October... Distillation begins in the wine cellars of Armagnac. The still is the centre of attention, this intriguing copper machine with its complex system of tubes.  Let us explain.


Old still -  Ognoas

The still is a copper machine which is used for distillation. From distilling white wine, we obtain a colourless eau de vie with an alcohol percentage which is usually between 52% and 60%. Patiently blended and matured, this liquid eventually becomes a truly special elixir: Armagnac .

To fully understand the distillation process, you'll need to go to Domaine d’Ognoas.
This estate has the oldest still in Gascony. It dates back to 1804! Applying the technique of continuous distillation, the still is based on scientific discoveries made in the Age of Enlightenment.
Every year, it heats and produces 150 hectolitres of Armagnac, a superior eau de vie which has had AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) status since 1905.


Still -  Armagnac distillation

The Armagnac still also employs the classical Archimedes screw technique. A blade made up of 43 copper plates causes movement in the liquid to allow it to move from plate to plate using an overflow system and reach a second heater.

Due to the strong heat produced by the stove, the wine vapours rise against the current and "bubble" in the wine where each plate is located. We call this the bubbling of alcohol vapours. They absorb the alcohol and the aromatic substances properties of the wine.  From there, the vapours are transferred by a swan-neck towards the coiled pipes, where they condense and cool down.

The eau-de-vie produced by this distillation process will be put into wooden barrels to become Armagnac.

Next step: the maturation cellar to find out about the mysterious alchemical secret known as "the Angels' share"...

Marilys Cazaubieilh (CDT des Landes - Updated 22/03/2017)