L’Encantada Domaine Le Freche has joined a short and vaunted list of serious personal favorites. I will literally go out of my way to chase a good bottle down. You a fan of super big old sherried whisky (I’m talking Glendronach, Aberlour, Tamdhu)? Not afraid of some of the more neurotic characteristics of Edradour or Springbank? I just open a whole new can of Joy on your ass. You can thank me later.
We’re going to go on a bit of a magic journey. Go grab a dram. A good one. Something that makes you go huh. Challenges you a little. Kick back and let’s talk armagnac.
Never tried le Freche? Check out some of my latest reviews:
Why is this a question?!? Le Freche is on the Map.
The world of armagnac is small batch. We are talking about farm stock. Most vineyards in the region make wine and produce a small handful of casks. 95% of armagnac is distilled in a small mobile still towed by a tractor from farm to farm. The mobile stills even have names, and the farms often request the same one each year. Can you have Big Bertha pull up in two weeks?!? I really wish this was legal in the USA. Imagine all those apple orchards in Washington state, each with a couple barrels of apple brandy. What a marvelous thing that could be.
Where it gets funky is genealogy. Farms pass between hands as they are inherited or purchased. Grapes are replanted due to changes in fashion, technology or disease. So many things make a farm and its armagnac into something totally different. And getting to the point of this journey, when a negociant (indie bottler) makes a big acquisition and bottles a bunch, the distiller might not want their brand associated. Think about how draconian Lagavulin and Glenfarclas are protecting their brand from Indies (another unnamed Islay or highland).
A number of us have often wondered… who is L’Encantada Domaine Le Freche? Chasing down an Armagnac is a masterclass game of Clue. Was it Adam in the cellar with the whisky thief?!? Wait, I doubt the vintners call it that. Cask crook? Barrel bandit? Puncheon pirate? Butt burglar? Demijohn devil? Tun trickster? Gorda gangster?
Let the Games Begin: Credit Due
Our prodigious reviewer of Armagnac and other spirits, Adam Clary, after over 2 years of speculation and searching, may have finally solved the mystery of the true identity of L’Encantada’s “Domaine Le Freche” with a clutch assist from Steven. He shared this on Serious Brandy on Facebook in 2020 and I have his permission to refine it for this article and share. I actually have about 150 of his Armagnac reviews and the permission to publish them, so expect to see a heck of a lot of goodness coming your way. But I’m lazy and have my a hundred of my own damn reviews to punch out.
This was a rabbit hole where Adam spent considerable time. I am not just going to drop the name without fully explaining. Because DAMN IT, you need to read the full fruits of his labor. Or you can cheat and go to the bottom, because honestly, most of you aren’t actually going to quality test the thesis anyways. You’ll just believe it because it is on the Internet. The truth of our times.
Unfortunately, Vincent of L’Encantada is unable to share the true name of the domaine due to an agreement with them. This is fully understandable and good business practice. But that doesn’t stop myself and others from trying to figure it out anyway. I want to be able identify the farmers who pour passion into this product.
What do You Mean L’Encantada Domaine Le Freche is NOT in Le Freche?!?
The problem with my 2 year long search was that I was always looking in Le Freche, a commune in armagnac, for my answer (duh). It turns out that this estate is not in Le Freche. It is in Labastide d’Armagnac right along the border of Le Freche (d’oh). This essential piece of the puzzle was recently revealed by L’Encantada themselves as they purchased the vineyard from the estate known as Le Freche and are replanting the fields with baco and folle blanche grape vines. In the 1st attached picture you can see the L’Encantada’s newly planted lot where the Domaine Le Freche vines used to lay.
Using this picture shared by L’encantada’s on social media, I was able to scour satellite images of Labastide and find the exact plot of land right on the border of the commune Le Freche. The roads, trees, and buildings all match up to L’Encantada’s picture and this property is right on Pinasson which is what L’Encantada has revealed will be the name they use when they eventually bottle the new growth grapes.
The 2nd attached picture shows where this is situated next to Le Freche circled in blue, and the 3rd attached picture shows a close up of the property so you can confirm that this matches L’Encantada’s pic.
The Facebook Community to the Rescue
There are thousands of small farms in this region, some the size of a postage stamp. So this could have been the end of the search. But the Facebook community is quite mighty, and thanks to Hirsch, we were able to identify this property. He had it starred on his Google map of domaines, circled in blue in the 4th attached picture, from his last trip to the region. The farm is labeled on the map as “Domaine Lasgraves.”
I then went looking for photos of the domaine. I then found listings for a vacation rental home at the domaine Lasgraves. The pool pictured on their domaine is present on the map of the subect property. Check out the 5th picture circled in red.
This confirms that Domain Lasgraves is indeed one of the buildings right next to the vineyard. Here are links to the vacation home listings that show the pool and the exact location of Lasgraves.
Caveat: All that being said, there is still a possibility that Domaine Lasgraves is NOT the former owner of that vineyard. After all, there are other buildings on the property that a different family could own. So now I have to compare what I already knew about “Domaine Le Freche” and see if Lasgraves fits the bill. So let me run down what I already know.
And For a Quick Final Test
1) Domaine Le Freche states the distillate is from baco grapes || Lasgraves bottlings are baco grapes.
2) Domaine Le Freche makes their barrels from trees on their own property according to a listing on D&M. Sadly the writeup was removed from D&Ms site and is not archived on the wayback machine. You’ll have to trust me. || Lasgraves makes their barrels from trees on their own property as per Le Cognac.
3) Domaine Le Freche has vines going back to at least 1967 since that is L’Encantada’s oldest Le Freche release (LMDW). || Lasgraves has vintages going even further back as this highly overpriced listing on SoDivin proves.
4) Domaine Le Freche is a small farm that doesn’t produce Armagnac in large quantities and doesn’t distill every year || Lasgraves bottlings are fairly uncommon and space across years.
5) The Domaine Le Freche name was chosen by L’encantada because the vinters did not want direct competition || Lasgraves distributed under their own name and has for a very long time.
6) L’Encantada Domaine Le Freche is high quality Armagnac and is freaking tasty || Serge from Whiskyfun recently gave a Lasgraves some serious love. And Dan Ohlemiller went so far as to describe the Lasgraves 1972 as a good Le Freche. There aren’t a whole lot of these floating around so reviews are spare. Sure that doesn’t really prove shit. So grain of salt.
Absolutely none of this is indisputable proof that Domaine Lasgraves is the correct answer. We won’t be able to get this confirmation from L’Encantada themselves. I myself am only 98% convinced, simply because of the other buildings right next to Lasgraves muddy the waters. But I certainly am convinced enough that I feel like I can stop searching. Finally ….until someone tells me I am wrong.
A group of us has chased down some older Lasgraves bottles and will do a bit of side-to-side sampling. We’ll add those notes to the distillates and update the article.