The oldest of the great cognac houses last year commemorated its 300th anniversary with a unique blend. Martell & Co. has spent three centuries challenging the boundaries of its own expertise and their latest creation – the limited edition Martell Premier Voyage – has pushed those boundaries to a whole new level.
Martell Premier Voyage, unveiled at the beautiful Château de Chanteloup in Cognac in France, is limited to only 300 individually numbered bottles worldwide and produced to order, a fitting representation of the company’s 300-year history.
Encased in a simple and elegant teardrop-shaped Sèvres crystal decanter designed exclusively by French artist, Bernar Venet, the anniversary blend contains a selection of 18 eaux-de-vie from the cellars of Jean Martell, some dating back to as early as 1830. Symbolically for the anniversary, the cuvée was then aged in barrels made from the wood of 300 year-old oak trees.
Cellar master, Benoît Fil, describes the new blend as ‘a reflection of the journey and history of Jean Martell.’ Thanks to the company’s unprecedented archives on display at Founder’s House (a museum open to visitors of the Martell distillery), the company was able to piece together a map of the founder’s key suppliers from 1735 to 1742. Fil then retraced Martell’s steps by visiting the descendants of the winegrowers who create the best quality eaux-de-vie. After a meticulous process of selecting ingredients and determining the optimal proportions, the tercentennial anniversary blend was born.
Fil added, “Martell Premier Voyage combines the vision of Jean Martell with the best of the Cognac region to create something uniquely special that we can enjoy today. This new blend truly captures three centuries of Martell turning cognac into art.”
The unveiling (in September last year) heralded the start of a year-long anniversary program that culminated at the Palace of Versailles.
Martell and Versailles
Martell has enjoyed a longstanding connection with Versailles, home to generations of French royalty.
From its very beginnings in 1715 – the same year as the reign of Louis XIV ended – the House of Martell became a supplier to some of the world’s leading figures, among them the Duke of Orleans in France, the Emperor of Austria, the Tsars of Russia, the Kings of England and Emperor Napoleon I.
For Martell, the Palace of Versailles represents a passion for beauty, a quest for perfection and a vision of luxury and the finest gastronomy. It is in this spirit that Martell decided to support the restoration to its former splendour of the famous Queen’s Antechamber, where the sumptuous daily ritual of the king’s ceremonial dinner was performed.
For Martell, it was a passion for this prestigious heritage: gastronomy, and harmonious pairings between dishes, wines and spirits.
Cognac from Cognac
On the river Charente, some 400kms southwest of Paris, the town of Cognac is renowned globally for the unique type of brandy that bears its name. In order to enjoy the distinction of being labelled cognac, the spirit must be made in specific areas around the town and it must follow strictly defined regulations and traditions of production and quality control. The longer a cognac matures in the barrel, the smoother it will generally become and, once it is bottled, no further development takes place.
All of the cognac consumed around the world comes from this small area in France covering around 185,000 acres – and nowhere else.
Jean Martell founded the Martell House in 1715, and within six years, the company was exporting over 200,000 litres of cognac to the U.K. It was in 1868 that the brand launched distribution to China, Japan, Hong Kong and other parts of Asia.
Martell cognac differs from other brands primarily due to the development of its own unique double-distillation method. The successive distillation processes are carried out in stills that have been designed to extract the clear wines only to achieve a more elegant eaux-de-vie.
Martell grapes come from the Charente region's four main growing areas: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins Bois. The eaux-de-vie are then aged in oak casks in the cellars. Martell uses only carved fine-grain ‘Tronçais’ oak wood barrels in order to release subtle woody aromas from the soft, delicate tannins. The choice of wood helps to create the signature style of Martell cognacs. They produce 1.5 million 9-litre cases of cognac a year.
Here’s to the next 300 years!