Quest for rare Louis XIII cognac

Quest for rare Louis XIII cognac

In 1881, two shipments of 30 bottles of Louis XIII cognac arrived in Singapore from Cognac, France.

Now, 134 years later, the Remy Martin Cognac House is looking for these decanters in a global search, called Quest For A Legend, to mark the cognac's 140th anniversary.

People who have unopened Louis XIII decanters that date back to the 1881 shipment (above) can submit photographs via the cognac house's website (www.louisxiii-cognac.com).

Participants can win an all-expenses- paid trip to the Remy Martin Estate in Cognac.

The criteria for judging include the condition of the decanter and coffret (the presentation box), the amount of liquid in the bottle and whether the crystal fleur-de-lys stopper is present.

Five of the rarest bottles from the region will be flown to Cognac and experts will authenticate the bottles.

Depending on the condition of the decanters, some of them may be opened and tasted before being re-sealed and returned to the owner. The final results will be announced in July.

The Asian leg of the search is in progress and will run until the end of next month. More than 10 entries have been received from across Asia since the search was launched earlier this month.

Besides Singapore, the search is also taking place in Malaysia, India and the Philippines - these countries received their first Louis XIII shipments in the 1880s. The search is expected to extend to Europe and the United States later this year.

Mr Christophe Bourrie, 41, regional director of the Remy Cointreau Prestige Business Division, is keen on unearthing the colourful stories behind the Louis XIII decanters.

He says: "We want to meet customers and know more about the rich history behind these decanters. When you have such collectible items, there's a reason why each bottle has been purchased."

He adds that the company may also buy from collectors rare decanters which are missing in its library.

The Louis XIII cognac is one of the rarest in the world. The prized drink is blended from 1,200 varieties of eau de vie (French for water of life or brandy), aged between 40 and 100 years old.

It is also one of the more expensive cognacs, now priced at $4,200 for a 750ml bottle in duty-free shops here.

The Louis XIII cognac has a colourful history. Remy Martin's handwritten records from 1881 show shipments of the cognac to Singapore for Paterson, Simons & Co, one of Singapore's earliest trading houses.

It was unusual to ship the cognacs in bottles then as it was common practice to sell brandy in barrels for convenience and for traders to maximise profit margins.

It is this longstanding history that Ms Marie-Amelie Jacquet, 37, hopes to preserve. The financial planning and analysis manager of Remy Cointreau's global trade retail division is the fourth generation of the Heriard Dubreuil family, which runs the Remy Martin Cognac House.

Ms Jacquet, who has been based here for five years, says: "I was tasked with this legacy of the craftsmanship of making cognacs. We have to ensure that the next generation will make the brand as good as it can become and this takes time - like how cognac is made."

She worked as an investment banker in London for eight years. In 2010, she joined Remy Cointreau, which her 68- year-old mother, Dominique, headed as chairman until 2012.

She says: "My parents encouraged me to get external work experiences before proving myself to be deserving of being part of the family business."

Growing up, she spent her school breaks and two-month summer holidays in the sprawling Remy Martin estate, where she harvested grapes and went for long walks with her late grandfather.

One vivid memory she has is sneaking into the Louis XIII cognac cellars as a five-year-old. She says: "I was not supposed to be there due to the smell of cognac, but I got curious."

When she was a teenager, her parents would get her and her cousins to smell cognac and wine. She had her first sip of cognac at 17 and she "tasted notes of apple compote and pears".

She says: "It helped to build our appreciation and develop our noses for the good things in life."

On the Louis XIII cognac, which boasts about 250 flavours, she says: "It is a complex product with lots of tastes and notes. I am learning slowly to recognise the different tastes every time I drink it.

"It is always different and a peculiar experience."

kengohsz@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Feb 23, 2015.
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