DRINK­ING CO­GNAC

Just how do you drink your Remy Martin or which bot­tle would you gift your fa­ther or girl­friend?

Business Daily (Kenya) - - LIFE - Wendy Watta

Drink­ing co­gnac— es­pe­cially a Remy Martin— which you can loosely spend Sh4 mil­lion on a rare cask is like smok­ing cigar.

“You don’t smoke a cigar, you en­joy it. A lot of time goes into craft­ing co­gnac right from se­lect­ing the grapes to the bot­tling and im­port­ing to Kenya. There is no rush...just ap­pre­ci­ate it,’’ says Bran­don Mu­di­an­gombe, the brand ac­ti­va­tor for Remy Coin­treau brands in East and North Africa.

We are seated at the Cigar Lounge of Villa Rosa Kempin­ski where an ar­ray of dark, el­e­gant and un­der­stated co­gnac bot­tles in his port­fo­lio are on dis­play in the liquor cabi­net. Beer may be the per­fect drink for ca­sual oc­ca­sions but co­gnac is un­doubt­edly a sym­bol of class and sub­stance.

“Co­gnac has to specif­i­cally come from the Co­gnac re­gion of France, and to cre­ate one, there are a few rules,” he ex­plains.

“First, you need to have white grapes from Co­gnac, do dou­ble dis­til­la­tion then age it for a min­i­mum of two years in an oak bar­rel. From there you can have the pos­si­bil­ity to bot­tle and put the la­bel co­gnac on it.”

Fu­elled by a rapidly grow­ing mid­dle-class who are con­tin­u­ally de­vel­op­ing a taste for finer things, the love for co­gnac has been ris­ing in Kenya with Remy Martin’s most pop­u­lar grade in the mar­ket be­ing the VSOP.

A 700ml bot­tle of VSOP co­gnac costs about Sh6,250 and it is the most af­ford­able in Remy’s port­fo­lio with el­e­gant flo­ral notes and a silky, well-bal­anced body, cou­pled with the sig­na­ture brown hue ac­quired from ag­ing in French Li­mousin oak bar­rels.

Hen­nessy, the world’s largest maker of co­gnac, is also push­ing for a big­ger share of the Kenyan mar­ket.

WOW Bev­er­ages also im­ports co­gnacs such as Meukow and Chabot priced be­tween Sh5,000 to Sh20,000 a bot­tle. “Remy Martin has a dif­fer­ent way of do­ing co­gnac,” says Mr Mu­di­an­gombe, adding that nor­mally, there is the VS, VSOP and XO, and some houses then do spe­cial lim­ited edi­tion bot­tles.

‘‘We some­times ex­clu­sively of­fer su­pe­rior qual­ity co­gnac, which refers to co­gnac fine cham­pagne be­cause of the qual­ity of grapes used. When a house of­fers that, there is no real need to do VS. We there­fore start at VSOP,” he said.

The top of the line Remy Martin bot­tle is the Louis XIII which Mr Mu­di­an­gombe says costs about Sh300,000 for a 700ml bot­tle, and in­sists that there are enough bot­tles in Kenya to meet de­mand. Some traders, how­ever, sell the co­gnac for dou­ble the price.

“It is the king of spir­its and is ex­pen­sive be­cause it is older. So much de­tail goes into the bot­tle which is beau­ti­ful to look at. It takes 100 years to craft with four gen­er­a­tions of cel­lar masters work­ing on it. The youngest eaux-de-vie is 40-year­sold, and there are about 1,200 bot­tles in the fi­nal blend.”

A waiter from The Bal­cony bar of the ho­tel brings out a Remy Mo­jito for me. The menu has about seven Remy cock­tails listed at Sh1,500 each, in­clud­ing a side­car, ne­groni and old fash­ioned, all tar­get­ing dif­fer­ent palates.

Ac­cord­ing to Mr Mu­di­an­gombe, how you choose to en­joy your drink de­pends on the place, oc­ca­sion, com­pany and mood.

For gift­ing

Mr Mu­di­an­gombe who speaks flu­ent French, English, Span­ish and Lin­gala (and is cur­rently learn­ing Man­darin and Swahili) first ar­rived in Kenya in April 2016. His pas­sion for brand build­ing saw him work in mar­ket­ing for Cen­tral and West Africa for cos­met­ics brand L’oreal be­fore mak­ing the shift to the wines and spir­its in­dus­try.

Tasked with rep­re­sent­ing Remy Coin­treau in this mar­ket, he un­der­stands that co­gnac is not for ev­ery­body.

“When it comes to qual­ity and price point, Remy Martin is above the com­pe­ti­tion. Al­ready the price of co­gnac isn’t the same as whisky so we are tar­get­ing spe­cific peo­ple. Given that and the num­ber of brands avail­able here, I think we have a good share of the mar­ket. Ev­ery brand has a dif­fer­ent sig­na­ture and ap­peals to dif­fer­ent clients, even just in terms of the im­age,” he said.

For Christ­mas, if you are look­ing for a fine co­gnac at an af­ford­able price, this brand am­bas­sador rec­om­mends the XO. The best prices are at the liquor store of his dis­trib­u­tor, Slater & Whit­taker in West­lands, Nairobi.

“The nos­ing gives sum­mer fruits with a vel­vety tex­ture and a re­ally nice fin­ish, and it can make a nice gift bag for your dad or boyfriend. Ladies will also like it be­cause it re­minds one of a very nice and ex­pen­sive per­fume,” he said.

...if you are look­ing for a fine co­gnac at an af­ford­able price, go for the XO.

--COUR­TESY

BRAN­DON MU­DI­AN­GOMBE the, brand ac­ti­va­tor for Remy Coin­treau brands in East and North Africa.

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