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I’m totally out of my league. As I tentatively sniff the amber liquid I’ve just been served, I glance over at the members of my party, including Jay Jones, enRoute’s 2012 pick for Canada’s best bartender, who are doing the same but with expert deftness. When they start describing the drink’s “texture” and “finish,” the most I can muster is a half-whispered question: “Can you drink cognac on the rocks?”

“The best way to serve cognac is the way you like to drink it,” says Patrick Mariuz, international brand ambassador for Rémy Martin.

I’m in southwestern France to explore the brand’s facilities and learn about the production of this complex spirit. Cognac, Mariuz explains, is a blend of various eaux-de-vie, the clear fruit brandy produced from white grapes grown in the surrounding Poitou-Charentes region. The mixture goes through a double distillation process in copper pot stills and is aged in oak cask barrels.

cellar at Remy MartinThe cellar at Rémy Martin's production site a few kilometres outside of the city of Cognac

Rémy Martin’s production site is located in Merpins, a few kilometres from the city of Cognac. Outside, the weather is dry and warm, but once we enter the cellar, the air suddenly becomes heavy and dank. It needs to be balanced to ensure a consistent product, explains Mariuz. A cellar that’s too humid will cause more alcohol to evaporate, while one that’s too dry increases water evaporation.

The company’s most prestigious product, Louis XIII, is stored down three flights of stairs. This rare cognac is a blend of 1,200 eaux-de-vie, aged between 40 and 100 years and stored in tierçons, or Limousin oak barrels, that can be up to 150 years old.

limousin oak barrels at Remy MartinSome of the tierçons (Limousin oak barrels) at Rémy Martin are up to 150 years old.

“Louis XIII is more than a cognac; it’s a heritage. Its components are selected by the previous cellar master, and the knowledge is passed on from generation to generation,” says Mariuz. The cellar masters themselves are a rare breed: Rémy Martin has had only four since 1924.

Later, after a gourmet dinner at Le Grollet, the family’s historic estate in Saint-Même-les-Carrières, I’m ushered into a smaller cellar. It’s dark as night, and cobwebs hang from every surface.

Mariuz is holding an oversize crystal pipette. He uncorks one of the dusty barrels of Louis XIII, and the “pop” echoes amid the silence in the room.

Cognac double distillation process at Remy Martin Cognac goes through a double distillation process in copper pot stills before being aged in oak barrels in the Rémy Martin cellar. 

Slowly, he dips the pipette into the barrel and pipes out a mahogany-coloured liquid. Mariuz hands me a glass, and I take three sniffs as instructed. It’s rich, floral and spicy all at the same time. I take a sip and, for once, I really do taste the candied fruit, the jasmine and even the hint of nutmeg that I’ve been taught to recognize. Just before we raise a toast, I sneak a second taste – just to be certain.

A number of tours and experiences are offered to visitors hoping to learn more about cognac and Rémy Martin – from the affordable train tour at the estate in Merpins to the ultimate Louis XIII Experience, which includes breakfast among the vines, a visit to the distillery in Touzac, a journey to the house’s reference room and two crystal souvenir glasses created by Christophe Pillet. Visit to find out more.

See page 2 for an exclusive cocktail recipe from Jay Jones




Comments… or add another

Robert Martschin

Tuesday, February 5th 2013 01:45
I am a lover of(oui, ca aussi) good wine,good cigars AND good brandy. I would have bet money on the fact that good brandy is made from red wine. Very enlightening article. Thank you!
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