Inside the World’s Most Coveted Cognac

Louis XIII & Sharp

In Drake’s Toosie Slide music video, filmed inside of his Bridle Path mansion in Toronto, a camera pans past the rapper’s marble home bar. On top is a rare bottle of cognac. Its amber liquid is housed inside a crystal decanter, with a neck ringed by 20-carat gold and topped with a fleur-de-lys stopper. This isn’t just any cognac: it’s LOUIS XIII by Rémy Martin. And it’s no surprise that drinking it is an experience worthy of celebration (and maybe a little bragging).

Founded in 1874 by Paul-Émile Rémy Martin, LOUIS XIII is the pinnacle of old-world luxury and the most distinguished spirit in the world. But to what does it owe such a distinction? Beyond music’s fascination with LOUIS XIII is a meticulous and labourious production process. A single bottle is the result of decades worth of expertise passed between generations of cellar masters, and the most important raw material of all: time. LOUIS XIII is made up of some 1,200 eaux-de-vie – a type of clear fruit brandy – all grown on a tiny plot of land in France’s cognac region of Grande Champagne.

Cellar master Baptiste Loiseau among Grande Champagne's vineyards

Decades before a bottle of LOUIS XIII reaches Drake’s home bar, its life begins in the terroir. Grande Champagne is home to porous limestone soils, as well as the Gulf Stream which blows west off the Atlantic Ocean, and it’s here that the grapes with the best aging potential grow. Only the best eaux-de-vie will move to the oak casks tucked inside of LOUIS XIII’s dim, damp André Hériard Dubreuil cellar. And only after decades of maturation will the finest batches move to the tierçons. Decades old and crafted from tall oak trees, the tierçons are integral to LOUIS XIII’s aging process: their thin staves allow the eaux-de-vie to interact with both wood and air.

After decades worth of carefully controlled aging, how is a LOUIS XIII blend then created? “The initial preparation came from Pierrette Trichet, the Cellar Master who passed down to me the knowledge and savoir-faire she in turn had received. Then comes a profound knowledge of all the precious eaux-de-vie we hold in our cellars,” explains current cellar master Baptiste Loiseau, who, at 34 years old, became the youngest cellar master in the cognac industry in 2014. “It’s a mixture of science, of course, but also intuition.” The result? A rich amber liquid that smells of dried rose and honeysuckle, and tastes of fig, walnut, and passionfruit.

Loiseau samples the eaux-de-vie

There are few jobs where one will never taste the fruits of their labour. Being LOUIS XIII’s cellar master is among them. “I think a century ahead when I set aside our finest eaux-de-vie,” says Loiseau. From vine to decanter, a single batch of LOUIS XIII may be shepherded by as many as four generations of cellar masters. By planting new oak seedlings that, after 150 years, will become new tiercons, to casking eaux-de-vie that won’t be tasted for decades, Loiseau works just like the generations of cellar masters who have come before him. And while LOUIS XIII owes much to the human touch, it’s also the result of the most powerful, elemental, and untouchable force of all: time.

Good things come to those who wait. And now that another Lunar New Year has arrived, what better way to celebrate the passage of time than with a drink crafted by time itself?

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A crystal artisan crafts the iconic LOUIS XIII decanter