Cognac is one spirit that grants its drinkers instant gratification. Produced in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, France, strict distillery guidelines distinguish the drink from brandy—and the history of Louis XIII de Remy Martin sets the brand apart from its competitors. One sip and each layer of complex, century-aged flavors emerge: smoky oak wood, ripened figs, Cuban cigars, dried apricot, sweet vanilla.
However pricey (a bottle runs close to $3,000), the production of Louis XIII is remarkable and spans across generations. We were lucky enough to walk through the aging process via plate at New York City’s Contra restaurant.
Raw scallops and unripe pear represent Louis XIII’s first year of production, where its deep, amber color actually begins with a grossly tart white grape—often the ugni blanc variety—which is double-distilled in oak barrels to create a clear fruit brandy called eaux-de-vie (French for “water of life”).
As the years progress, different eaux-de-vie brandies are added to the barrel, complicating flavors as depicted in the courses: veal tongue and butternut squash for age 20; walnut-milk soaked pork with raw button mushrooms for age 60.
Only after 1,200 eaux-de-vie notes are blended together over a century is Louis XIII poured into the regal crystal decanter—each sip transporting you through 100 years of French history and a culinary tour across the Grande Champagne.
Maria Pedone is a contributor to TravelandLeisure.com.