Special Feature                  78   AMBROSIA • October 2012
To the king of spirits – Louis XIIIGood cognac is like a woman. Do not assault it. Coddle andwarm it in your hands before ...
pressing, to avoid any unwanted tanninsin the future eau-de-vie. It takes 10 litresof this wine, at 7-10% alcohol, to prod...
cellar master inspects and samples each              far back before his time, it was Dominique      business acumen and h...
Christophe Bourrie, Regional Director                                     Vincent Cleme, Brand Ambassador, India Sub-conti...
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To the King of spirits - LOUIS XIII !


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Special Feature - Ambrosia Magazine, October 2012, India, by Rojita Tiwari

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To the King of spirits - LOUIS XIII !

  1. 1. Special Feature 78 AMBROSIA • October 2012
  2. 2. To the king of spirits – Louis XIIIGood cognac is like a woman. Do not assault it. Coddle andwarm it in your hands before you sip it. - Winston ChurchillAll the romance and story that enriches the cognac drinking experience has evolvedover the years. The spirit has moved beyond being just the drink of the affluent tothe drink of people who appreciate finer things in life. Though it will always remaina drink of the class, cognac manufacturers are shifting their focus towards a newgeneration of wealthy drinkers who like to flaunt their status with expensive watches,cars or other luxurious indulgences like owning a bottle of Louis XIII.E very luxury brand thrives on scarcity. The rarer it is the higher price it commands. However, incase of Louis XIII it is something morethan just the demand and supply equation.It is the generations of cellar masters anda group of people involved in the processof producing one bottle of Louis XIII.And above all, it’s the liquid inside thatbeautiful decanter. The cognac whosemaking spans 100 years speaks a lot morethan just extravagance. As ChristopheBourrie, Regional Director, Louis XIIIstates, "The journey from Cognac vineyardthat is defined as Grande Champagne to thebottle presents a fascinating story of fourgenerations of cellar masters who haveworked hard for many years of their livesto present this magnifique cognac calledLouis XIII.” Louis XIII’s history goes back tothe earliest days of the cognac craft. Thequality that it represents exceeds all rivals,and its reputation reflects that status. There The soil formation here has that special which the grapes are grown find expressionare lists of things which go in the making perfection that makes it the birthplace of in the richness and complexity of the agedof Louis XIII. the only grapes that will ever go to make and blended marvel in the glass. Louis XIII. Across 100 years of ageing, the eau-de-The Liquid Gold The Ugni Blanc grapes that are born vie carries the signature of its terroir and The grapes are carefully chosen from of the exclusive conditions imprint the the fruit from which it was born – even thethe exclusive and strictly delimited portion signature of this special land on every stage delicate scent of the fruit’s fragile flower.of the cognac vineyard called Grande in the century-long evolution of Louis XIII At the starting point of distillation,Champagne in Cognac region, France; – first in the aromatic maturity that defines there is a light acid wine, fermented acrossLouis XIII travels a long way. The soil the moment of harvest, continuing with the a leisurely one-to-two-week period, low inin the vineyard is light grey in colour– a fermentation of the low-alcohol wine that alcohol because that is always the preferredgift of deep, soft chalk bequeathed by the is the voice of the distilled eau-de-vie. In basis for a superior cognac. All pips aregeological storm of the tertiary period. so many ways, the very nature of the soil in removed from the grapes at the point of 79 AMBROSIA • October 2012
  3. 3. pressing, to avoid any unwanted tanninsin the future eau-de-vie. It takes 10 litresof this wine, at 7-10% alcohol, to produceone litre of the 70%-alcohol eau-de-viethat is the next objective. Distillation must commence quickly,because the qualities in the wine arefragile – as soon as possible after harvestin November, and never later than the endof March. The eau-de-vie that go to makeLouis XIII are always distilled with the‘lees’, a mixture of grape yeast and minuteparticles of the fruit. The goal here is thematuration of ‘rancio’, that complex nuttyfragrance that is a prized quality in veryold cognacs. It gives the eau-de-vie morebody, more power, and a taste that lingerslonger. But this needs a small still, notmore than 25 hectoliters in capacity. Andgreat care must be taken to ensure not toburn the lees. The cognac pot still is a work of coppercraftsmanship, hammered to perfectionon the outside and polished to a mirrorfinish on the inside. The goal is a subtlecontact between liquid and copper thatnaturally selects the finest characteristicsof the wine. Fatty acids