80Isea& iIAUTUMN 2009 needed by the distiller at this stage and they must rely on their nose, eyes and the assistance of a hydrometer to cut the distillate into three parts: the head, the heart and the tail. Only the heart ( the coeur), now known as the bonne chauffe, will go on to become Cognac. This high alcohol distillate is then ready to be transferred to specially crafted Limousine oak barrels to age and mellow, and this is where the real magic takes place. It is impossible to overestimate the immense level of skill and passion that the cellar master must exercise during the ageing process. It is not simply a matter of leaving the barrels for several decades, and then voila! you have Louis XIII; it is about under-standing and nurturing the complex relationship that the eaux-de- viewill experience with their environment and the natural progression of time. In addition to their great age, the Limousine oak barrels are characterised by their very fine walls, allowing subtle changes to take place between the air, the wood and the eaux- de- vie. Each individual eau- de- viewill have its own nuance and character so the cellar master must be a craftsman, an artist and a visionary, painstakingly and continually blending over 100 years to obtain the perfect balance of flavours and richness that define Louis XIII. In total it takes a blend of around 1,200 eaux-de- vieto reach that familiarity of flavour that over the decades Louis XIII connoisseurs have come to know and love. But it is not just the expert blending that is key during the ageing process, the cellar master must also keep in mind the relationship with the environment. Over the years, the barrels will be moved between cellars of differing atmospheres in order to affect the rate of alcohol lost through evaporation. There are no man- made heating/ cooling systems, they rely purely on the natural atmospheric make up of each cellar along with the cellar master'sinherent understanding of its affect on the eaux- de- vie. Trichet must accept that she will lose one whole cellar's worth of Cognac through this evaporation, which is affectionately known as the ' angels' share' - and lucky angels they are too, as this represents 6,000 barrels of this precious liquid. An understanding of this complex process and of the responsibility placed on the shoulders of the cellar master would inspire anyone to place these individuals among the ranks of other great craftsmen of industry, but there is one aspect of the role of the Louis XIII cellar master that catapults them to a level entirely of their own. These cellar masters, these visionaries, will never see the final product of their initial selections. As Trichet puts it, they are simply a passage, " We take from the past and we leave for the future." There are no lavish self- congratulatory launch parties or exhibitions, there is simply a very humbling recognition that they are just one part of something much bigger. They can only give thanks for the decisions of those that have gone before them and hope that the decisions they themselves make will allow for the enjoyment of Louis XIII in centuries to come. At a time when financial insecurity can render a person's spending potential a little more cautious, quality for money and the reassurance that you are " getting what you asked for" become paramount. At Rémy Martin, this assurance is born out of the immense skill and passion of its cellar masters who, year on year, tirelessly strive to produce the exact flavours held in every single bottle of Louis XIII that has gone before. Ask Trichet to name the biggest compliment she could be paid for her work Right: the House of Rémy Martin and its celebrated vineyards
AUTUMN 2009I sea& iI81 masterartisan and she will say that it is to be told that Louis XIII is " the same as it ever was". To most craftsman this would probably be a damning response to years of hard work, but here it is warmly received and pays testament to the skill involved. Perfection has already been met, so the task of improving on this has been made redundant. And there is something very comforting in this. In industries around the world, luxury products, although unique and revolutionary in their own time, will at some point become dated and replaced by the new and improved. A prod-uct that once represented the pinnacle of success will lose its gloss when something better comes along. This is the joy of a bottle of Louis XIII; you know that it is at its very best and it always will be. There will never be any need to add to it, or trade it in for the newer model; so whether you want quality reassurance or just guaranteed pure drinking pleasure, what more could you wish for? If Louis XIII truly is the King of Cognac, long live the king! ¦ For more information on the range available from the House of Rémy Martin, or to enquire about a customised tour of the estate, please visit www. remy. com KEYNOTES OF A CENTURY The maturing aromas of Louis XIII through the ageing process ? 5- 10 years ( 65% alcohol): refined vanilla notes; floral blossom; peach ? 15- 20 years ( 55% alcohol): figs; dried apricots; spicy notes of clove and cinnamon ? Over 40 years ( 47% alcohol): notes of port wine and nutty, mushroom accents ? 70 years ( close to 42% alcohol): waxy and nutty with a ' cigar box' aroma Under 40% proof, the brandy can no longer be classed a Cognac.