Armagnac Tasting, Viking Ocean Cruises, Photo by Jason Leppert
Before trying armagnac onboard Viking Ocean Cruises’ Viking Star, I thought it was simply cognac by year, but I was wrong. Thanks to an expert tasting paired with chocolates I now know a bit more on the subject, even if my palate is not quite refined enough to fully appreciate the subtleties in taste.
As it turns out, both cognac and armagnac are varieties of brandy associated with a specific region; either Cognac, France or Armagnac in Gascony respectively. However, armagnac has the distinction of being the oldest French brandy.
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Viking cleverly makes its wide collection of armagnac available by age from 1935 to 1965 for specific years or aged more generically by 10, 15 or 20 years. This makes for a fun menu that lists historic events associated with each in addition to a description of the armagnac’s annual characteristics: colors, aromas, flavors, etc.
My wife and I are not hard liquor connoisseurs, but Viking bartenders like Igor on the Star’s inaugural Caribbean cruise make a tasting so enjoyable that we thought we’d give it a shot, pun intended. We even brought our plush Viking Erik to the great Torshavn nightclub and bar for some playful photo-ops.
The tasting consisted of four Sempe armagnacs paired with four Michel Cluizel chocolates. The libations were divvied up by 10, 15 and 20 years old plus a 1960, and the chocolates increased their cacao percentages as the armagnacs aged. Admittedly, my wife and I probably enjoyed the chocolate more that the drink, but sure enough there were differences to be perceived from one to the next.
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The golden colors were striking from one to the next, and the potencies of smell and taste were unmistakable. Words like oaky, leathery and earthy entered the discussion, and the drinkability and smoothness improved as we progressed. Of course, by the time we reached 100% cacao and traveled back in time to 1960, the side glass of water was becoming more welcome to wash down our palates.
Even though my wife and I will likely stick to our regulars of fine wine and craft beer, we definitely appreciate the opportunity to have tried something entirely new to us onboard. House alcoholic drinks are free to Viking guests at lunch and dinner and most complimentary throughout if the nominal Silver Spirits package is prepaid for. With so much else available freely, the $35 per person charge for the tasting is a small price to pay for such an extra novelty.