French writer Victor Hugo once said, "Cognac is the liquor of the gods."
It must be so, because French winemaker Remy Martin is selling 786 bottles of a very special cognac, Louis XIII Rare Cask, for the heavenly price of $15,000 each. Thirty bottles will be sold in fine wine shops in the United States beginning in April.
Remy Martin has been producing Louis XIII cognac since 1874, or about 150 years after the company was founded in 1724. A hand-blown Baccarat crystal decanter filled with 750 ml (25.3 oz) of Louis XIII sell for as much as $2,500. It is a blend of 1,200 eaux-de-vie that has been aged for up to 100 years in special oak barrels called tiercons.
The 786 bottles, which will be sold worldwide, are from a very rare tiercon that the cellar master, the first and only woman to hold the post at a major cognac house, discovered.
Pierrette Trichet, 57, who assumed the mantle of Cellar Master in 2003, found it in 2004 during a periodic tasting of aging Louis XIII casks.
"The aromas were highly unusual though the process was completely natural and the alcohol was normal 40 percent," she explained during an interview in New York.
She has tasted it each year and decided in 2009 that the aromas had reached a harmony.
"It was in perfect balance and the alcohol was at 43.8 percent," Trichet said, describing it as an astounding number.
As she poured about $200 worth of the amber liquid into a cut crystal glass, she described the vapors that filled the room as having the aromas of wild mushrooms, the forest after a rain, beeswax, prunes, ginger and even hints of fresh mint.
"This is a very special, very rare cognac," said Augustin Depardon, the brand's manager.
"First, this is the only one of all the thousands of tiercons that had these qualities and that will never happen again. Second, you are tasting time in a bottle. The time of four generations who have looked after the cognac, the traditions of the family and the magic of nature are here. You are tasting the obsession with quality," he said, adding the price tag was the cost of rarity.
With such a rare finding to her credit, what will Trichet do next?
"That, is for nature to decide. I am only here to keep tradition alive and pass on the knowledge," she said.
But Trichet is continuing the tradition of producing fine cognac. Her own blend of Louis XIII will not be released during her lifetime. The strict aging requirements for rare cognacs call for between 40 and 100 years of aging in the tiercons and typically, it is the work of three masters that contributes to each bottle of Louis XIII.
"I am not here to stay. The cognac is here to stay."