With its rich sweetish, complex flavour, cognac is having something of moment with millennials looking for something different and exciting to drink. So it’s interesting that one of the world’s leading cognac houses, Remy Martin, has taken the unusual step of putting a 34 year old in charge of its entire output.
Baptiste Loiseau joined the company in 2004 as an apprentice, and it took over eight years working with the previous cellar master, Pierrette Trichet (63), to truly understand the style of the house. ‘It was audacious for a house like Remy Martin, with all its history, to appoint such a young cellar master, but in fact it was a question of time and transition between her and me, and it’s the perfect balance between the traditional elements of the house and adapting to reach new clients,’ says Baptiste. Mme Trichet’s appointment in 2003 was also worthy of note, as she was the only female cellar master of a major house. When she left, she said: ‘I’m confident in this transition.’
Coming from the Cognac region himself, Baptiste knows the area well. His average day starts with blind tasting session, with over 20 samples to try. ‘The two senses I use the most are my nose and my mouth, I’m looking for something that I can take on and age and develop.’ He then visits a selection of over 900 wine growers who are making un-aged eaux-de-vie that he will select to form Remy Martin cognac.
‘It’s a huge responsibility I carry now,’ says Baptiste, ‘I have this vision, Pierrette was choosing the eaux-de-vie that we’re now blending, it was acquired before I even joined the company. So I’m selecting products that will be aged for between four and 20 years.’ Being only 36, Baptiste hopes to still be working at the house when today’s spirit is matured and ready for blending in 20 years time. ‘The art of a cellar master is choosing things now, that the next generation get to use,’ he says.
How to drink cognac
‘In Cognac, we are really dealing with time, eaux-de-vie needs time to age and to reveal their potential. Our clients want to understand much more deeply how we work and my mission also is to teach people how they can enjoy their cognac; so you can enjoy it neat, on the rocks, in cocktails, before or after a meal. Basically, forget about the way your grandfather might have enjoyed cognac!’
Baptiste advises that if you’re just starting to explore the spirit, don’t go straight to a strong, aged version, start with something younger and play with it, these cognacs can even be enjoyed with tonic, or ginger ale. ‘It’s all about sharing moments with people, it’s about having fun, it’s a small part of France in a glass,’ he says.
Try a Baptiste cocktail
The Baptiste celebrates the work of the House’s Cellar Master, Baptiste Loiseau. The fruitiest, aromatic cognac is matched with crisp cider and malty maple syrup – it’s the perfect aperitif.
– Rémy Martin VSOP Mature Cask Finish
– Lemon juice
– Maple syrup
– Orange bitters
– French cider
Method: Pour 50ml (1.7 fl. oz.) Rémy Martin VSOP Mature Cask Finish with 20ml (0.7 fl. oz.) lemon juice, 20ml (0.7 fl. oz.) maple syrup and a dash of orange bitters over cubed ice. Top with French cider and drop in a twist of orange zest.
What is cognac?
Cognac is a specific type of high-quality brandy from the Cognac region of France. To be called cognac, the brandy must be distilled twice in copper stills from wines made from specific white grapes (specifically, Ugni Blanc). It’s then aged for a minimum of two years in oak barrels from Limousin or Tronçais regions of France. The length of ageing is reflected in the name, in laws laid down in the eighteenth century; V.S. stands for Very Superior, and is over two years, V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale) is at least four years, and X.O. (Extra Old) is at least five years. These, however, are just the bare minimums. The house of Remy Martin mature their cognac for much longer, instead preferring between 10 and 37 years, and only use grapes from two specific regions – the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne (the name comes from the chalky soil and is not to be confused with the sparkling wine produced further north). However, in the cellars they still have cognacs that are over 100 years old to call upon.
Baptiste Loiseau is Cellar Master for the House of Rémy Martin.