DREAM JOBS #1

Bap­tiste Loiseau, 30+ cel­lar mas­ter of 300+ year-old Rémy Martin.

Esquire (Malaysia) - - CULTURE - WORDS BY GRACE LAI

He’s the youngest-ever in Co­gnac his­tory, suc­ceed­ing Pier­rette Trichet (Co­gnac’s first woman cel­lar mas­ter) at the prodi­gious age of 34. As only its fifth cel­lar mas­ter, Bap­tiste Loiseau is keeper of an at least 293-year-old DNA. He se­lects eaux-de-vie of the great­est po­ten­tial from the vaults, blend­ing them into the style that is Remy Martin.

Loiseau is two years into his fab­u­lous job, do­ing work that might be pro­foundly mean­ing­ful in a world grow­ing dis­en­chanted with the smoke and mir­rors of the so-called gig econ­omy. But be­ing the tastemaker of an elixir cre­ated in the pa­tient, clas­si­cal ways comes with its own haz­ards in the age of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion: he must me­di­ate be­tween co­gnac lovers old and new.

“We are in a gen­er­a­tion where we want things to evolve quickly,” Loiseau says. “The young gen­er­a­tion now are aware of what peo­ple be­fore them have done; what they’ve put aside for us and the fu­ture gen­er­a­tion. My role is the same, and that is to re­spect that tra­di­tion but also evolve with the crazy and fast world we live in now.”

Loiseau is not un­fa­mil­iar with the words that the new, prospec­tive co­gnac mar­ket ex­pects to hear, so they know they're be­ing taken se­ri­ously. What’s his plan for the brand?

“As cel­lar mas­ter of Remy Martin, what I want to do is to make some­thing that de­serves to be aged; to re­spect the styles of the House since 1724; to be fair to the roots of this mag­nif­i­cent name; and tell the truth of the House by en­gag­ing with my au­di­ence. I be­lieve in to­tal trans­parency and I want peo­ple to see what Remy Martin does, what it will con­tinue to do, and how we will con­tinue to up­hold this 300-yearold in­sti­tu­tion mar­ried with the sci­ence of pre­serv­ing it in the fast-chang­ing world.”

It’s a world still mad for Sil­i­con Val­ley ven­ture cap­i­tal, where in­no­va­tion is the thing. De­mo­graph­i­cally speak­ing, the co­gnac buyer can only get younger (un­less you're in Japan) and the cel­lar mas­ter must reckon with youth­ful ex­pec­ta­tions of some­thing dif­fer­ent from what the oldies drink. Loiseau presents his am­bas­sador’s cre­den­tials:

“There are no rules in mak­ing co­gnac. I’m merely fol­low­ing what time and na­ture give to me; that’s why I call co­gnac, the fra­grance of time. It is the con­cen­tra­tion of an aroma, kept and sealed in de­canters by my pre­de­ces­sors, ex­posed and re­vealed by each cel­lar mas­ter of the time.”

For Loiseau, co­gnac is re­vealed truth; in­no­va­tion is in aid of rev­e­la­tion.

The most ex­cep­tional eaux-de-vie are aged in rare casks; the ex­pres­sion of Louis XIII (pro­nounced louie treize) de­pends on a trin­ity, as de­scribed in scrip­tures of many cul­tures and is also known as ter­roir: heaven, earth, man; a unique al­liance of cli­mate, soil and the skills of the wine­grow­ers and dis­tillers of the Grande Cham­pagne area in the Co­gnac re­gion.

Louis XIII first ap­peared as a glint in the eye of Paul-emile Remy Martin in 1874. It is a blend of up to 1,200 eaux-de­vie made from the wine of grapes sourced en­tirely from Grande Cham­pagne. All of which the cel­lar mas­ter must taste.

“To­day’s Louis XIII must of­fer a sim­i­lar drink­ing ex­pe­ri­ence to the one avail­able a cen­tury ago, and what will be on of­fer in another 100 years. When you taste the Louis XIII, there is no set way to ex­pe­ri­ence it. It is a shar­ing of that very mo­ment and al­low­ing your words and feel­ings to flow,” says Loiseau, wax­ing lyri­cal and bullish even as he looks up to see chal­lenges from above.

“My task is to main­tain the con­sis­tency of this hun­dreds-years-old drink, but the cli­mate is chang­ing. The grapes are chang­ing and ev­ery year, and even right now, we are con­stantly ex­per­i­ment­ing to adapt to this change. But we will fig­ure it out and we will not lose be­cause a hun­dred years ago, the cli­mate was also dif­fer­ent and yet my pre­de­ces­sors were able to do what they do; so I know I can also do what I need to do.”

AN AP­PRE­CI­A­TION

Remy Martin co­gnac is white wine twice-dis­tilled in small, cop­per pot stills. The first round of dis­til­la­tion re­moves the “fluff” and leaves the liq­uid 30% al­co­hol; the se­cond round ex­tracts the aro­matic re­lease of the liq­uid, known as the bonne chauffe or heart, turn­ing the end-prod­uct into the wa­ter of life, or as the French calls it, the eaux-de-vie. Co­gnac is aged a min­i­mum of two years and is only recog­nised as co­gnac if it is dis­tilled from wines of grapes grown in the Co­gnac re­gion. But don't men­talise it, says Loiseau.

“It’s not some­thing you read in books. It’s an ex­pe­ri­ence, and the best way to ex­pe­ri­ence co­gnac is to let your­self go with no ex­pec­ta­tion and only in­tu­ition.

“Ex­plore and open your­self up to the fruiti­ness of the VSOP (four years old) first. It’s sim­ple and it’s the per­fect first drink for some­one new to co­gnac.

“Next, move on to the XO, a 10-year-old bot­tle, for a more con­cen­trated palate. The XO is a con­cen­tra­tion of can­died fruits, figs, cin­na­mon, cloves, nut­meg and the iris and jas­mine flow­ers. It is rich, but not so rich you won’t be able to fully grasp its com­plex­ity. If you want to go fur­ther, try of course the Louis XIII, the ul­ti­mate trib­ute to drink­ing time.

“Co­gnac is not wine. I say to peo­ple not to ever swirl the glass be­cause in it­self, the Co­gnac is al­ready so per­fect and well-aged that you do not need to fur­ther open it up, or even want it to blend with the air. If you do that, all you get is a heavy hit of al­co­hol, los­ing the ex­trav­a­gance and rich­ness of the lay­ers of the Co­gnac – which is what you’re sup­posed to drink!

"So I say to peo­ple, do not swirl but first, hold it at maybe here (your waist level), in­hale it, nose and savour it, and then slowly bring it up to nose level to draw in, or draw out, the lay­ers of its rich­ness. Coat your lips first, and then drink slowly, in sev­eral sips, to fully ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery layer of the co­gnac.

“It is never the same, and it should never be the same. Each layer and the length of time you drink changes the notes and full­ness, and that is the magic of co­gnac.”

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