For close to 150 years, there have been only three Louis XIII Rare Casks. Two are synonymous with classic autumnal flavours — stone fruit, figs, nuts. This time around, however, floral notes and freshness are at the forefront. The twist in tradition marks cellar master Baptiste Loiseau’s stamp on the French cognac house, bringing his singular vision to an established brand.
Loiseau was the youngest cellar master in Louis XIII’s history when he took up the role at the age of 34 after its first female cellar master Pierrette Trichet retired in 2014 at 62. The last Rare Cask, a single barrel of eaux-de-vie selected by the cellar master from hundreds for its exceptional flavour, was released a decade ago.
To celebrate the launch of Rare Cask 42.1, Louis XIII producer Remy Martin threw a glitzy dinner in Venice in March attended by over 120 global elite. The well-dressed guests were the perfect audience for a S$71,888 cognac in a posh crystal decanter. The previous Rare Casks, selected by Trichet, were released in 2009 and 2013 and retailed for 10,000 euros (S$14,665) and 18,000 euros, respectively.
As part of the limited-edition concept, only 775 decanters of the Rare Cask 42.1, named after its alcohol content, are available. About 20 were offered to buyers in Singapore, one of Asia’s biggest markets for Louis XIII’s direct-to-consumer sales.
Inspired by his late grandfather’s garden
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Speaking to The Peak in Venice, Loiseau says he was drawn to the Rare Cask 42.1’s distinct notes as they evoked the sweet, heady aroma of roses in his late grandfather’s garden in Cognac. The Frenchman recalls: “As a child, I helped my grandfather, a horticulturist, take care of the vegetables and flowers. Every Sunday, he made a bouquet of roses for my grandmother before the family lunch. The intense aroma from the roses captured the essence of his garden and the brilliance of summer.”
Loiseau says of his Rare Cask selection that the first wave of aroma has nuts and candied fruit notes typical of a Louis XIII cognac, but deeper in, he is reminded of a “magnificent garden filled with roses, peonies, and lilacs”.
The floral notes give way to freshness and fruitiness, with hints of mango, passionfruit and lychee — an interpretation that will surely pique the interest of Asian cognac connoisseurs.
There are no rules in terms of timing for the Rare Cask. I am guided by my emotions and intuition — once I am blown away by the balance of its taste, it is the right moment to reveal. – BAPTISTE LOISEAU
He first discovered the singular barrel in Louis XIII’s storied Domaine du Grollet cellars in Cognac two years ago. “I wanted to explore the floral and freshness facets as it took me back to my childhood memories, but time is also a raw material for the cognac to develop the right balance of intensity and freshness.”
Paying tribute to generations of grape farmers
Having worked as deputy cellar master for three years before becoming Louis XIII’s head tasting honcho, Loiseau adopts a more retrospective approach to cognac-making, building on what previous generations of farmers in the Grande Champagne region have done.
“My focus is on the terroir and paying tribute to the farmers behind the creation of the wonderful eaux-de-vie and maintaining a consistent quality of grapes despite the uncertainty of nature. Their role helps me focus on improving the ageing potential of the cognacs,” he says.
“I want to improve the quality of our eaux-de-vie and get them ready to face the effects of climate change so future generations can have them at their disposal.” By using robots in the vineyards and checking the quality of grapes, Louis XIII is integrating age-old knowledge with technology to carry out more precision viticulture.
The work of a cellar master never ends, and Loiseau is already keeping an eye on the brandy notes in the house’s barrels to release the next Rare Cask. “Some tiercons are showing singularities and nice facets, but they are not ready. There are no rules in terms of timing for the Rare Cask. I am guided by my emotions and intuition — once I am blown away by the balance of its taste, it is the right moment to reveal.”