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Flying High

May 31, 2019 | Luxury

For the first time ever, LOUIS XIII presents an exquisite 375ml crystal decanter. Part of the Black Pearl Collection, it contains a rare blend of LOUIS XIII cognac, signature of the cellar André Hériard Dubreuil. Only six of 1498 decanters are available here

TEXT Kim Maxwell | PHOTOGRAPHS Supplied

There is satisfaction and there is surprise. I experienced a little of both, when I was invited to take a sip of a R50 000 bottle of Cognac at The Stack, a Cape Town private member’s club and restaurant/bar, located in a glorious double-storey historic house. My generous tot of LOUIS XIII was poured into a narrow glass, its crystal grooves expertly cut so that when I looked inside, the shape of a Namaqua Daisy appeared, its sparkling petals filling with amber-orange liquid.

It tasted of luxury, mellowed, all alcoholic spirit edges eased out. I only discovered the extravagant price tag of LOUIS XIII afterwards. I was too busy enjoying the moment with Jörg Pfützner, the LOUIS XIII private client director for Africa, Middle East and India.

CONTEMPLATING LUXURY AND LIFE

“It’s a contemplative drink so the longer you sit with it, the more you will discover,” said Jörg, inviting me to inhale. “It often starts with floral notes: honeysuckle and jasmine, underlying orange marmalade, dark honey, dried fruit and nuts, perhaps the character of leather and tawny port.”

Its daisy-shaped crystal base may have assisted, but the nose offered incredible complexity, dried apricots and honey on first sniff. Returning for more rewarded as the aromas changed again. “My suggestion is when you smell LOUIS XIII, try to find your ideal distance from the glass,” said Jörg.

I remarked on its gentleness, a silkiness of texture. “You’re drinking time,” said Jörg. “Every aroma and drop builds like a crescendo. You sniff it, it’s a real treat and experience for the complexity and fireworks of flavours.” Opulent yet weightless. Usually a sommelier is not doing their job if a glass remains unfilled. But with LOUIS XIII the objective is to take it slow, to savour and appreciate in tiny sips. Said Jörg: “People say there is a way of drinking LOUIS XIII: drop by drop. It’s important to take your time.”

I asked about the name. Turns out LOUIS XIII Classic Cognac was created in France in 1874. It was named after King Louis XIII, the ruling monarch and sort of “protector” who recognised this distilled spirit as something unique, when the Rémy Martin family settled in the region.

LOUIS XIII BLACK PEARL AHD

But there is a more recent, increasingly luxe addition to this French family. “It’s glass but looks like chrome. Isn’t it beautiful?” My eyes followed the darker molten glass forming a looping ridge along a curved smaller decanter, its shapes not unlike the curved exoskeleton of an arthropod. This was the Black Pearl.

In 2007, the LOUIS XIII Cognac brand partnered with the House of Baccarat to create LOUIS XIII Black Pearl AHD. An extremely limited-edition Cognac, the collection pays tribute to former chairman André Hériard Dubreuil, born 100 years ago. Like its sister Classic Cognac, LOUIS XIII Black Pearl was inspired by a royal flask found on the battlefield of Jarnac, fought in 1569. Paul-Émile Rémy Martin acquired the flask in 1850.

With Black Pearl, size and colour matters. For the first time, LOUIS XIII Black Pearl AHD has been created in a smaller 375ml crystal decanter. Only 1498 bespoke House of Baccarat decanters were filled, a rare Cognac blend drawn from a single tierçon cask in the family reserve, deep in André Hériard Dubreuil’s cellar.

A special plating process adds a unique metallic, translucent effect to glass in the colour of steel, so it glows with the amber of its Cognac inside. “You can see its rarity, how the glass pays tribute to the original metal flask,” said Jörg. Turning the Black Pearl decanter, its reflections flashed silver, black and anthracite. “Everybody has their own personal frame of reference. When you drink LOUIS XIII Black Pearl AHD, it’s about the time it takes to create, and the time you should allow to enjoy it.”

WHY LOUIS XIII COGNAC IS EXTRAORDINARY

Master blending
Every decanter of LOUIS XIII created is a blend of up to 1 200 eaux de vies, all sourced from Grande Champagne in the Cognac area. The rarest eau de vie spirit components are set aside for several decades. They go into tierçons, pluri-centenial casks that impart minimal oak flavours.

Thinking ahead
How the LOUIS XIII cellarmaster treats this distilled spirit today is crucial for those in centuries to come. Today’s eaux de vie selections are set aside for future blends of LOUIS XIII. No cellarmaster ever tastes the end result in their lifetime. It’s similar to building a cathedral; the first person will never see it finished.

Age
Every year, only 1% to 2% of the very best eaux de vies are considered for selection for LOUIS XIII.

South Africa
On an invoice dated 1881, it states that cases of LOUIS XIII decanters were consigned to Mrs James Scaright & Co of Cape Town. LOUIS XIII was shipped to Africa during that time.

JÖRG PFÜTZNER SAYS:

A FEW THINGS ABOUT COGNAC. It’s a very contemplative drink so the longer you sit with it, the more things you will discover. I would drink it neat at the same temperature as a mature red wine, 18°C. It allows you to discover all the different layers in LOUIS XIII and LOUIS XIII Black Pearl AHD. It can also be an aperitif before a meal, because then your palate is more alert. Have an open mind and open heart: let it take you back into your memories. Drink it with mindfulness. Some people have a tiny drop every day. You don’t need a lot to make you happy.

OUR PRIVATE CLIENTS ARE SOME OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE. They have arrived in life; they often have a few homes. LOUIS XIII is now one of the most sought after luxury spirits on the continent. I meet super interesting people who drink it, doctors, engineers, people in art to finance, and a lot of entrepreneurs who run their own businesses. The common theme: they have good taste.

THE RELEVANCE OF 100 YEARS. Each drop is the result of a lifetime of achievements by generations of cellar masters. In 2017 LOUIS XIII asked Pharrell Williams to write a song called 100 years. The single track will be publically released in 2117, the time it takes to craft every decanter of LOUIS XIII Cognac. The song was recorded on a special vinyl, put in a special time-locked safe that no key or code will open. The reason we went on this artistic adventure is because LOUIS XIII is about thinking a century ahead. Each decanter is the life achievement of generations of cellarmasters. This is why the official release of the track will be in 2117. The vinyl is made from the clay soil of LOUIS XIII vineyards. The safe is not only working as a time lock, but is vulnerable to water. If climate change predictions are correct, most of France’s vineyards will be under water by then. So it’s a call to action about global warming and to create mystique. Everything today is about instant gratification but LOUIS XIII is about delayed gratification, and helping to combat global warming.

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