Armagnac Castarède: time and verve.

Founded in 1832, Castarède is the oldest trading house of Armagnac operating on the market. Despite its age, history and tradition do not smother the verve needed to address rising challenges.

After introducing a young Cognac brand, Monsieur Baco is glad to dedicate this first Armagnac focus to a staple in the region: Armagnac Castarède. We sat down with Florence Castarède, sixth generation of the family, who is always eager to tell her spirits history with generosity.  

Florence Castarède, sixth generation
Florence Castarède, sixth generation.

From trading to production: a brief history of time.

The Maniban Castle

Starting as a trading house in 1832 Castarède became a producer in 1979 when Florence’s father bought the Château de Maniban located at Mauléon d’Armagnac in Gers. After years of rehabilitation, the Castarède family is today on the verge of seeing the restructuration of the estate reaching completion. 

“There are lots of surprises, sometimes joyful like the discovery of a fresco dating back to the 16th century. And some less positive surprises when we had to rebuilt the roof and destroy the porous cement vats that were about to make the whole building collapse. 2021 was the year when we renovated our production tools”.

Château de Maniban
Château de Maniban
Fresco from the XVIth century in the Château de Maniban.
Fresco from the 16th century

From vineyards to the cellars

The estate is certified “HVE” level 3 (High Environmental value) since 2020. Florence Castarède likes to remind that vines that are taken good care of make the base of a good Armagnac. 

“Buying tools and machinery is necessary if we want to use as less phytosanitary treatments as possible. Basically, there were 3 grapes in the vineyard: Ugni Blanc, Colombard and Folle Blanche (1 hectare). We have 16 hectares in total. Four years ago, I decided to plant some Baco. The first harvest happened last year but we lost 50% of it because of the frost. We operated a complete restructuration of the vineyard because some of our vines were older than 60 years old. We had to grub them up and plant new ones. I am replacing Ugni Blanc with Baco little by little. I do not wish to have more Folle Blanche since it is a difficult grape which is why I age it separately”.

Folle Blanche is a fragile grape and therefore had the special privilege of having its own cellar, leading to the launch of a cask strength Folle Blanche collection full of verve. Regarding the trading activities, 90% of the estates selling wine to house Castarède are located in Bas-Armagnac where tawny sands give smooth and fruity spirits. 

Vines from the estate

A smooth distillation

Completing the restructuration of the estate, the old column still has been refurbished as well. 

“I am very proud of my ancestors. I have therefore renovated the old column still of my grand-father built in 1942 which was in the former trading buildings in Lot-et-Garonne, 2 years ago. Distillation specialists told me it is a very good still because it distillates slowly around 55°. The only transformation I made was turning the heating system from wood to gaz because it is more convenient”.

Castarède also keeps on working with a travelling distiller to get 2 different spirit profiles.

Castarède's own column still before renovation.
Castarède’s own column still before its renovation

Cellars, temples of time

Once again, nothing beats the old when we are talking about aging spirits the best possible way. The barrels are made by a craft cooperage using oaks from the region.

“Regarding the aging process, we are lucky enough to have humid cellars from the 16th century with bare ground and thick walls. Cellars have a constant hygrometry and are protected from temperature variations. This helps give smooth spirits. Our products are natural. In the trading buildings the cellars are a bit drier because they are more recent”. 

Challenges galore

An uncertain sanitary and geopolitical context…

The renovation of the estate is not the only challenge Florence Castarède is facing. The market of Armagnac, like the rest of the world has undergone a series of events whose end seems to ebb day after day. After a first setback induced by the Covid epidemic, it is now the war in Ukraine and its consequences on the economy that are dampening hopes of economic rebound anytime soon.

“Usually, the 4 top countries for export are the USA, the UK, Russia and China so everybody is worried. (…) Vinexpo was a breath of fresh air and everybody was hoping to travel and meet clients again in 2022. I met my Ukrainian importer during Vinexpo and we were planning shop openings, my future tour there and 8 days later, war was upon them. We all know that the aftermath will affect dry materials, energy and economy globally speaking. We know that costs will rise, and margins and turnover will decrease. My goal is always to bound with my importers, to help them train their sales teams on the field. Since the Covid, I do online trainings, but this is not the same…”. 

… mixed with climatic variations.

Global warming does not necessarily come with hot temperatures at first as one might expect. Some regions face random climate variations such as late frost in 2021 and 2022. When asked how she sees the impact of climate change on her business, Florence Castarède explains:

“Our region has never been this rainy. And now, we are facing some frost episodes and a drop in temperatures. So, we have a lot on our plate. These climates are new to us and completely unpredictable. Everybody is wondering how to have stronger grapes”.

She highlights the strength of Baco which saved some winemakers but has almost been forbidden by the EU because it is a hybrid grape. Florence Castarède is considering creating a Baco collection like the Folle Blanche when grapevines are mature enough. 

