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Syzygy Made Me a Convert of the Most Beloved French Brandy You've Never Heard Of

 

 

Hidden gems await those who dare venture off the beaten path. I've always been rather fascinated by French Armagnac brandy, that underrated and less gaudy cousin of Cognac. So, when word reached me of Syzygy Bar, the first bar in Singapore devoted to Armagnacs and Cognacs, my curiosity was piqued. Founded by Selin Tanetvitayavet, a purveyor of fine French spirits in Thailand and Singapore (through her distribution company Exquisite Elixir), Syzygy promises a curated selection of Armagnac, alongside other French treasures like Cognac and Calvados.

Their mission? To demystify these spirits, making them accessible and approachable to spirits lovers in Singapore.

 

 

Now, you might wonder, what exactly sets Armagnac apart from Cognac? Well, while both are distilled from wine and aged in oak, Armagnac distinguishes itself through a single distillation process in a continuous column still, often resulting in a spirit with a bolder character and a wider spectrum of flavours. Think earthy, spicy, and dried fruit notes that dance on the tongue, a testament to the unique terroir of Gascony, the region in Southwest France where Armagnac is born.

 

 

I sought out Syzygy along a line of shophouses in Beach Road. The bar's entrance is a portal to another world—a ultramarine doorway that beckons you up a flight of sunny yellow stairs in a very dramatic entrance. Stepping inside, I find myself transported to a warm and inviting lounge, adorned with an eclectic mix of Oriental décor and classic furnishings. The shelves are laden with rows of amber bottles and the air was quiet but alive with the promise of something new to discover.

 

 

The bar carries Armagnacs from 10 houses and Cognacs from 3 houses, and several different expressions from each house. This includes renowned Armagnacs of several centuries’ legacy like Chateau de Lacquy and Dartigalongue, Laberdolive and Domaine Boingneres from Bas-Armagnac who are known for their terroir-driven expressions, Chateau de Bordeneuve which boasting the largest collection of vintage casks from micro-estates and younger but equally renowned producers like Chateau d'Arton and Esperance.

 

 

Before your head spins from the sheer number of options, the menu has a thoughtfully curated series of tasting flights across unaged Blanche Armagnacs, Armagnacs of different terroirs, or across the vintages.

 

 

For those who prefer experiencing the spirit in a more approachable format, there’s also an array of pretty fancy cocktails that showcase the versatility of Armagnac. And if you get peckish after some spirit, Syzygy has you covered with a selection of charcuterie, cheeses, chocolates and even caviar that are deliberate complements to the spirits.

 

 

To truly appreciate the depth and breadth of Syzygy's offerings, I embarked on a flight of iconic Armagnacs.

First up was the Dartigalongue Blanche Armagnac, an unaged expression that arrived in a sleek bottle reminiscent of vodka. The nose was pristine and delicate, with subtle hints of funk and grass. On the palate, it was surprisingly viscous, bursting with bright, approachable flavours of fruit and cream, reminiscent of ripe papaya. The finish was clean, short, and dry, leaving a lingering warmth of pepper and spice. A straightforward yet pretty high-quality sipping spirit. While it’s designed for, and perfect for cocktails, this is still interesting enough to sip neat.

 

 

Next came the Pellehaut Ugni Blanc 30 ans which has been aged for at least 30 years. “Ugni Blanc” refers to a white grape variety widely planted in France that is particularly prized by brandy-makers for its neutral flavour profile (helps to show terroir) and high acidity (crucial for maintaining the freshness of the base wine used to make brandy). The nose was surprisingly subtle, offering delicate notes of cherries, cherryade, and a touch of cough syrup and bubble gum. The palate, however, was a symphony of dark fruits, raisins, mint, and tropical notes, all harmoniously balanced. The finish was short and sweet, with a hint of cocoa. A complex yet approachable Armagnac that left me wanting more.

 

 

The third pour was the Arton Chateau La Reserve Haut Armagnac – this La Reserve expression should be aged for about 6 to 8 years. The nose was a heady bouquet of perfumed red fruits, raisins, plums, and a touch of herbaceousness. On the palate, it was thick and syrupy, with layers of spice and sweetness that gave way to a drier oak character. The finish was long and aromatic, with notes of oak, tobacco, and leather. An expressive and well-rounded Armagnac that showcased the elegance and complexity of Haut Armagnac.

 

 

The Domaine D'Espérance Bas Armagnac 18 ans followed. Espérance is a relatively young but prestigious house based in the Bas-Armagnac region that has gained significant accolades for its Armagnacs and wines. Despite being aged for fewer years than the Pellehaut we just tasted, this packed a flavour punch. The nose was bold and inviting, with a mix of syrupy jammy notes and a hint of Nin Jiom Peh Pa Koa herbal cough syrup. The palate was a complex tapestry of prunes, licorice, and molasses, with a long, robust finish that lingered with a spicy warmth. A truly impressive Armagnac that defied expectations.

 

 

The grand finale was the Domaine De Bel Air 1980, bottled by Exquisite Elixir . The nose was a decadent symphony of thick, fruity, jammy notes, both sweet and luscious. The palate was dominated by rich red fruits, hints of Hacks candy, and a refreshing touch of mint. The finish was long and satisfying, leaving a warm, fruity glow that coated the back of the tongue. This old stuff captures the richness and complexity of vintage expressions and is by far my favourite Armagnac of the range.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Singapore's drinking scene is already a riot of impressive experiences. Award-winning cocktail bars? Check. European and craft beers? Check. Whisky, rums, mezcals, and tequila? Check, check, check, and check. Syzygy, however, adds a new thread to this rich tapestry with a category that many have yet to discover.

 

 

It’s a quiet haven for those seeking to explore French brandies. The helpfully curated flights are a journey though the diverse styles of this underrated spirit while the knowledgeable staff are very passionate guides, eager to share the intricacies and nuances of Armagnac and the story behind each house. For those seeking a lower ABV option, Syzygy's innovative menu of brandy-based cocktails also offer a very delightful introduction to Armagnac's versatility, all perfectly complemented by a selection of rather premium food pairings (did I mention charcuterie and caviar?).

 

 

And precisely because Armagnac is a relatively nascent category in the global spirits scene, now is the time to get exceptional value. Armagnacs currently boast a more affordable price point than wines, single malt whisky, and Cognacs of comparable age or vintage. What’s not to love? Syzygy is a must-visit for anyone looking to discover a new spirit or just enjoy an evening out by Kampong Glam.

 

@CharsiuCharlie