If time is money, then every decanter of Louis XIII is a veritable treasure trove. Ensconced in hand-crafted crystal casing, the cognac is a labour of love by several generations of cellar-masters. Louis XIII is a blend of 1,200 Eaux de Vie (a colourless fruit brandy, better translated into the water for life in French, which serves as the base for many a storied spirit) sourced 100 per cent from the Grande Champagne district of the Cognac region in France. The old adage of ‘all champagne is sparkling wine but all sparkling wines are not champagne’ holds true here.
Jörg Pfützner, as the official representative for Louis XIII cognac, who is in India to expand the brand’s footprint in an old market (the first Louis XIII cognac bought and brought in India dates back to the early 1900s, during the days of the British Raj), is very aware of that legacy. Being fortunate enough to taste a soupcon of the cognac, we can but attest to its par excellence. For us, the entire experience was akin to the striking of a church bell. At the first smack at it, our palate rang with notes of mahogany, walnut, and other dark wood. As we sipped further, and the cognac coated our tongue and inner cheeks, the accents of burnt toffee, star anise, and ground pepper became more evident.
“You’re sipping something which was around while Charlie Chaplin was still making movies. The decanter it is stored in was created by 11 master glass-blowers, with every piece being identifiable by its maker’s mark. As the various eaux-de-vie are stored, they lose three percent of their volume every year, and the final product is a blend of eaux-de-vie that have been stored up to a 100 years” says Pfützner, when asked about the price of the cognac and its ‘worth’.
It is for this reason that Pfützner in particular, and the brand in general, avoids tags and indices like expensive and market presence and volume sales. This isn’t a product that’s flogged to the masses, or even to those who can just afford it, for that matter. “Every drop of Louis XIII is the lifework of generations of cellar-masters. And the amount that we bottle and sell is also limited. We allocate it more than advertise it,” says Pfützner, who notes that the ‘Louis XIII society’, comprising those who represent it and those who buy it, is a two-way street insofar as the cognac is only sold to those who’d appreciate and is in turn, who buy it for its uniqueness in identity and place in time, rather than to “just get a buzz.”
The decanter (never bottle) itself is a literal work of art. Its unique shape is inspired by the dimensions of a metal flask recovered from the site of the Battle of Jarnac (1569) and dates back to 1850, when Paul-Emile Rémy Martin, arguably the progenitor of the eponymous brand, came across it and decided to use it as the receptacle of this most unique spirit. That sense of legacy continues to this day.
A most obvious question, with regard to a product whose creation is overseen by multiple generations of blenders over the course of a century, is about the consistency of taste, from one year’s bottling to the next. Does it differ over the generations? “When I asked our current cellar master Baptiste Loiseau and his predecessor Pierette Trichet (also the world’s first cognac cellar-master) the same question, their reaction was Mon Dieu, non (my God, no),” says Pfützner, explaining that the transition period between masters is long and arduous, with each successor learning “the same language of tastes and scents” that has demarcated the brand since its inception, in order to deliver the same product, century after century.Is that something you can really put a price to?
Being fortunate enough to taste a soupcon of the cognac, we can but attest to its par excellence. For us, the entire experience was akin to the striking of a church bell.