There are not many big players in the American armagnac market, but Astor Wines in New York has put themselves at the center of it, alongside K&L Wines on the other coast. They regularly have a significant selection of brandies and bring in their own cask picks with some regularity. Unfortunately this particular cask has sold out, but there are always new picks available and their quality has reportedly been pretty consistent.
This brandy was distilled from 100% folle-blanche grapes in 1994, filled into a new oak cask, then bottled in 2017 at 48.2% without coloring, chill filtration, or additives.
Château de Pellehaut 23 Year 1994/2017 100% Folle-Blanche
Nose: strong oak and maple syrup, sweet grapes, honey, nougat, vanilla, nutmeg, allspice, fresh hay. After adding a few drops of water it becomes softer but more muddled, with less well-defined oak, but more unripe fruit/grape notes come out along with something dry and almost grainy
Taste: strong barrel and grape sweetness up front, backed by a significant amount of oak that becomes syrupy and more tannic with something savory in the background as it moves towards the back, and a bump of fruity esters and orange peel around the middle. After dilution the sweetness remains strong, the oak fades a bit and integrates into the whole, and the savory note at the back turns into a slightly acidic citrus/fruit note alongside gentler tannins.
Finish: rather long - oak tannins, syrupy grape sweetness, spicy/acidic prickles, a savory fade out
This one took me a while to wrap my head around it. It definitely requires some time in the glass to open up and I needed multiple tastings before I could work my way through the oak to get at the other components. With that said, I actually found this more in balance than some of the younger casks I tried, largely because the sweetness has expanded to a point where it is not overwhelmed by the more bitter tannins. My only complaint is that I wish the savory character I found in the finish had been more assertive as I feel like that would have made for a more interesting and complex experience, but it's a fairly small quibble. Water definitely helps to soften the oak, but you have to like the acidic fruit character that pops out. Overall this was a quality cask and a good pick.