The LOUIS XIII Cognac, a preeminent brand synonymous with luxury and quality, recently launched in Kenya, and I got the chance to fly to Cottar’s 1920’s Safari Camp in the Maasai Mara for the first ever tasting of this premium drink in Kenya. The cognac, which costs Ksh 300,000 globally retails for Ksh 350,000 at Slater & Whittaker, the official distributors in Kenya.
The selection of Cottar’s Camp as the location for the unveiling was quite befitting as a century worth of cognac meets a century worth of safari. Both can be seen as legacy and heritage businesses involved in conservation and preservation: one takes generations of cellar masters to craft while the other has undergone a transition over time to become a leader in the conservation of wildlife.
On our first evening, following a drive where we spot plenty of animals ranging from a pride of lions to ravenous vultures squabbling over the carcass of a wildebeest, we sit around a bonfire trading stories about heritage while finding out more about the brand. Did you know, for instance, that Louis XIII teamed up with Hollywood actor John Malkovich in 2015 to create a science fiction movie dubbed ‘100 years- the movie that you will never see”, because it won’t be released until 2115? The movie, which predicts what the future will look like at the time of its release, is currently locked away in a custom-made vault that will stay sealed for 100 years. To put that into perspective, the master blenders who will be responsible for using some of the spirits that the brand is producing today haven’t even been born yet. And so we toast to the future.
Each decanter is the life achievement of generations of cellar masters. Since its origins in 1874, each generation of cellar master selects from their cellars the oldest and most precious eaux-de-vie for LOUIS XIII. Today, Cellar Master Baptiste Loiseau is setting aside their finest eaux-de-vie, as a legacy to his successors for the coming century. LOUIS XIII is an exquisite blend of up to 1,200 eaux-de-vie sourced 100% from Grande Champagne, the first cru of the Cognac region.The legendary decanters have been made from fine crystal for generations, mouth-blown by some of the most skilled master craftsmen.
Sat around a beautifully laid out table at this property, I take in the beautiful ornate decanter of the drink. It is mahogany in colour, and when poured, it has elegant intricate floral tones which are underlined by dried fruits, roses, honeysuckle and jasmine. Everyone has their own olfactory memory though, so while I might be able to smell a ‘dust after rain characteristic’, someone would pick up a cigar box or leather. The smell of the ultra-premium cognac engulfs the space, and it is incredible. I take a small sip, and it is amazing how it unfolds like a firework…smooth, silky with a beautiful viscosity. As our host for the evening, Jörg Pfützner (Private Client Director for LOUIS XIII in South Africa) aptly put it, it’s like a wave of time…every flavour echoes the other building up like a crescendo.
If you think that a glass of LOUIS XIII is expensive, consider the time needed to craft each drop without compromise. Time is the raw material here…you cannot speed it up to make it cheaper.