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Edition Three Feature
  • Edition Three The Mistress or The Wife
  • Author Gabriel Chaise
  • Photographer James Morgan

Explaining his complex relationship with two spirits of Gascony, cognac and armagnac, Gabriel Chaise takes us on a journey inspired by friendship and creativity.

Though Dutournier was collecting stars in the Michelin guide, his fame stemmed from the formidable selection of armagnac he had collected. Dutournier was from Gascony and he was enlivened with the spirit of the region. Being a friend of his friend, I was fortunate enough to attend many serious degustations put on by the great chef; they would begin in earnest after lunch and dinner respectively and the atmosphere of such occasions surpassed the beauty of any one drink. After a few such gatherings, I began to take particular notice of the armagnacs from Domaine de La Coste—an outstanding array of liquids with an unusually large spectrum of fresh floral and fruity aromas. The maker was Jean Lacourtoisie.

Dutournier's reputation was building towards the end of the ‘80s and soon enough, he had a steady stream of armagnacs coming from Gascony to supply a growing number of Parisian connoisseurs. To keep up with their persistent thirst, Dutournier cultivated a definably unique freight arrangement. Many native Gascons had taken up residence in Paris, however, proud of their heritage, these people still wanted to be buried back in Gascony when they died. As such, a stem of hearses travelled to the Armagnac province weekly—occupied at the outset but conspicuously absent of their passengers on the return trip to Paris. Dutournier sought to take advantage of this unconventional transport space, proposing the cars be packed with full cases of armagnac for the second leg of their journey—for scale of economy. The dead, as he said, would have approved. 

“What do you prefer, armagnac or cognac?” My answer has always remained the same: “Whom do you prefer, your wife or your mistress?”

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