A global brand

With 80% of the turnover coming from abroad with sales in more than 50 countries, Florence Castarède is a genuine globe-trotter. Even though she wishes to develop the presence of her Armagnacs in France, she rather bets on export to drive growth.

“2019 set a record in terms of travels as I went to Asia, Africa, Europe and in many other places. I have discovered 3 promising markets in Africa: the Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Nigeria. Africa could be a source of opportunities in a mid-term perspective. But then again, raising awareness, training sales teams properly and organizing tastings will be necessary. People from those countries like the rest of the world only know the big brands”.

She also mentions Vietnam as a potential new market.

“The French market is more complicated, and it took time for me to settle in. Armagnac is a niche product, so it needs a lot of efforts: knowing how to best talk about it, convince shop owners… Fifteen years ago, wine shop owner knew little about whisky and today it’s the opposite. The French market represent 20% of our sales. Our products are less present on the shelves because our competitors were there before us. When a wine shop already has 2 Armagnac brands, it is very difficult to make room for a 3rd one as there is little demand for this kind of product”. 

The Castarède style

The product range includes 4 blends (VS, VSOP, XO, Hors d’Âge) and many vintages (back to 1893!) as well as a 100% cask strength Folle Blanche collection. Wisdom and fieriness in bottles. 

“Smooth, aromatic, fragrant and balanced spirits is what I am looking for my Armagnacs. I do not want something pungent that attacks the nose and mouth. That’s my style. I quite liked the word some foreign journalist once used to describe our Armagnacs: ‘well-balanced’. It definitely matches what I am trying to make. To me, Armagnac is like a perfume. The heavy woody tones are not to my liking. I think that people are looking for fruit and silkiness nowadays”.

Castarède's emblem

What to pair with my Armagnac Castarède? 

As a fierce defender of dishes made with Armagnac, Florence Castarède also likes food pairing and simple but effective cocktails.

“Regarding food pairings, I like what is sweet with Armagnac, especially desserts. All fruits except red fruits go well with Armagnac. Chocolate as well but not a bitter chocolate, rather a smooth chocolate. I also love Armagnac and foie gras. In terms of cocktails, I like sharing a simple Armagnac tonic with friends. I kind of like all cocktails especially those which are fruity and sweet. Generally speaking, I do not think that bitterness is a good match for Armagnac”. 

When asked what music she would associate with her spirits, she answers: “Joyful music. Classical or modern, whatever, but some lively and catchy music”. As a way to conjure the doldrums and boost her natural optimism to face the challenges ahead.

Technical specifications & tasting notes

The products range

The estate’s production is mainly incorporated to the trading part, bottled under the brand Armagnac Castarède. However, a fraction of this production is also bottled under the brand Château de Maniban. The other brands Armagnac Nismes Delclou and Armagnac Marquise de Livry are mainly destined to foreign markets while the brand Gaspar de M. is a range of Armagnac dedicated to mixology

General information

  • The brand has been labeled ‘Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant’ in 2016 which is a label recognizing and protecting craftmanship.
  • Terroir: Château de Maniban and 90% of the estates selling their production to Castarède are located in Bas Armagnac.
  • Vineyard management: the 16 hectares are labeled “HVE niveau 3” (High Environmental Value, level 3).
  • Grapes: Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche (1 hectare) and a growing part of Baco meant to replace some of the Ugni Blanc vines.
  • Cellars: humid cellar of the XVIth century for the estate and a more recent and drier cellar for the trading part.  
  • ABV of the new make spirit: around 55° for the house’s own column still. 
  • All spirits are bottled pure except the VS which is sometimes very lightly sweetened. 

Armagnac Castarède can be purchased on their website or directly in their showroom in Paris (140, boulevard Haussmann, 75008 Paris). 

Tasting notes

The samples have been offered. Each tasting took around 1 hour using the same tulip glass. The Cuvée des 190 ans was tasted in September 2023.

Cuvée des 190 ans

Castarède, Cuvée des 190 ans.
  • Age: 3 years old.
  • ABV: 42°.
  • Grape: baco (first harvest, 2020).
  • Suggested price: 41€.
  • Volume: 70cl (Green Gen Bottle, made from organically-sourced linen fibres).

Colour: gold.

Nose: opens on rather floral and herbaceous tones with notes of dandelions, hay along with some buttery notes. The second ground is characterised by citrus notes (bergamot, combawa, orange blossom) and hazelnut notes. Some notes of caramel and a growing freshness (eucalyptus) can be felt on the back ground.

Palate: the attack id moderate. The mid-palate is sharp, slightly ‘alcoholous’ with wooden notes and notes of black pepper and bitter cocoa. A hint of liquorice can be felt with retro-olfaction. The finale is rather long, underpinned by some bitterness and notes of dark chocolate.


Armagnac Castarède, VSOP
  • Age: 6/8 years old.
  • ABV: 40°
  • Grapes: Ugni Blanc, Colombard.
  • Suggested price: 63€
  • Volume: 70cl.

