The Luxe Cafe: It has been a successful journey so far, what do you love the most about working with the firm?
Baptiste Loiseau: I joined Remy Martin 10 years ago and I took the position as the Cellar Master 3 years ago, It was a question of transition between the previous Cellar Master and myself during seven years to understand the style of the house, how we select the eaux-de-vie, the blending process etc. I was born and brought up in the Cognac region so I decided to go back to my roots to be totally involved in the cognac making for a prestigious house like Remy Martin. What’s important for me is to respect the style, to respect all the people who make the grapes and the wonderful eaux-de-vie. At Remy Martin, we say that we are rooted in exception because we’re dealing with this small part of France where we can make Cognac.
What makes Remy Martin XO stand out from the other liquors?
The Cognac Fine Champagne involves the exception of the terroirs i.e. the climate, soil, people who make the Cognac. Remy Martin is the specialist of Fine Champagne and this is what makes our XO so different. When you have the best grapes from the very beginning, you know that at the end with this best potential of ageing, there will be harmony in the final XO.
In a matter of hours, he can determine the quality and aging potential of dozens of brandies based solely on smell.
Being a Cellar Master which brings in a number of daunting responsibilities, what is the biggest challenge you have faced?
The most challenging part for me is to recreate the same blend with the eaux-de-vie which are different every year. When I’m focusing on the final blend of XO, it’s one of the most difficult and challenging part because you have to keep the tradition going with something which has been aged this long.
“To be fair to the decision we make and to be sure about the eaux-de-vie samples, the tasting is done blindly, to ensure impartiality”
What is the process of making Remy Martin XO?
The process is based on tasting, feelings and intuition. Most of the time, it’s hard for me to explain why it’s going the right way. From time to time, the techniques and experiences help me to make the final blend and to take the final decision to make sure that it’s going the right way. Most of the time I have to stay in the Cognac region that’s why it’s rare for me to travel because my main mission is to maintain the style and in order to do so, I have to be where the grapes are grown and be there when the Cognac is being made. It first starts with growing grapes, the harvest takes place in September then we obtain the white wine ready for the dual distillation. The final distillate is then presented to me and a tasting committee to select the finest samples. To be fair to the decision we make and to be sure about the eaux-de-vie samples, the tasting is done blindly, to ensure impartiality. It’s only numbers on the samples and everyday we taste 20-30 samples in a day. After this process, I select all these wonderful concentration of aromas from the chosen eaux-de-vie and put them in oak casks for ageing. For XO, we have to wait atleast 10 years of ageing for the youngest eaux-de-vie. When I’m facing the challenge of making the final blend, I have to go back to the old eaux-de-vie selected by the previous Cellar Masters. Once it’s all ready, it is sent out to the rest of the world to taste and appreciate it.
How do you maintain the strong sense of taste?
I maintain the strong sense of taste by tasting a lot, it’s based on the memory. When you spend a lot of time in the tasting room with the team, sharing impressions, trying to find the right terms to describe the eaux-de-vie, also being curious in wine tasting, you become more and more aware of the diversity and ultimately it becomes the question of memory and keeping one’s brain awake and fresh all the time.
“Cognac is a classic drink and has seen a lot more attraction from the southern part of the country.”
How is the Indian consumer behavior pattern like?
When I am speaking to people worldwide, people are more interested in the making. Along with paying tribute and respecting what has been done by the The Cellar Masters and the winegrowers, it is important to play with the spirit, there are no set rules when it comes to enjoyment. Focusing on the millennials , I’m sure India is the best country to explain to the youth how to play with the spirit in many different ways. With the increased consumption of the product and the rising middle class which has a great sense of luxury, India is gradually becoming a large Cognac drinking market. Cognac is a classic drink and has seen a lot more attraction from the southern part of the country.
When we think about Cognac, the two biggest names to cross our minds are Remy Martin and Hennessy, how would you differentiate between the two?
The big difference is the approach in the origin of grapes. If you go for the Hennessy bottle, it will be a Cognac generic one but if you go with the Remy Martin’s Fine Champagne, one is aware that it has the best potential of ageing that’s why we are focused on VSOP and XO. When you are dealing with Remy Martin, you know you are dealing with the part of the region which is much more concentrated in the aromas. We are old, professional in the Cognac region whereas they are respecting the Cognac category. It is a good product too but I choose Remy Martin because of the link to the terroir, the people is much more intense to deliver the quality we are looking for.
Of all the Remy Martin Products which one would you suggest a Champagne aficionado to try as their first and why?
For me, it has to be something that has been aged a really long time, so it would be XO. When you are a purist and you need to appreciate something with time and enjoy the moment with people, sharing impressions etc, XO would be the best option. XO is the perfect expression of Fine Champagne.
What would be your definition of Remy Martin XO house of style?
In one word, it would be “Harmony”, because it has fruitiness, spiciness, richness, everything inside but nothing which is competing or struggling, it’s all together.
When we’re thinking of Cognac to sip Vs Cognac to mix, what should be one looking for?
It depends on the kind of Cognac you’re appreciating, with the youngest one ofcourse you can play as much as you want. My favorite one would be VSOP with ginger ale and ice, easy to make, fresh, light and best to have fun with people. But if it has to be much more complex then it would be XO which can be best appreciated just with a big ice cube. Cognac remains a symbol of purification, artistry and authenticity.
As a Cellar Master, your job entails maintaining the consistency, how do you plan on doing that?
Being a Cellar Master, one has to be really demanding. From the very beginning one should be sure about respecting the style. I am seen as someone who is very demanding, who wants the best grapes from the best regions, the best wine, the way we make the distillation, very particular about the quality of the wood which is used for the cask making, I want the oaks to be dusted in a specific way to respect the quality of the wood and also to be sure of the quality of the eaux-de-vie. So when we are sure from the very beginning that everything is going the right way, at the end we are really confident about the diversity and harmony in the Cellar House. It will only satisfy me once when the recipe I have yields the same result as the one I did a year before. We are dealing with time but we are not in a hurry.
What is the best way to enjoy Remy Martin XO?
I suggest the best way to enjoy Remy Martin XO would be on the rocks with a big ice cube as an apèritif and neat as a digestif.