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Meet the Maker: Louis XIII cellar master Baptiste Loiseau

During a candlelit dinner in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey, its chapel still with the Coronation chair on view, Douglas Blyde learnt about Louis XIII Rare Cask 42.1 with cellar master Baptiste Loiseau.

Louis XVIII cellar master Baptiste Loiseau (Image courtesy of Thomas Alexander)
Louis XIII cellar master Baptiste Loiseau (Image courtesy of Thomas Alexander)

At 34 years old, Loiseau became the youngest cellar master in the history of Louis XIII Cognac in 2014, having joined the house in 2007.

What makes Louis XIII Cognac special?

It is a blend sourced from a multitude of our cellar’s most precious eaux-de-vie, which have been set aside for their preciousness and their rare potential to age in our cellars until they reveal their true aromatic potential.

The essence of Louis XIII Cognac lies in expressing the wonders of our terroir that reveal themselves in our tierçons (traditional wooden barrels made from the superior oak trees grown in the Limousin forests of southwest France) through time and savoir-faire.

Is it terroir-led?

Absolutely, ever since its creation in 1874, we strive to reveal the best expression of the Cognac Grande Champagne. Uniquely, its vines produce grapes which give birth to eaux-de-vie with very long ageing potential due to its chalk-rich soil, ideal climate and the savoir-faire of women and men from the vineyards to the copper pot still. A perfect combination we only find in Cognac Grande Champagne.

A tasting of Louis XIII Rare Cask 42.1 (Image courtesy of Thomas Alexander)
A tasting of Louis XIII (Image courtesy of Thomas Alexander)

And what is Rare Cask 42.1?

Rare Cask 42.1 is the new expression in the Rare Cask collection for Louis XIII. Coming from a singular cask, it reveals an unpredictable and uniquely exceptional aromatic profile: rich, intense, and giving a distinct expression of Louis XIII Cognac never encountered before. I decided to set this tierçon aside and nurture this unique expression, letting my instinct decide on the right moment to reveal this wonder.

For this uncovering, I favoured emotion over science. This tierçon’s singular aromatic profile, indicating an unexpected 42.1% ABV, carried me away – back to my most moving childhood memories to my grandad’s garden, with its distinctive floral olfactive notes.

Why is it being released now?

Finding a Rare Cask is like a jewel, one you can only hope to find once during your lifetime. It had been almost a decade since discovering the last Rare Cask together with the previous cellar master, Pierrette Trichet. It is completely unpredictable and unexpected.

More than a year ago, I was filled with emotions when discovering the singular tierçon’s aromatic profile. As its flavours reached the perfect balance between density and elegance, it was time to extract the liquid from the tierçon and reveal this unity to the world.

How best should Rare Cask 42.1 be enjoyed?

Rare Cask 42.1’s richness, intensity and complexity can only be enjoyed if tasted pure. It is powerful and velvety. It expresses distinctive floral notes of rose, peony, and lilac, but also fruity notes of freshness including passion fruit, mango, pineapple, and Mirabelle plum. Notes of liquorice and old wood are reminiscent of the tierçons in our cellars. It has an incredibly long finish, so we need to take the time to appreciate its uniqueness.

How did it feel to be the youngest cellar master at Louis XIII?

I am now the fifth generation of Louis XIII cellar masters, perpetuating the gestures of my predecessors. It is not relying on a question of age but much more on a question of passion, dedication and time given for transmission. As I said when I took the position in 2014, I could feel the responsibility of the mission, seeing it as a privilege and a duty to care for the wonders of the house and to prepare the future and the next generations to come.

Do you feel a strong connection to the cellar masters of Louis XIII?

I had the chance to spend time with three previous cellar masters: André Giraud, Georges Clot, and Pierrette Trichet. Of course, Pierrette has been the one who taught me everything about the Louis XIII style, inherited by the previous one. It’s obvious that we had a connection from the very beginning, respecting the savoir-faire of all the people who dedicated their lives and passions to creating and blending such exceptional eaux-de-vie and Cognacs. And the most important aspect is to share the same vision, knowing that it all starts in the vineyards: never compromising on the quality and the provenance of our future treasures.

I spent many wonderful days in the tasting room beside Pierrette to understand the style of the house, or in the distillery or the vineyards of our winegrowers to take into account the long-term vision as the essence of the mission. Seven years of transmission to understand the balance between science and intuition, before it was the right moment for me to take this new role.

And how are you helping nurture upcoming talent?

Transmission of savoir-faire is at the core of Louis XIII’s DNA to secure the living legacy for generations to come. Therefore, our mission is to guide and foster the constellation of talents, from the soil of Cognac Grande Champagne to the selection of eaux-de-vie, passing by the reparation of our tierçons. This constellation of talents and our mission to transmit our savoir-faire to future generations is part of our everyday journey into shaping the Louis XIII of tomorrow.

It starts in the vineyards, by accompanying our growers in their agro-ecological practices and by testing new cultivars in our estates. Internally, it’s teamwork with a tasting committee when it comes to selecting the unaged eaux-de-vie. And for the casks, it’s being able to go back to traditional savoir-faire, as we have done in 2017, with the capacity to craft new oak tierçons with our coopers from the House.

Is your nose insured for an astronomical sum?

As for Louis XIII, there are some secrets a cellar master can’t share…

Tell us something surprising about yourself unrelated to the world of gastronomy?

I have a passion for South Africa and enjoy spending some time there: literature, wines, food, landscapes, and people.

Who, from history, would you wish to share a glass of Rare Cask 42.1 with?

I would love to share a glass of Rare Cask 42.1 with Paul Emile Rémy Martin, the creator of Louis XIII in 1874. Almost 150 later, he would be the perfect one to understand the audacity of this creation and it would reinforce the long-term vision of caring for wonders, for the generations to come, as the previous have done…

Limited to 775 black decanters, Rare Cask 42.1 will be available exclusively at the Louis XIII Boutique at Harrods from 20th June (£47,000).

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