In The Blood: Jacques Menier, Martell’s Heritage Director

Jacques Menier, Martell’s Heritage Director, looks back on a life-long attachment to cognac.

Introducing Cognac to world

Jacques Menier, Martell’s Heritage Director, looks back on a life-long attachment to cognac.

I have been with Martell for nearly 40 years. When I first joined, the company was still being run by the Martell family but, in 1987, the business was bought over by Seagram. There was a big change in the way we worked – an American way, you could say, sharper in how we did business. We also began using email, which had just been introduced then.

Jacques Menier

Jacques Menier

Seagram took over Martell mainly because of its distribution network in Asia. The goal was to introduce new brands to the region, especially, Chivas Regal. The idea was that, where there was a bottle of Martell in Asia, there would be a bottle of Chivas as well. And it was a strategy that worked very well.

Pernod Ricard took over the business in 2001 but, at that time, it was a very French company, with hardly any international brands, except for Jameson. Again, there was a change in how we worked as we slowly began to grow with new brands that made us the international company we are today.

The takeover

It is ironic that, when Seagram took over Martell, it had little confidence that there would be a future for cognac. Pernod Ricard took over at the end of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997 and, shortly after, the China market officially opened. Cognac sales boomed after that, and it hasn’t stopped.

One of the cognac industry’s biggest problems today is stock. In the past 10 years, ageing warehouses in the Cognac region have been growing everywhere. You cannot make cognac overnight and you need to plan for the future. Each expression of Martell has different ageing requirements, so you need to balance between what you need currently with what you will need in the future.

Introducing Cognac to the world

Jacques Menier

Jacques Menier

The other great challenge is predicting what is going to be consumed in 10 to 20 years’ time. Presently, there’s huge growth in the consumption of cognac with meals, and this has really spread in places like China. In fact, 50% of Martell consumption in Asia is during dinner! Other countries have also growing demand – Malaysia, for example, is our second biggest market in Asia. We don’t really know what will change in the future. Right now, keeping everyone happy with enough supply of cognac is hard enough, but it’s a good problem to have.

There is growing demand for more premium expressions of cognac, and this is mainly because consumers are becoming more sophisticated. In terms of quantity, they will drink less, but they will be drinking better. I think this is because there is better appreciation for the craft that goes into the making of cognac.

The Art of Drinking Cognac with Jacques Menier

Part of my job as Martell’s Heritage Director is to educate the consumer. Of course, there are customers who drink cognac because it is trendy, but the majority are genuinely curious about it and want to know more, which is where I come in. Cognac is pure, natural and sophisticated, and the more you know about it, the more you understand why you would choose this product.

I am also the link between Martell and consumers around the world. Previously, I was Martell’s Sales Director for Asia, but now the commercial part is handled locally by, for example, Pernod Ricard Malaysia. My former role no longer exists, but it’s still important to have a direct connection between the Maison and the consumer, to listen to them and understand their needs. Once, we were getting feedback that customers didn’t the woodiness in the Martell VSOP, so we switched from new barrels to used three-year-old barrels to age the cognac in.

I used to travel up to six months a year, visiting countries all over the world. I used to come to Malaysia at least twice a year. But that all came to a stop during the pandemic. It was a terrible time for me! Of course, we stayed connected online but it’s not the same. Over the years, I have made many friends from my trips and having a cognac with them in person is what I missed most.

I was born in Cognac so you can say I have cognac in my blood. It’s a dream to work for this cognac maker that has been around since 1715. Martell has given me so much in terms of achievement and the freedom to do what I wanted to. Martell has given me world and I can’t thank them enough.

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