Janneau have been producing France’s oldest spirit since Pierre Etienne Janneau founded the maison in 1851.Today Janneau is not just one of the oldest of the great houses but also the world’s leading brand of Armagnac – available in 80 countries worldwide. Key to the quality of Janneau’s Armagnacs are its distillery and cellars in Condom, an ancient city located in the heart of the Armagnac region. Uniquely, Janneau are the only major house that distils, blends and ages its own stocks under its own roof. Many other Maisons will produce their ‘Eau du Vie’ at a cooperative distillery or by using one of the regions classic ‘mobile stills’ which travel from producer to producer. Having access to their own distillery gives Janneau complete control over the quality and personality of their Armagnac. Armagnac is distilled from the region’s white wines, made from Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanc and Baco. Like most of the region’s larger producers, Janneau are not vineyard owners or winemakers. This means that they are not tied to a single vineyard and have the freedom to source the best wines of the vintage from any of Armagnac’s three sub regions – favouring the best – Bas Armagnac and Ténarèze.
Janneau has access to one of the largest stocks of old Armagnac, 10% of the region’s stocks over 10 years old
Janneau is also the only major producer to use both types of distillation permitted in the region. Since the 1300’s Armagnac has been distilled in copper pot stills, similar to the ones used in Cognac. This all changed in the early 1800’s with the invention of the column still. Its efficiency and practicality as a ‘mobile still’ made it an instant hit with the region’s producers. So much so that by 1903 it was the only legally permitted method. Column stills extract a heavy and aromatic ‘Eau du Vie’ rich in essential oils.
This is ‘fiery’ when young but after extended ageing will produce rounded and profoundly complex brandies. Pot stills on the other hand, only capture ‘the heart’ of the distillation, producing a deeply fruity and smooth ‘Eau du vie’ that is more approachable when young. In the early 1970’s Janneau recognised the importance of pot distillation and fought to reverse the legislation of 1903. By 1972 they had succeeded in returning the ‘original’ distillation method to Armagnac. Today Janneau enjoys the best of both worlds blending ‘eau du vie’ from its pot and column stills to produce Armagnacs that are attractive both in youth and in age.
After distillation Armagnac is matured in oak casks sourced from the local forests of Gascony and Limousin. Janneau have the single largest stock of aged Armagnac in the world – more than 10% of all Armagnac over 10 years old. More than 65% of this stock is over 12 years old. Today it is still matured in the original ‘Paradis’ cellar built by Pierre Etienne Janneau in 1853. Here two floors of ancient Armagnac sit silently in their casks, patiently waiting for Janneau’ s cellar master Philippe Sourbes to use his 35 years of experience at the maison to craft them into blends. In striving to produce the best quality of Armagnac possible, Janneau will always exceed the region’s legal minimums: a classic blend like the XO has to be aged for a minimum of 10 years, for Janneau this minimum is 13 years with some maspects of the blend being as old as 30 years. This would not be possible mwithout access to unparalleled stocks of old Armagnac.