17 November 2014 10:37

SA's Most Expensive Cognac

Four bottles of Rémy Martin's deluxe Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6 Cognac have been released in South Africa. At R300,000 a bottle, it's the most expensive cognac on the market.

South Africa is the only country on the African continent to be awarded some of the 738 bottles that were produced from a single cask. Although Rare Cask 42,6 is the second Rare Cask by the House, this is the first time that South Africa has received any, which is in keeping with the brand's strategy to engage high-end consumers who are seeking more premium drinking experiences.

According to the brand manager, Philip Voget, one bottle has been sold to a private collector, who wishes to remain anonymous. The remaining three bottles are available via Makro and Norman Goodfellows.

The story of Rare Cask is closely linked to the heritage and history of Louis XIII Cognac, which is also now available in South Africa.


The House of Rémy Martin was founded in 1720 and the cellars were enlarged in 1774 to make space for old eaux-de-vie to age. From 1821, a process of gentle blending began, laying the groundwork for the release of the very first Louis XIII Cognac in 1874.

Made exclusively from Grande Champagne grapes that are grown in chalk-rich ground and harvested when they reach their aromatic maturity, the Cognac is distilled in the lees and put to sleep in French oak casks called tierçons. From the age of 40, the eaux-de-vie are carefully blended to create the unique flavour profile that is the hallmark of Louis XIII.

The blend includes 1,200 eaux-de-vie, ranging in age from 40 to over 100 years. Once in a while, however, nature produces a cask of exceptional quality. In 2004, former Cellar Master, Pierette Trichet, came across a cask that had a deeper, more complex flavour, which set it apart from the rest. She allowed it to continue developing for four years, before breaking centuriesold tradition and bottling it separately as Louis XIII Rare Cask 43,8. (The numeric reference describes the cask strength.) Only 786 bottles were produced in 2009.

More recently, Pierette made a similar discovery, leading to the release of 738 bottles of Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6. (Depending on the "Angel's share" taken from each tierçon, the amount of liquid varies, hence the slightly smaller yield of this particular release.)

"No two Rare Casks are the same," says Philip. "At the heart of the composition are the classic Louis XIII flavours of dried fruits and nuts. Rare Cask 42,6 has notes of date and plum, as well as gingerbread, prune stone and tobacco leaf."

The packaging is equally impressive and rare. Inspired by an ornate flask that was found on the site of the battle of Jarnac, each opaque black crystal decanter is a work of art. Manufactured by the legendary French glassmaker, Baccarat, 20 master craftsmen work in unison to complete 50 different processes while the necessary temperature remains in the glass. The design involves a finely engraved ring of 22-carat rose gold around the neck and individual numbering of the decanter and bottle stopper.

Packed in a forged metal strongbox (coffret), patterned with a style of fleur-de-lis motif, Rare Cask 42,6 can be found at some of the world's top hotels, retailers and venues, such as Annabel's, Claridges, Fortnum & Mason, Harvey Nicols, Harrods and Selfridges in London, the Beverly Hills Hotel & Bungalows in Los Angeles, the Buddha Bar in Saint Petersburg, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, the Carlyle Hotel in New York, the Hôtel de Paris in Monaco and Raffles in Singapore to name a few.

In keeping with its proud lineage, Louis XIII Cognac was on the maiden voyage of the Normandie in 1935, the first journey of the Orient Express in 1929 and the first flight of the Concorde in 1984. It also accompanied General de Gaulle when he celebrated France's first "free" Christmas after the Second World War in 1944 and Winston Churchill when he toasted victory in the British general elections of 1951.

The name is a tribute to King Louis XIII of France, under whose reign the Rémy Martin family took up residence in Cognac. He was the first monarch to recognise cognac as a category.

FUN FACTS: In the 1988 film, Cocktail, a bottle of Louis XIII was offered as a wager, and in the 2013 film, The Butler, lead character Cecil Gaines shows his knowledge of the Cognac during an interview to become part of the White House staff. The recommended selling price for a bottle of Louis XIII Cognac is R40,000. The Rare Cask is R300,000.

Receive two crystal glasses by luxury French designer, Christoph Pillet, when buying a bottle of Louis XIII at Makro this festive season.