Discovering the heritage of three centuries and the tantalising promise of the future

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How do you capture a 300-year legacy in a bottle? And not just capture it but also lay down a renewed legacy for generations to follow?

That was the dual challenge facing Rémy Martin Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau as he set about creating a great Cognac that would honour the House’s tricentenary (1724-2024) in appropriate style.

I had the honour of asking Baptiste that dual question earlier this week when I caught up with him just before the launch of the 300th Rémy Martin Anniversary Coupe in Hong Kong.

Baptiste Loiseau has created a Cognac designed to both capture the past and embrace the future

For a wine and spirits aficionado like me, this is about as compelling an interview opportunity as I will ever get. I love talking to the men and women who create the often extraordinary products that characterise the sector. Not only talking but also tasting alongside them.

When Baptiste became Rémy Martin Cellar Master in 2014, seven years after joining the House, he was, at just 34, the youngest person to assume the role in the company’s history dating back to 1724. He inherited the role from Pierrette Trichet, the first woman Cellar Master for a major Cognac house, someone Loiseau pays fond tribute to as his mentor and teacher.

Baptiste Loiseau with his predecessor, Pierrette Trichet, who created the 290th Anniversary Coupe. Baptiste drew on that masterpiece as the foundation for his 300th Anniversary creation.

Such audacious choices are interesting from a House so steeped in tradition, reflecting the still family-controlled enterprise’s desire to both embrace the past and stride boldly into the future.

In that sense, Baptiste is both a traditionalist and a modernist. He has firm views of how Rémy Martin Cognacs should evolve – particularly in an age of global warming – but also holds the work of those Cellar Masters who went before him in deep reverence.

In an interview with luxury-focused media title Robb Report, Baptiste said: “Pierrette told me to be humble, to trust and respect the past.”

That humility and respect shone through during our compelling 40-minute chat (click here for the full interview). Baptiste time and again emphasised the work of others, not just his predecessor Cellar Masters but the wine growers, winemakers and distillers who all make crucial contributions to the Cognacs he ultimately curates for the market.

Not only did I get the chance to chat with Baptiste but I was also able to taste the fruits – and I use the word deliberately – of his labour, his love.

You can see the liquid’s beguilingly translucent colour in the photo above. What really won me over – and I confess I was a willing convert – was the combination of concentration (the Cognac’s not mine), candied fruit, a surprising early spring-like freshness and a finish that goes on until next week.

Baptiste presented me with a personally signed edition of ‘The Spirit of Cognac’, subtitled ‘Rémy Martin, 300 years of savoir faire’. Never was a title more accurate.

My favourite quote among many gems from Baptiste was this. “It is a kind of living memory in liquid form.” That’s a reference to how each Anniversary Coupe – there have only been four in Rémy Martin’s history – takes its foundation from the previous edition.

“For me, it all started with going back to the cellars to see how the 290th Anniversary Coupe had evolved,” he observes. Recalling the aromas of Pierrette Trichet’s masterpiece on its limited release a decade back, Baptiste returned to the maturing blend around three years ago to see how it had evolved. From there he decided what kind of eaux-de-vie – all from Grand Champagne – would best “nourish” what had gone before.

Several leading travel retailers attended the launch, including DFS Group Associate Director, Merchandising, Wine | Champagne | Tobacco | Head of Prestige Fraser Wotzke (left) and DFS Group Senior Director | Global Merchandising | Spirits Wine Tobacco Food | Partnerships Daniel Licari (right). I have (almost) forgiven Daniel for suggesting the Anniversary Coupe was even older than me. A close run thing though.

What a foundation he discovered; Trichet’s legacy showcasing the wondrously concentrated power of the blend, packed with the house’s signature rancio notes and candied fruit character in keeping with the base wines having been distilled on the lees.

I also had the pleasure of catching up with Maisy Au and the hard-working China Duty Free International (China Duty Free Group) team who are doing such great work in the ambitious refurbishment of the Duty Zero by cdf stores at Hong Kong International Airport

What a wondrous story lies in the Cognac Baptiste ultimately created but is also imbued with the indispensable contributions of his predecessors André Giraud, Georges Clot and Pierrette Trichet who created the 250th, 275th and 290th Anniversary Coupe editions, respectively.

Who knows when the next expression will be released. Or who will be the Cellar Master. Those thoughts do not concern Baptiste but instead enrich him. For he knows his living memory in liquid form will endure through the generations to come. ✈

Baptiste in the vineyards of his beloved Grande Champagne

 

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