A cognac named for a king has been enjoyed by royalty and celebrities for nearly 150 years. In this Lap of Luxury, we went to The Bar at the Baccarat Hotel to taste the extraordinary Louis XIII cognac.
Baptiste Loiseau, the cellar master at Louis XIII, says this is a cognac with a long history, created in 1874 by Paul-Emile Rémy Martin. He wanted to highlight the superiority of the first terroir, the first cru, where they grow the best grapes in the Cognac region.
This region, Baptiste explains, is in the Southwest of France, about 100 kilometers north of Bordeaux. The vineyards there are influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and are home to white grapes.
In September and October, these white grapes are harvested to obtain wine that is double distilled in small copper pots to create what the French call eau de vie, which means “water of life.” It is a crystal clear and pure eau de vie that will be suitable for aging for decades and decades.
Baptiste then uses those aged eaux de vie in blending sessions to create, each year, a finer blend of Louis XIII.
Baptiste has been the cellar master at Louis XIII since 2014. Taking over at 34, he is the youngest cellar master in The House’s history and was trained by Louis XIII’s first female cellar master, Pierrette Trichet.
Four generations of cellar masters are still alive today, keeping the secrets of a brandy beloved by everyone from Napoleon to Jay-Z.
Baptiste calls himself the guardian of the temple. He says he gets to make all of these wonderful blends with eaux de vie selected by the previous generations. His playground is 29 cellars with thousands and thousands of casks that he uses to create a consistent Louis XIII blend each year.
A Baccarat crystal bottle of Louis XIII easily runs $3,000. A cocktail made with Louis XIII at the Baccarat Hotel is $450 a glass.
But, Baptiste says, keep it simple when trying Louis XIII for the first time. He suggests appreciating it neat. There is no need to warm it up or swirl the cognac in the glass.
He also recommends having a fresh nose and palette and trying Louis XIII at the end of the morning when you’re a little bit hungry and your senses are open. That’s the perfect condition to experience all the wonderful perfumes in the eau de vie.
Louis XIII is also a drink you should take time to appreciate. Don’t drink it right away. Baptiste suggests nosing it first. Approach the glass slowly and find the right distance to smell and enjoy all of its complexities. Figs and fruits will give way to floral notes, and finish with spice and freshness. Soak it all in, then take the tiniest of tastes.
Baptiste’s advice is to start with just one drop on your lips to let Louis XIII invade your palette. It’s a taste unlike anything else. When you’re ready, take it all in., with a full sip.
Drinking Louis XIII is always a discovery whether it’s your first taste or you’ve had it many times, Baptiste says. There are no rules. Just take your time, be humble, and pay tribute to the work of previous generations.