Once In A Lifetime
Four generations of Louis XIII cellar masters, united for the first time in history, share personal experiences as guardians of the cherished 100-year-aged cognac
Written by Steven Joseph; interview of Baptiste Loiseau by Michael Jay
History has always proven intrinsic in the world-renowned Louis XIII cognac house because each decanter is the life achievement of generations of cellar masters. You see, every vintage ages no less than 100 years and so, quite literally, no cellar master ever gets to taste the final product of Louis XIII cognac that he or she started blending. Impressively, this historic House of Remy Martin has achieved yet another momentous feat– with the 2017 announcement of their Louis XIII Legacy Edition.
Restricted to only 500 bottles, every crystal magnum decanter of Legacy Edition has been autographed by the four living cellar masters (there have only been five in all of history), including the current and youngest cellar master, Baptiste Loiseau. Loiseau inherited the mission from Pierrette Trichet in 2014.
“She taught me everything,” said Loiseau. “From the beginning, Ms. Trichet told me that I can’t always be in control. I have to trust my intuition. In the end, my decision will be the right one.”
Trichet was passed the baton in 2003 from Georges Clot, who himself was hand-picked by Andre Giraud (now 93) in 1990. Giraud held the vaunted position for 30 years before retiring, but has returned to the cellars for this incredible limited release event. The autographed bottles are housed in an Italian calfskin leather case and bear a numbered plaque. No two bottles are alike, making them works of art in themselves. “Each Baccarat Crystal decanter requires perfect synchronization of 11 craftsmen who first blow the crystal, hand-place characteristic ornaments and then decorate the neck with 20-carat gold in a balletic performance that is timed to complete each operation while the glass remains at perfect temperature,” Loiseau said.
More About The Youngest Cellar Master
Baptiste is a native of the Grande Champagne cru of the Cognac region in France. Originally, he wanted to be a winemaker, and traveled the world trekking as far away as New Zealand before returning home. “I was always told the finest cognac house in the world is Remy Martin. And so I knew to reach the highest quality in the Cognac region, I had to be a part of them. But it’s not just what goes in the bottle that makes Louis XIII so special,” Loiseau said. “It is also the relationships. They are a family run business. They have been working with the same grape growers for generations.”
Baptiste inherited a legacy of greatness that started in 1874. Louis XIII Grande Champagne Cognac is a blend of more than 1,200 eaux-di-vies (brandies), aged 100 years in large grain white oak barrels. The wood is felled from the Limousin forest 150 miles east of Cognac and undergoes a medium toasting before the barrels are made. The barrels themselves are aged 100 years before they can store a drop of Louis XIII cognac. When the cellar master makes his or her final blend – which was started decades earlier by a past cellar master, it is then finished for a final rest of four more years. “I have been trained in balance,” said Loiseau. “When I find that all of the aromas follow one after another, without one overtaking the next, then I know it is ready.”
One of Louis XIII’s most famous attributes is the aroma of myrrh, traditionally found in medicines and perfumes, and present in the story of the first Christmas. “Myrrh is the aroma that stays in the glass when it is empty. It is the fragrance of time,” Baptiste gushes. Time is an appropriate theme for Louis XIII cognac, since the spirits the cellar masters set aside now won’t be tasted until well-beyond their lifetimes. “The youngest eaux-di-vie in my blending arsenal is still older than me,” explained Baptiste. “I am working with spirits that have been set aside by previous cellar masters. I have 150 cellars with 29,000 casks,” he said. Former Cellar Master Georges Clot elaborated, “We’ve selected the best for the next generation.”
The individual eaux-di-vie are created from white grapes sourced exclusively from the region. Only 3 percent of the spirits come from the Remy Martin-held farms, the rest come from other local growers. “What makes the Cognac so special is the terroir (French for soil). It is a combination of the land, the climate, and the people,” said Loiseau. The grapes are traditionally harvested the first Monday in October before being distilled 4-5 months in the winter. Blind tastings are then held for over 1,000 eaux-di-vie. “Only 10-25 will make it through the entire aging process to become part of Louis XIII cognac. For the farmers, it is a great honor to have a spirit selected,” said Baptiste.
Each of the previous cellar masters have strived to preserve the legacy set before them by their predecessors. “They tasted it again and again until they said, ‘It could not be better. Better does not exist,’” said oldest living Cellar Master Andre Giraud.
“At the tasting of my first Final Blend, they (the tasters) turned to me and said, ‘No, you have not changed anything,’ and that was the finest compliment I could have received,” added Pierrette Trichet.
Loiseau concurs, “My mission is to maintain the style.” For Baptiste, being a part of The Legacy Edition is a tribute to his fellow cellar masters as well as the growers who contribute to his craft. “Yes I am a storyteller. But without them, there is no story to tell.”
Louis XIII The Legacy will only be sold on demand. For availability, please contact concierge@Louis-XIII.com.