and sulphurouscomponents are set aside. Aromas areencouraged to develop. The smaller thestill, the more regular the distribution ofheat, and so the better the contact betweenthe still and the wine it holds. The stillis dome-shaped at the base, extendingupwards to an onion-shaped bulb andthence to the swan neck through which From the heart of the second are never broken. What makes the tierçonthe heated vapours rise, passing into the distillation, at 70 degrees alcohol is the different is its exceptionally large size andcooling coils of the condenser where the fiery young spirit that may in one hundred the reduced thickness of the staves thatvapours return to alcoholic liquid. years become Louis XIII. The cellar master form its sides. Ageing entails a continuous The distillation process requires must now seek within the fire of the alcohol exchange between spirit and outside air,continuous expert supervision. Heat is for those indications of excellence that only and the tierçon has the most perfect formminutely adjusted to perfect the rate of an expert nose can detect at this stage. And for this purpose.flow, and the specific gravity of the out despite the best efforts of the distiller, the 50 years of age marks the transition offlowing distillate is watched at every decision will most likely be negative. Of the spirit to the tierçons that are reservedmoment. What flows at the start of some 1,000 samples that are submitted for exclusively for Louis XIII. Their uniquedistillation is lacking in perfection, and the the cellar master’s approval, barely a dozen size and form will nurse the eau-de-vie tosame is true of the flow at the close. These are selected to become Louis XIII. its ultimate state of perfection. The tierçons‘heads’ and ‘tails’ are passed back to join The Louis XIII tierçon is a cask rest in the mellow eternity of the storehousesthe next batch of wine for distillation. Only originally designed for the carriage of set around the courtyard of Le Grollet – thethe best – the ‘middle cut’ or ‘brouillis’ – cognac on horse-drawn carts, three casks at country house that is the spiritual homeis passed forward to the next stage: eight a time, hence the name. The House of Rémy of Louis XIII. The eau-de-vie breathes,hours of filtration and then, as is the rule Martin traditionally uses casks made of absorbing oxygen and evaporating throughfor all cognacs, a second distillation. Limousin oak, which has the perfect tannins the porous staves, so losing what they callAnd like the first distillation, the less- and porosity for the ageing of an eau-de- the "angels’ share". Walls are blackened bythan-perfect heads and tails will again be vie. The wood comes from 150-year-old the mould that feeds on the slowly seepingpassed back to repeat the previous stage trees, always felled in winter, the wood vapour from the casks.once more. split and never sawn, so the natural fibres Every year from the date of birth, the 80 AMBROSIA • October 2012
  4. 4. cellar master inspects and samples each far back before his time, it was Dominique business acumen and his personal energycask, judging evolution with an expert nose Hériard Dubreuil, the current chairman’s that raised Louis XIII to the supremeand selecting certain casks to be blended grandfather who really set the scene for position it enjoys today. To produce thewith certain others. At 50 years of age, the reputation that Louis XIII enjoys today. best cognac, you must be ready to invest300 eau-de-vie have already been married His successor as chairman was her father in a substantial stock of ageing eau-de-in this fashion – and one cellar master has André Hériard Dubreuil. It would be hard vie. And if the timescale is one hundredalready passed the legacy to the next. At 75 to imagine two men with more different years, then you must be prepared to investyears of age, the number of eau-de-vie that personalities. But they did, all the same, in a very large stock indeed. This principleare blended in each cask approaches 700 – share the same fundamental belief, that was understood by the earliest founders ofand the passing years have seen the duty the only cognac worth producing was the the House, and eagerly embraced by herhanded down to yet another cellar master. best cognac. And the best of the best was of grandfather.It will be another 25 years, and another course Louis XIII.cellar master, before the legend touches André Hériard Dubreuil was in so The Experienceperfection. many ways the perfect successor for After four cellar masters and 1200 that moment in time, when the globalblends, it is finally ready to see the light of market was first taking shape. He saw andthe day. understood this wave of the future, and he knew that it would favour spirits of theThe Family highest quality. Price would be no obstacle The destiny of Louis XIII is guided if the quality was exceptional, and Louisby one cognac family dynasty that has XIII was the ultimate expression of thatnurtured the legend since the early years of philosophy. Others before him had carriedthe 