Tasting The $50,000 Final Boss Of Louis XIII Cognac
— Updated on 12 September 2023

Tasting The $50,000 Final Boss Of Louis XIII Cognac

— Updated on 12 September 2023
Randy Lai
Randy Lai

This September, in Liquid Intel — where Randy, our resident wine & spirits columnist is once again haloing a single best-in-class bar, bottle, or cocktail recipe — we’re headed over to Sydney’s eastern suburbs for the launch of Rare Cask 42.1 — the unprecedently pricey US$50,000 bottle from Louis XIII.

As is so often the case in haute parfumerie and oenology, there is a very particular aspect of persistency — immediately apparent yet seldom attained — that accompanies many of the best French grape distillates — none more so than Cognac.

This phenomenon, of longevity, was crucially relevant for Vincent Géré, Rémy Martin’s majordomo in the Asia-Pacific, when the wine & spirits veteran (usually based out of Hong Kong) flew to Sydney earlier this month to celebrate the unveiling of Rare Cask 42.1 — a hyperbolically precious single-cask expression of the already legendary Louis XIII Cognac.

Louis XIII Cognac

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Presiding over an intimate dinner party of some 20 guests, spread around the grand regency-style rooms of Elizabeth Bay House, Géré opened proceedings with a jest and a proclamation: “Even within the world of luxury eaux de vie, it is well-known that Louis XIII Cognac stays with the drinker for a recorded hour of length.”

“Life,” he continued jokingly, “Is unfair.”

It’s curious that during these inaugural pleasantries, the usual pitter-patter of guests chatting amongst themselves was deafeningly absent. Then again, for nearly 150 years, the Cognac of Louis XIII — made up of Rémy Martin’s 1,200 highest quality brandies from Grande Champagne — has been having this effect — moving people, with all due pomp and ceremony, to silence.

That’s important background to have in any discussion surrounding the new ‘42.1’ release: the first Rare Cask bottling in 10 years, and only the third since the collection was incepted.

Unlike the classic expression of Louis XIII (i.e. consisting of Cognac ranging between 40-100 years in maturity, taken out of multiple barrels) Rare Cask 42.1 is sourced from just a single tierçon — those thin-staved French oak casks which, by traditional decree, must be 100-150 years old.

Louis XIII Cognac
Pictured (left to right): The inky-black Baccarat decanter housing the new Rare Cask ‘42.1’ expression; alongside its marginally more available multi-barrel counterpart.

Elaborating upon the ‘paradoxical’ nature of the Louis XIII house style (ergo, immediate drinking pleasure contrasted with lots of secondary characteristics just below the surface) 42.1 gives spirits obsessives a more muscular, vividly written impression of site-specific brandy borne of an ancient terroir.

Even surrounded by a barrage of G-sharp clinking — the ‘Pillet’ glasses included with every decanter of Rare Cask 42.1 have been purpose-built to chime in this key — it’s easy to tap into this Cognac’s heady perfume of leather, cigar box and honied florals (all recurring presences in the profile of Louis XIII).

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True to form, Géré’s descriptions of a decadent, almost meandering length accompanying each sip of Louis XIII was present, in overwhelming force, in the latest ‘Rare Cask’ release. Not to put too fine of a point on it: but the finish here is notably intense — above and beyond even what I’d experienced with 80s-era bottlings of the (now-discontinued) Centaure range.

Louis XIII Cognac

An exceptional achievement even by the standards of Louis XIII, I was unfazed to discover that the 775 bottles making up the volume of Rare Cask 42.1 have all been spoken for. The thing speaks for itself.

In conversation with European collectors in Venice earlier this March, Jean Philippe Hecquet, CEO of Rémy Cointreau, made it clear that the principal requirement for future Rare Cask bottlings would be a tierçon “so exceptional that there is no need to blend.”

“It’s the decision of [Louis XIII Cellar Master] Baptiste Loiseau,” he said.

“There’s no rhythm of having a ‘Rare Cask’ every 10 years. There may be another one in five, but it could also be 15 or 20.”

Time, as it turns out, does indeed wait for some men.

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Randy Lai
Following 6 years in the trenches covering consumer luxury across East Asia, Randy joins Boss Hunting as the team's Commercial Editor. His work has been featured in A Collected Man, M.J. Bale, Soho Home, and the BurdaLuxury portfolio of lifestyle media titles. An ardent watch enthusiast, boozehound and sometimes-menswear dork, drop Randy a line at [email protected].


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