For Flight Club, the origins of this year-end special event lie with this bottle, and so its selection is of special significance for us. Each month, our club hosts tastings consisting of four or five themed spirits, obtainable within a budget of around $300-$400 total. But those bottles that average $100 are a far cry from some of the high-end spirits that we have each dreamed of trying. Louis XIII became an example for our club of that illusive bottle that always remained outside our price ranges (sometimes $400 or more a pour, and the price of a bottle doubling over the past decade). Three years ago, we set out a plan to try some of these exceptional, rare or otherwise noteworthy bottles: through a change in our Bylaws, our Members now allocate money each month to make a once-a-year tasting like this happen.
Previous selection have included a 2011 (Stitzel-Weller) Pappy Van Winkle 20 Year and the Port Ellen 36 Year Old 1979 – Xtra Old Particular from the Douglas Laing bottling house. This year, we elected to source a bottle of Louis XIII, and found one at auction out of the United Kingdom.
Louis XIII de Remy Martin Cognac may be best described by first dispelling rumors that were told to me (and I presume, many of you may have heard) many years ago. Louis XIII does not contain cognac dating back to the days of King Louis XIII (the man). Remy Martin (the company) itself only dates to 1724. Without repeating high school history class, Louis XIII was the King of France in the 17th century, dying in 1643.
So what are the origins of this cognac, and why is it named after a king of the 1600’s?
In 1850, the Remy Martin company obtained a metal flask that was discovered at the site of the 1569 Battle of Jarnac. In 1874, on the 150th anniversary of the “House” of Remy Martin, the company released a cognac in specially designed crystal replicas of that historic flask. The cognac was named “Grande Champagne Very Old – Age Unknown.”
The cognac was not renamed as “Louis XIII” until a later date. That name was chosen as a dedication to Louis XIII, who “encouraged the sale of [brandy] under his reign.”
As to the bottle, Remy Martin says: “each individually numbered decanter is . . . made from fine crystal for generations, mouth-blown by some of the most skilled master craftsmen.”
The cognac is produced as a blend of up to 1,200 different brandies (called “eaux-de-vie”). The blend, and the ages thereof, is proprietary. However, it is believed that the component parts of this Cognac range in age from 40 to more than 100 years.
According to Remy Martin, Louis XIII brings “a magical firework of flavors and aromas, evoking myrrh, honey, dried roses, plum, honeysuckle, cigar box, leather, figs and passion fruit. Louis XIII develops intense aromas which persist more than one hour on the palate.”
While the Louis XIII is the center of our year-end tasting, we have selected to compliment it with a bottle of Remy Martin XO Excellence. This is said to be a blend of 300 different eaux-de-vie, consisting of Grande Champange cognacs (85%) and Petite Champagne cognacs (15%) – Grande and Petite referring to sub-regions within the Champagne region of France. The ages of the various eaux-de-vie range from 10 to 37 years.