How Baptiste Loiseau Is A Master Of Time
The silence is almost reverential as we step into the darkness. The air is redolent with the rich, complex scent of aged cognac, which the French poetically refer to as the angels’ share. As my eyes adjust, rows and rows of ancient tiercon casks are revealed, each holding a precious blend of 1,200 eaux-de-vie, some a century old. We’re visiting the historic estate of Le Grollet in Cognac, France—the birthplace of Louis XIII cognac, created by Paul-Émile Rémy Martin in 1874. Among the vineyards of ugni blanc grapes of Grande Champagne that thrive on the region’s chalky terroir, this vital piece of history remains.
Today, the cognac house’s fifth cellar master, Baptiste Loiseau, carries on the lofty legacy left behind by André Renaud and the generations of cellar masters after him. After all, each bottle of Louis XIII is the sublime culmination of 100 years of ageing and blending. We talk to Loiseau about preserving heritage, job challenges and growing up in Cognac.
Cognac’s youngest cellar master, Loiseau succeeded his mentor Pierrette Trichet in 2014, ushering in a new era for the brand. How is the house of Rémy Martin engaging a new generation of cognac drinkers? “Louis XIII remains committed to its core principles and values, as well as its style and aromatic complexity,” explains Loiseau. “Honouring craftsmanship and embracing the luxury of time enables Louis XIII to remain the exceptional cognac it is today. This is the essence of our cognac, which allows us to talk to all generations, no matter their age.”
He adds, “To engage with the younger consumers we have had, for example, an interesting campaign: 100 Years: The Movie You Will Never See. Based on the concept of creating a film that will not be released immediately, it is inspired by the time it takes to create Louis XIII.” Starring veteran thespian John Malkovich, 1,000 guests from around the world were given invitations to pass on to their descendants to see the film when it premieres on November 18, 2115.
The lifeblood of Louis XIII is its cellar masters; each bottle represents the spirit of each generation, containing eaux-de-vie carefully selected in each tenure. “The role of cellar master carries a great weight and responsibility with it—you are the guardian of the quality and consistency of every blend, and it’s vital to ensure the Louis XIII style is respected,” says Loiseau. “A major part of my job involves working with my nose, from selecting eaux-de-vie to tasting, along with managing the processes of ageing and blending. I am lucky in that I am sensitive to aromas, both in everyday life and in my work. You also have to be curious and inventive to do this job, because a cellar master is more than just the ‘guardian at the temple door’ that people often imagine.”
He continues, “Above all, you need to be a visionary, because you have to prepare the house’s future in the medium and long term. You know, when you take over this position, that you will not taste the fruit of your labour; you become a link in a precious chain, receiving the legacy from your predecessor and passing on the baton to a new generation.”
Loiseau, a Cognac native, became keenly interested in agronomy growing up, inspired by his grandparents, who were both horticulturists. He developed a great love for nature and respect for the winegrowers that cultivated the terroir. “Life in Cognac is special because it is in close relationship with nature,” he says. “There’s a love for healthy and regional food, pure air…. There is a special atmosphere in Cognac. It is a city which offers a gentle way of life. I would recommend travellers to visit the old Cognac, the Charentaises houses from the 18th century and the Charente River. Travellers can also experience the Cognac universe: visit cellars, feel the perfume of time. The life of the region is dedicated to vineyards and Cognac, where time is seen with such a different perception.”