Baptiste Loiseau spends much of his day methodically analyzing minuscule details. It’s his job to create the crown jewel of cognacs, Louis XIII de Rémy Martin. His exceptional sense of taste and smell are an essential aspect of his job as the fifth Cellar Master in the history of the brand. Nature’s effect on the grapes gown in the southern region of France can turn the tide in any direction. Baptiste is charged with altering for seasonal nuances that set the harvest on the right path.
The distillation’s essence, called “eaux-de-vie” — the water of life — is monitored and tasted on countless occasions by Mr. Loiseau’s exceptional palette, adjusting the alchemy like a scientist. He maintains an extraordinary patience and deference to the over 100-year-old blend that is stored in century-old hand-hewn barrels called tier cons. The oak barrels give the blend its amber color. The essence is aged more than 40 years until the Cellar Master deems the “liquid gold” ready for the Baccarat hand-blown decanter. It takes four generations of Cellar Masters to make one bottle of Louis XIII — a historical transmission of the grapes from one generation to the next. Mr. Loiseau took the baton from Pierette Trichet in April 2014 — his responsibility is to usher in the next generation’s cognac for this 141-year-old iconic liquor. It’s a daunting task, but one he takes on with confidence, patience and a deep respect for its historic nature. We talked to Mr. Loiseau about a typical day in Cognac France.
10AM I put my Wellies (boots) and take a walk in the vineyards so I can “feel” what the harvest will be. I taste the grapes and talk to the growers to see if they are tending properly to the grapes. I am driven by my senses. There are always a lot of aromas that I take in — apple, peach and of course grapes.
12PM After the county walk I go to the tasting room with a group of four who are in the tasting committee. We do a blind tasting of the eaux-de-vies. We have 20 to 25 samples to taste, which we prepare an hour beforehand. We decide if the quality is heading in the right direction. Sometimes we reject samples, and in that case we call the growers and tell them how to improve the harvest. It’s a difficult mission to grow the right grapes because of the challenges are out of the grower’s control, like the weather. It’s important to “feel” what the grapes are giving each year. The room is silent so that every person in the room can access the aromas. The cognac industry is about time and tradition, and it’s my mission to balance the past but also prepare the future for the next generation of Cellar Master.
2PM I go into the cellars with my pipette to extract the eaux-de-vie from the casks. We have 29 different cellars containing 140,000 casks! I go back to the tasting room to decide which one goes into the blend in the next year.
5PM Cognac has 20,000 inhabitants, but I live in the small town called Javrezac with only 600 people. I have a garden, which is crucial for me. I studied Engineering Agronomy and wine making in college in Paris and New Zealand, but this is my home and where I prefer to live. At the end of the day I go home to relax with a Rémy Martin with ice and ginger ale, then I have dinner with my wife and daughter.