Tasting the $15,000 Louis XIII Rare Cask Cognac
Every once in awhile a cognac comes along that turns the industry upside down. Whether by chance or science, or simply by fate, the one thing these cognacs have in common is they were all produced with a great amount of love at each step of the process. The Louis XIII Rare Cask from the House of Remy Martin is no exception.
I was invited to sample this rare cognac, presented by Pierrette Trichet, the first woman to serve as a Louis XIII Cellar Master. Trichet first identified this exquisite cask in 2004, and noticed it was different for two reasons. One, it had an alcoholic strength of 43.8, above the standard 40 degrees, and two, it had an intense aromatic bouquet, much stronger than most. There's no telling what produced the exact conditions to make this exact cognac. But whether from slight cask movements at blending times or historic conditions in the aging process, there's no human way to replicate the process. Building on this chance of nature, Trichet isolated the cask for four years, cultivating it into the perfect balance between aromatic nose and cognac strength.
Gallery: Louis XIII Rare Cask Tasting
The entire experience of tasting the Louis XIII Rare Cask is like a trip into history itself. There are up to 250 flavors throughout the century-old eau-de-vie, each flavor tasting unique through each progressive sip. I started with a note of fleur de tabac. And then tasted wild mushrooms, a promenade in an Autumnal forest full of wood fruits, prunes and scents of vanilla. Next came beeswax and gingerbread, and then a surprising afternote of fresh mint. It was an all-encompassing trip of tastes back and forward through the ages, a pure testament to the unpredictability of nature and the astounding talent of Trichet. To taste the Louis XIII Rare Cask is to experience a richness beyond anything you'd expect to find in a glass, as Trichet describes it, "as if experiencing the soul of Louis XIII himself."
Of course such a historic cognac deserves a historic presentation. Remy Martin called upon their longtime partner Baccarat to develop a first-of-its-kind decanter, made from the extremely rare black crystal. Based on a metal flask found in 1874 on a 1569 battlefield, the shape has evolved into the gorgeous crystal decanter shape today. Black crystal, just like the Rare Cask, is an astounding technical feat, which only the most highly-skilled Baccarat artisans are allowed to perform. Each decanter takes 50 hand-crafted operations performed under a strict temperature by 20 master craftsman working in unison, a process that takes two weeks to complete. Metallic oxides must be perfectly distributed to achieve the fine opaque black of the crystal. The neck of the bottle is finished in palladium, adding a further element of refinement.
The Louis XIII Rare Cask is the perfect balance between nature and craft, encompassing the power of Grande Champagne history and destined to be served at historical moments. Only time can tell us if another cask as perfect as the XIII awaits us. Until then, there will only be 786 decanters total made worldwide, available May 1st. And only 30 lucky customers will be available to purchase a decanter, priced at $15,000, in the U.S. To try your hand at getting one of these impossibly rare editions, contact the Louis XIII Brand Ambassador, Remi Brabant at 212-399-4200.