Colour: yellow amber

Nose: flowers (dandelions, chamomile), hay, some bee wax notes on the foreground. The background is spicier with a touch of nutmeg, yellow curry powder, mild chocolate. There are some discrete notes of fruits (peaches, ‘mirabelles’, oranges). After some time, hints of dry fruits (almonds, hazelnuts) and candied fruit cake come up.

Mouth: the attack is straightforward. There are some milk chocolate and spices (carvi, cloves, a hint of cardamom) on the mid-palate. The finish is oaky and slightly floral with medium length. 

Empty glass: carvi, cocoa, allspice, cut flowers. 


Armagnac Castarède, XO
  • Age: 20 years and more. 
  • ABV: 40°.
  • Grapes: Ugni Blanc, Colombard.
  • Suggested price: 105€
  • Volume: 70cl

Colour: deep amber.

Nose: there is a certain aromatic density. Nose opens on ripe fruits (cooked red plums, hint of figs). After some time, some light notes of prunes, raisins, toasted hazelnuts, honey roasted peaches and preserved cherries. On the background, some discrete notes of carvi and verbena can be felt alongside some rancio. With more time, cocoa and dry fruits aromas develop. 

Mouth: the attack is mild. The structure is rather straight with dry fruits (hazelnuts, pecans) on the mid-palate. The finish is warm and rather long with notes of Sichuan pepper.

Empty glass: candied plums, sweet spices, and dry fruits. 

1982 vintage: 

Armagnac Castarède, 1982 vintage.
  • Age: 40 years old
  • ABV: 40°.
  • Grapes: Baco, Ugni Blanc.
  • Suggested price: 145€/50cl and 200€/70cl. 

Colour: amber

Nose: very intense, almost animal. There are notes of varnish, tobacco, incense, and fresher notes of honeysuckle. After some time, fruity notes appear (candied quince, candied citrus) and spices on the background (black pepper, nutmeg). 

Mouth: the attack is mild, but the mid-palate is sharp and dry with fruit (dates, mandarins, red plums). The finish is dry, almost tangy, and rather long. 

The empty glass is surprisingly fresh, floral, reminding of a garden after the summer rain. Some more pastry notes are there as well (‘cigarettes russes’).

Collection Cigare:

Armagnac Castarède, Cigare Collection.
  • Age: 25 years old minimum. 
  • Terroir: Ténarèze.
  • Grapes: Ugni Blanc.
  • ABV: 44°
  • Suggested price: 125€
  • Volume: 50cl.

Colour: coppery amber.

Nose: the opening is powerful and oaky with notes of polished wood and varnished. Notes of sweets (caramel, ‘chouchous’ (caramelized peanuts) on the second ground. On the background, notes of exotic flowers, sweet spices (vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, and cinnamon) and cooked fruits (roasted pineapple and apple) can be felt. After some time, spices take the lead with notes of carvi, liquorice and the rancio asserts. 

Mouth: the attack is rather soft on spices (cloves, nutmeg). The mid-palate is dry and characterized by the rancio that lingers until the finish. The finish is very long and marked by some coffee beans and tobacco notes. 

Brut de fût – 8 ans.

Armagnac Castarède, Folle Blanche, 8 years old cask strength.
  • Age: 8 years old.
  • Grape: Folle Blanche.
  • ABV: 52° (cask strength).
  • Suggested price: 125€
  • Volume: 70cl.

Colour: deep amber. 

Nose: surprisingly discrete regarding the high ABV. There are some floral notes (linden, a touch of violet), as well as some acacia honey and a touch of caramel. On the background, some spice can be felt (carvi). 

Mouth: the attack is sharp. The mid-palate is marked by mild tobacco and violet. The finish is of medium length. Overall, the alcoholic strength is well integrated.

Empty glass:  raisins and linden. 


I really liked the 25 years-old (cigar collection) which complexity and length impressed me. The intensity of the 1982 vintage also really pleased me. The VSOP is a bright and ‘luminous’ spirit while the XO shows a more classic style. The Folle Blanche cask strength is perhaps less complex than the others but has a good balance between subtlety and power. I would like to taste the older versions. Prices are not cheap though but the balance Florence Castarède is so eager to keep can be globally found in the different spirits (except perhaps in the 1982). The Cuvée des 190 ans (first baco harvest) presents an expressive, balanced and quite delicate nose but maybe lacks a bit of tenderness on the palate.

In a nutshell

Available in more than 50 countries, Castarède is the oldest trading house of Armagnac operating on the market. The acquisition of the Château de Maniban, a castle from the 16th century, in 1979 enabled the family to produce some of the spirits they sell. The brand Armagnac Castarède include blends (VS, VSOP, XO, Hors d’Âge), vintages dating back to 1893 as well as a cask strength Folle Blanche collection. In terms of style, Florence Castarède always favours balanced spirits over oaky or pungent spirits.

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