the initial aroma. Esters are an important factor in bringing quality fruity and floral notes, the heaviest depending on their concentration can have an intense vinous character note.
The influence of the distillation
We can’t really say there are specific distilling flavors, yet this step has a considerable influence on the balance of processed wine flavors. Some are concentrated, others are eliminated, heating the wine brings light cooking notes and finally, the strong presence of ethanol (wine alcohol) changes the volatility of substances and the perception that one can experience. Thus the aromas of grapes and fermentation are difficult to distinguish in the case of Armagnac: lime notes, pear and quince particularly characterize freshly distilled brandy (“blanche”) can be attached to both aromatic families.
After the distillation, brandy is subject at rest in casks, very relative rest in the aromatic processing. Flavors are refined, transform and evolve towards more complexity. Brandy loses some from its original fruitiness meanwhile woody aromas blend, and it reappears in the form of stewed and candied fruit.
Livestock flavors, in the case of Armagnac, include notes from extracted wooden materials and evolution aromas called “rancio”. This rancio reflects a beneficial oxidation of brandy and exchanges with certain wood constituents. In Armagnac, we will firstly find wood related flavors: oak, vanilla, cocoa, pepper. Then, the aromas of rancio: prune, candied orange, nuts and perhaps leather.
Source : BNIA