We recently ventured across the pond to Cognac, France, for an immersive, once-in-a-lifetime adventure to explore the fine liquor that is the city’s namesake.
Our mission; to learn, taste and explore all that Remy Martin, one of the oldest family owned luxury companies in the world, has to offer.
Located just two and a half hours by bullet train outside of Paris, Cognac, is the only place in the world where this very special liquor can be produced and Remy Martin is located right in the thick of it. Like champagne, Cognac can only be made by very special grapes marked for their superior aromatic nature. It must also be twice distilled in copper pots and finally, be aged for at least two years in oak barrels. This process is taken so seriously that it’s actually written into law. Without these specifications Cognac has many similarities to Brandy, just as Sparkling Wine does to Champagne. If I had a choice, it would always be Champagne – and it would certainly always be Cognac – if not only for the taste, but for the stories that these barrels and bottles can tell.
Remy Martin, the man behind the brand, created a Cognac while he was a winegrower and it was so exceptional that King Louis XV made a very rare move and allowed Martin to plant more vines. Martin then worked hard to build the brand and what do you need to build a brand, still to this day? A logo! Or better yet, a brand identity. Martin was astronomy obsessed and was born under the sign of Sagittarius so, naturally, he chose a centaur as his emblem with the idea that they would continue to build their company with the ethos: Feet on the ground, head in the clouds.
On arrival to Cognac we met our guide and Remy Ambassador, Max, and headed straight to Maison Remy Martin. We went on a tour of where Remy was first distilled. We learned all about how this particular liquor is made and had the special treat of going into this incredibility private room that housed some of the oldest bottles of Remy and all of its secrets. Unfortunately, like most places that house the best secrets, no pictures.
We then went to dine at The Club. Being greeted with an updated version of an Old Fashion quickly took off the edge of no sleep and tons of travel. Chef de Cuisine de la Maison Remy Martin, Phillipe Saint-Romas, then took us on an exquisite culinary journey that started with delicious canapés paired beautifully with our much needed cocktail and finished off with the most exquisite chocolate mouse paired with Remy XO.
Though Cognac must be aged by 2 years minimum, all of Remy Martin is aged for far longer. In fact the craftsmanship and attention to detail in their barrels are created to not only house the alcohol but to be an integral part of the finished product itself. We learned this climbing through the spiderwebs and the dank stillness of the fermenting cellars that were eerily magical and again, too secretive to photograph. For centuries, these cellars house millions of dollars worth of old cognac minded lovingly by generations of cellar masters, sitting patiently to be bottled.
After spending the rest of the afternoon learning about the very coveted and secret methods that make Remy Martin and all of it’s varietals, we had the most magical afternoon snack awaiting us back at the club where we could really understand why this alcohol is so special, so coveted and surprisingly delicious.
The Opulence Table. A stunning array of smells and scents that took us on a journey, led by the lovely expert in all things Cognac, Lauren. We began touching, smelling and tasting various curiosities on the table and then went on a Remy Martin flight beginning with the VSOP and ending with the XO. It was incredible to see how the notes began to flourish when paired with different things. We got surprised and delighted as flavours such as vanilla and orange and spices like saffron and cinnamon exposed themselves at different times during our tasting, begging the question; did you guys infuse the Cognac with these flavours? Never! Rather the beauty of an aged liquor such as this one is that it begins to pull from its surroundings, from the earth, from the wood of the barrels. It truly was something to behold. And the chocolate on that table? Unreal.
We capped off our incredible learning journey with a visit to the private home and distillery of the family that still owns Remy Martin after all of these years. The mansion was flanked with palm trees (be still my heart) and had a majestic feel – if even just from outside.
Though we weren’t invited in, we were invited into their smaller fermenting cellar for an incredible feast.
And if we thought we couldn’t eat or drink anymore we were ushered into one last cellar where we were delighted to discover that we were invited to taste the pride and joy of the brand, Louis XIII straight from the cask. To sip something over 100 years old in the place that it was created from the barrel that it has lived on the property where the dream all began was an experience money cannot buy and one I will not soon forget.
Thank you Max, Lauren and everyone at La Maison Remy Martin for your kindness, for sharing your knowledge and for your impeccable hospitality.