If you enjoy earthy, rich foods like duck, pork, and stinky cheese, save this for the next time you’re booze-shopping. The French make a rustic version of cognac called Armagnac that’s still fairly cheap because it hasn’t hit the big-time—say, $40 for a good one and $84 or $114 for the fancy stuff. Armagnac is to cognac what rye is to bourbon: similar but darker and feistier, with a leaner texture. It’s rougher than cognac when it’s young and earthier when it’s old, “with just a hint of barnyard funk,” reports Esquire.
Armagnac’s sales may lag behind cognac’s—only 6 million bottles worldwide to 177 million—but Esquire compares this moment to the point in the 1980s when single-malt Scotch was about to compete with easy-to-drink blended versions. And because Armagnac is made by small, family-owned firms in Gascony, there are no huge marketing budgets to inflate prices. Esquire’s advice: Try the “warm and fruity” Marie Duffau Napoleon ($40), “bright and juicy” Chateau du Tariquet XO ($84), or “lean and leathery” Chateau du Busca Hors d’Age ($114).