I recently had a patient who takes a shot of brandy every night before bed. For this essentially recovered patient, I was trying to get the routine re-normalized, so I obtained some brandy. I had to have someone go to the store for me, and the delivery ended up being Remy-Martin cognac.

That Remy-Martin smelled so good when I poured it over ice in a plastic hospital cup! So when I got home, I broke out my bottle of armagnac.

For a long time, I couldn't find armagnac in my town. When it turned up, it was a lot more expensive than cognac. But it is also a small production area. Since cost is a reflection of scarcity, armagnac's prohibitive price is no guarantee of anything. What are the chances of getting a good bottle of a rare spirit in a small town? But I decided to try it anyhow.

I have to say I have been disappointed.

Corvoisier, Remy-Martin, and Hennessy cognacs are all distinctive. Remy-Martin is sweeter, fruitier, and smoother. Corvoisier has more casket flavor, more appropriate for smoking than food. Hennessy is trending toward Corvoisier from Remy-Martin, but subtley.

I would say that this armagnac has earthier tones compared with the cognacs--more mineral and plant than fruit or casket. However, it is, comparatively, extremely harsh. I had to add water to open it up, as you would with a Scotch. Even then, from one mouthful to the next I am vasilating between thinking I can detect a variety of undertones of flavor and hoping the skin in my mouth will still be there when I'm done drinking.

Of the two armagnacs in my town, I purchased the cheaper, which was expensive. The other is aged 25% longer and costs 50% more. Knowing myself, I will buy it to try it, but unless there is a clear improvement, I am going back to my cognacs.