Last week, I was lucky enough to win tickets to a Rémy Martin nosing and tasting and cocktail demonstration with food provided by Waitrose’s Head Chef – what a combo!
What became apparent when asked what we knew about Rémy Martin or Cognac at the beginning of the tasting was either that there were lot of shy people in the room or the modern cocktail loving consumer doesn’t yet know a huge amount about Cognac.
While trying my best not to be the annoying know-it-all at the back of the class I offered up that Rémy Martin sources its grapes from the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne regions of Cognac, yet before getting stuck into Crus we needed to establish that Cognac was indeed French and made from grapes.
This demonstrates quite what a job the guys at Rémy Martin have on their hands educating and inspiring a new generation of Cognac fans. However, Remy Martin ambassador, Anne-Laure Pressat was perfectly placed to give consumers a friendly introduction to Cognac and a potted history of Rémy Martin so consumers who signed up to the class were left with an understanding of quite what makes Rémy Martin so special.
Cognac is a region is South West France just north of Bordeaux – only eaux de vie made and aged in this appellation can be called Cognac. The Cognac region is made up of six districts called ‘Crus’. At the heart of Cognac lies the best of these Crus; Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, these Crus enjoy a chalky soil similar to that of the Champagne region where France’s famous world class bubbly is made.
To be a Cognac, the spirit must be double distilled in a copper pot still (Armagnac can be distilled just the once) by 31st March in the year following harvest and aged in French oak for minimum of 2 years and must produce a spirit with a minimum of abv of 40%.
Cognac has three age classifications VS, VSOP and XO which relate to a minimum ageing period (2, 4 and 6 years respectively, although as we’ll see later this is just a minimum). Blending and ageing is key to Cognac, where the mission is to create a consistent product every year regardless of the weather conditions of the particular vintage.
Rémy Martin is a Cognac house of some heritage, it was first founded in 1724 and because of its philosophy of quality it doesn’t create a basic VS Cognac.
As Anne-Laure is explaining the distillation process at Rémy my ears prick up at…‘when the barrels are sleeping, she will blend’.
‘She’ is Rémy Martin’s Cellar Master, Pierrette Trichet. In this day and age I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that a woman is at the helm of a major Cognac house, but in this male-dominated industry I confess I am a little surprised and indeed impressed that a woman has broken through – what a woman she must be I wonder. Pierrette Trichet is the only female Cellar Master of any of the major Cognac houses, and she has been there for some time (20 yrs +), as had her predecessors – there have only been four Cellar Masters at Rémy in the past 100 years.
So what else makes Rémy different? Well the sourcing of grapes is key, but also the fact that 100% of the base wines are distilled on their lees. These dead yeast cells adds complexity and character to the final spirit but makes distillation that much more difficult as will need to be careful not to burn the sediment. Rémy is distilled in small copper pot stills of just 25hl and then aged in oak from France’s oldest and most renowned forest, the Limousin Forest.
Onto the Cognacs….
Rémy Martin VSOP Mature Cask Finish
Remy Martin VSOP (Very Special Old Pale) contains a blend of 240 different Cognacs aged between 4 and 14 years old.
The recipe is the same as when first created in 1927, however, the finishing has changed in recent years following the bottle redesign and it is now finished in mature casks.
This is a great aromatic Cognac for blending into cocktails as it has a strong flavour that can stand up to a multitude of ingredients.
It exudes a fruity aroma with peach, apricot and pears which develops into a crème brûlée, vanilla, spicy white pepper on the palate and a soft honey finish that lingers.
Rémy Martin Coeur de Cognac
A light Cognac which is simple, feminine and fruity and presented in a stylish, curvaceous perfume-inspired bottle.
Rémy Martin XO
Rémy Martin XO (Extra Old) was first created in 1981, a very good year!. This is a luxury connoisseurs’ Cognac which is a blend of 360 different Cognacs aged between 10 and 37 years old. 85% of the blend comes from the ‘grander’ Grande Champagne Cru.
This is an intense tipple which shows in waves of flavours, from a waft of jasmine and dried apricot followed by an array of figs, caramel, toffee and hazlenut and finishes with a distinctive liquorice finish. Divine.
And the cocktails…
So once we were won over by the spirits, we were shown how to enjoy them – in a range of cocktails so simple we could easily recreate at home – and trust me I have!
French Mojito – Light, refreshing way to introduce someone to Cognac – my hubby’s favourite
Rémy Martin Side Car
This is a classic brandy cocktail of which I am a fan, I won a prize on the evening for my Side Car creation – so proud!Ingredients: 50ml Rémy Martin VSOP 25ml Cointreau 25ml fresh lemon juice Orange peel for garnish Ice Method: Chill martini glass with ice while preparing the cocktail. Shake all the ingredients with ice and strain into the chilled martini glass (remove the ice from the glass first). Garnish with an orange peel twisted into the glass
A twist on hot toddy but adapted for warmer times, given the number of summer colds I’ve had this year I will keep this recipe to hand, it is tasty and refreshing whether you are suffering from a cold or notIngredients: 50ml Rémy Martin VSOP 2 teaspoons of clear honey 12.5ml of fresh lemon juice Dash of angostura bitters Pressed apple juice Cubed ice Method: Stir in Rémy, honey and lemon juice until honey is dissolved, add ice and stir again. Add apple juice and garnish with lemon and apple slices before topping with ice
Thank you Rémy Martin for the inspiring masterclass and cocktail demonstration and thank you Waitrose for the phenomenal food and of course the invitation to such a special night.