20th century. the reputation of Louis XIII around the Though the history of Louis XIII reaches world, but it was her father’s intuition, his "Louis XIII is made for special moments, when you can give it the time it deserves. This is not something that you drink in any glass, with any person, at any time. Cognacs could be served with dessert but not Louis XIII, it is not appropriate. It needs no accompaniment, and you must give it time. There’s one hundred years to discover in that glass, and you have to take the time to enjoy it," states Christophe Bourrie, Regional Director, Louis XIII. How gratifying it is that an 18th-century enterprise should have created something for the pleasure of people one hundred years in the future. And how exciting to imagine that same gift to the future in the ever-accelerating world to come. The best part about Louis XIII is that the taste has not changed since 1874. The first bottle was produced back then. The first bottle to reach Mumbai was in 1884 for the Maharaja. In China it reached in 1880. “We have had relations with the east since centuries which is helping us to be where we are, right now. Its aged for 100 years,The previous chairman André Hériard Dubreuil with his wife, his sons François and Marc Hériard then its bottled and finished. But when youDubreuil, and his daughter, Dominique Hériard Dubreuil, the current chairman. drink a bottle today, this bottle has been 81 AMBROSIA • October 2012
  5. 5. Christophe Bourrie, Regional Director Vincent Cleme, Brand Ambassador, India Sub-continentstored and aged for the last century since 18 different countries of the world. “This1912. Consumers expect this beautiful taste is a proof of our commitment towards New markets and demand:-in every bottle. To make it happen over the making this brand having the same kind of All the new markets work differently.years it’s a real challenge,” added Bourrie. awareness as any other brand,” explained India, Middle East, Philippines, Indonesia, Bourrie. Vietnam are the economies that areAmbassadors of Louis XIII “We have a network of around 40 contributing the most to the sales of Louis Each and every owner of Louis XIII is luxury hotels and fine dining restaurants in XIII. They are developing economies withan ambassador of the brand. The distribution India. It is available in the Leela Group, disposable income. Louis XIII managementand consumption of Louis XIII is well Taj, Oberoi and other top fine dining always prefers new markets. And India is abalanced between the western and the places. Louis XIII is not only one of the special market for the group so it’s alwayseastern markets. East Asia in Asia Pacific is finest products in the world but also a fine the priority. It’s a dynamic market that’sthe biggest market. As a global brand Louis piece of craftsmanship. It is more than a changing really fast.XIII is available in almost every global cognac; it’s a moment,” said Cleme. As Bourrie rightly puts it, the perceptionmarket and in the best locations. However, towards Louis XIII or any other expensivethe brand faces difficulties in managing Perception about Cognac alcohol brand has changed. Now peopleallocation at times. “It is highly unlikely “In India people strongly believe that buy a bottle of Louis XIII to drink it andthat you travel to a country, for example, cognac is a winter drink. And this is the not to showcase in their bar. One needs toSouth Africa and not find Louis XIII in only country in the world where people appreciate the liquid inside the bottle whicha luxury hotel. The brand is available in think this way,” said Bourrie. In countries has rested for a century and now vying forall developed countries and most of the like Vietnam, Indonesia, China, people go your attention. Just like fine wines.developing/new emerging countries in the to a night club and order a bottle of cognac, Top brands in the world do not speakworld, Brazil being the newer addition some mixtures and make a cocktail. So, of the product but the story behind it. Theto this list. We are also focusing more on cognac could be an everyday drink too. metallic flask which was found in a battlecountries which have great potential and During summers, in Cognac region in field in France once, shaped the futureIndia is one of them”, said Bourrie. France, people make refreshing drinks out look of the bottle. So, next time you come India remains one of the most important of it by adding a slice of lemon, spritz and across a bottle of Louis XIII, spend somemarkets for Louis XIII. Vincent Cleme, a vsop bottle. “However, that’s not how time appreciating the craftsmanship andBrand Ambassador, India Sub-continent you should enjoy Louis XIII. This brand legendary story behind the brand that goeshas been working in the country since last of cognac should only be drunk when you back a century.few years. He is amongst the 18 dedicated have the right people. It could create the - Rojita Tiwaribrand ambassadors that Louis XIII has in best moment for you,” added Cleme. 82 AMBROSIA • October 2012