Armagnac (/ˈɑːmənˌjæk/; French pronunciation: [aʁ.maˈɲak]) is a distinctive kind of brandy produced in the Armagnac region in Gascony, southwest France. It is distilled from wine usually made from a blend of grapes including Baco 22A, Colombard, Folle blanche and Ugni blanc, traditionally using column stills rather than the pot stills used in the production of Cognac. The resulting spirit is then aged in oak barrels before release.
Armagnac is traditionally distilled once at 52% of alcohol, which results initially in a more fragrant and flavorful spirit than Cognac, where double distillation takes place. However, long aging in oak barrels softens the taste and causes the development of more complex flavours and a brown colour. Aging in the barrel removes a part of the alcohol and water by evaporation (known as part des anges—"angels' tribute" or "angels' share") and allows more complex aromatic compounds to appear by oxidation, which further modifies the flavour. Alcohol is naturally reducing by an average of 0.4% per year depending on the characteristics of the cellars. When the Armagnac is considered as matured, it is transferred to large glass bottles (called "Dame Jeanne") for storage. The main difference between Armagnac and other spirits is that, due to its relatively low proof, it is generally not diluted with water and therefore does not require flavor or colour enhancers as do the major other brandies.
Armagnac is sold under several different classifications, mostly referring to the age of the constituent brandies. Armagnac is allowed to be sold under vintages. When Armagnacs of different ages have been blended, the age on the bottle refers to the youngest component. A three star, or VS, Armagnac is a mix of several Armagnacs that have seen at least two years of aging in wood. For VSOP, the aging is at least five years; and for XO, at least six. Hors d'âge means the youngest component in the blend is at least ten years old. Older and better Armagnacs are often sold as vintages, with the bottles containing Armagnac from a single year, the year being noted on the bottle.