At a recent invite-only sales exhibition in Singapore called “Master of Spirits” a bottle of Remy Martin Cognac called Louis XIII Grande Champagne Tres Vieille Age Inconnu sold for record breaking $70, 155!
The buyer remains unidentified ( I wouldn’t want to share my Rémy with anyone either!). The Remy brand is owned by French winemaker, Rémy Cointreau and was on display with several other limited edition whiskeys and eaux-de-vies.
Many of my friends and family know that I am a HUGE Rémy Martin fan and have been blessed to have had two bottles of Louis XVIII given to my by clients over the years. I tend to share a pour or two from those bottles on special occasions or on unique celebrations. At over $1,400 per bottle, one tends to want to savor them as long as possible.
After reading about the auction and mentioning it to some of my fellow chefs and clients, a number of folks asked me to remind them again of what exactly make Rémy a true Cognac versus a brandy. Now, some of the distinctions that go into traditional Rémy also applied to this special vintage bottle for the show.
So, to that end, here is one of my favorite stories of what makes this unique beverage….well, so unique:
A True Cognac: In the world of alcoholic spirits, only a specific kind of brandy, which is made from white grapes, can be called cognac. The term refers to brandy from the French region of Cognac that has been distilled twice in copper stills made in the French region of Charente and is then blended by a cellar master. It must be aged for at least two and a half years and possess an alcoholic content of at least 40%. Regular brandy is typically aged for at least six months and contains 36% alcohol.
Provenance and Age: The Rémy Martin cognac was marketed as consisting of “a century in a bottle”: It was one of a series of cognacs bottled for a 1938 royal banquet at the opulent Château de Versailles that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth attended (parents of the current Queen of England). Mr. Depardon notes that some of the eaux-de-vie blended to form this particular cognac date back to the middle of the 19th century.
Timeliness: Augustin Depardon, global marketing director at Rémy Martin says he thinks it was a “fortunate coincidence” that the cognac went on sale shortly after the movie “The King’s Speech” won Best Picture at the Oscars in late February. Rémy-Martin’s marketing department played up the cognac’s link to the movie, which starred Colin Firth as the stammer-prone King George VI (the actor won Academy Award Best Actor for his performance). Even so, it is a stretch to suggest — as the press materials did — that the cognac “may have been what left George VI speechless.”
Exclusivity: Mr. Depardon says that the price reflects the cognac’s “value of rarity.” The carafe of cognac sold at the DFS exhibit was one of the few remaining in Rémy-Martin’s heritage cellars, which holds the “rarest and most delicate eaux-de-vie” in the brand’s collection since it was first bottled in 1874. He declined to reveal how many bottles remain in the heritage cellars.
Packaging: The crystal carafe of cognac comes with some history. It is based on the design of a 16th-century metal flask, says Mr. Depardon, discovered by a vine grower in 1850 in a battlefield near Cognac, the French town from which the spirit draws its name. For the sale, the decanter was placed in a jewelry box made from lacquered rosewood and leather embossed with an ostrich-skin pattern.
Ingredients: More than 1,200 brandies were blended to form this cognac. The ugni blanc,colombard and folle blanc grapes used to make them were harvested in the Grande Champagne area, which Mr. Depardon says possesses the “most prestigious” vineyards in Cognac.
You can read the entire article here at WSJ.com
I think I may have to enjoy a bit of Rémy after working so hard to write this post.