I've been a journalist for over a decade, working across newspapers and magazines. At Forbes India, I write and edit stories on varied themes. I am a sports buff — turning to the back pages of the newspaper first— and keenly follow current affairs, pop culture and new trends at the intersection of politics, business and culture. Being an inveterate foodie, I often end up writing about it.
Alexandre Quintin, the international brand ambassador for Rémy Martin, says Indians appreciate brands with true heritage
In its pedigree, Louis XIII can very well match up to the French emperor it’s named after. Produced by the house of Rémy Martin, this cognac is steeped in history, and its production in the finest craftsmanship. A 30 ml peg of this spirit starts at Rs 10,000 in India and its most premium variety can set connoisseurs back by a few lakhs. Alexandre Quintin, the international brand ambassador for Rémy Martin and a Louis XIII aficionado himself, was recently in India to get a feel of the market. Edited excerpts from his interview with Forbes India:
Q. What makes a good cognac?
The main ingredient for good cognac is a white grape called Ugni Blanc—they make up 90 percent of the drink—that comes from the Grande Champagne territory of the Cognac region in France; [from] anywhere else and it will be called just brandy. These grapes are grown on chalky soil that helps the roots of the vines go very deep and extract all the minerals. Once the grapes are harvested, generally in September and October, we take out the juice, which then naturally ferments into wine in a week and a half. The wine is distilled twice, after which we get what we call eau de vie, a clear liquid with 70 percent alcohol. Once it’s distilled, the cellar master (Baptiste Loiseau is the current one) does a blind tasting of different eaux de vie. The ones that have the aromatic potential are considered for Louis XIII (pronounced Louis Trez) one day. They are put into really old French oak barrels for ageing, a process that gives out unusual spicy, oaky or fruity and flowery notes.
Q. Why is Louis XIII such a premium product?
About 99 percent of the eaux de vie that we make don’t make the cut for Louis XIII. As Olympic champions [are] among human beings, only the best are considered for Louis XIII. A variety of eaux de vie (the number could go up to 1,200), the youngest of which is at least 40 years old, will then be blended and aged, not just for 5 to 10 years like traditional cognac but for up to a century. You need four generations of cellar masters to craft one full decanter of Louis XIII.
During ageing, the alcohol evaporates bit by bit every year, leaving behind a liquid that is highly concentrated and aromatic. In the early years, it smells of peach and apricot but, slowly, the aromas emanating from Louis XIII are much more evolved than your regular cognac. Once it’s aged up to a hundred years, Louis XIII gives you aromas that are extremely rare. For instance, myrrh, dried roses, plum, honeysuckle, tobacco, fresh mint, leather, chocolate.
Q. Cognac, as a drink, is typically associated with the elderly generation, not the youth. Is that a perception you are looking to change?
It’s a perception that is changing fast because the patterns of consumption are changing. Cognac is no more just a drink to be had after dinner, while smoking a cigar. You can have it for lunch, for dinner or even while hanging out with friends at a pub or nightclub. Also, that cognac is a drink for the older generation is a perception local to countries like India and even France. If you visit the US or China, you’ll see a lot of young people, millennials in particular, drinking Rémy Martin. They don’t just drink it straight, like the more mature generation would do. They drink it on ice, in long drinks mixed with ginger ale, tonic water or sophisticated cocktails. Millennials are looking for rich, authentic spirits with a story behind them and cognac is beginning to appeal to them.