It isn’t often that a major spirits brand replaces one of its flagship products, let alone one that has been around for more than half a century.
That is exactly what Martell is doing with its VSOP expression (VSOP stands for Very Special Old Pale, which are cognacs aged at least five years). The current one, Martell VSOP Medallion, will soon be phased out and replaced by the new Martell MVSOP Aged In Red Barrels.
Martell Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud was in town recently to launch the new expression in Malaysia, which is one of the first countries to get the “Red Barrel”.
For Valtaud, the inspiration for the new VSOP came from the idea of taking the VSOP closer to the core Martell style, and creating a worthy successor to the Medallion, which was created in 1960.
“When I first took over, I tasted the entire range and felt that this was too different (from the Martell stlye). We’ve kept the same taste for 58 years, and I wanted to see if I can take the VSOP further,” he said.
According to Martell Heritage Director Jacques Menier, it was a necessary change. “It’s not a major change, it’s still the Martell style, but it’s an important change because it smoothens the taste of the VSOP,” he said. “This is a product that is more open to more people. We have more and more younger adult consumers, so we needed a cognac that is easier to drink.”
The Martell VSOP Aged In Red Barrels is set to replace the current VSOP worldwide. Photo: The Star/Michael Cheang
So, what exactly are these “red barrels” then? Known as “futs roux”, or red barrels because of the reddish tinge of their wood, these are barrels that are in a specific stage of maturing eau de vie (between four to eight years), and have reached the perfect stage of maturation for both the oak and the eaux-de-vie, thus allowing for an ideally balanced exchange between the two.
“When the barrels are new, there is a slight bitterness to the spirit. We have to wait four years before we can get the perfect balance in the barrels for a soft, spicy note. After eight years, you get nothing. The barrels that are four to eight years, we call those the ‘red barrels’,” Valtaud said. “The Medallion used a mix of eau de vie from new barrels, old barrels, and red barrels, whereas Red Barrel only uses eau de vie from red barrels.
“The big difference is, in the Medallion, you have the spicy notes from the new barrels, and there is some bitterness and astringency. But you don’t get that with Red Barrel. It is more in line with the fruity Martell style.”
During the launch at Copper Mansion in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, I was lucky enough to taste both the Red Barrel and Medallion side by side, and I was quite surprised to see just how different they are.
The Medallion has a heavier, more savoury note on the nose, and also much spicier note on the palate. The Red Barrel, however, has a light delicate fruitiness with lots of candied fruit and apricots, and would be a lot more accessible and easy drinking compared to the Medallion.
While the spicy notes of the Medallion VSOP reminded me of Martell’s XO expression, the Red Barrels VSOP seems a lot closer to the cognac house’s flagship Cordon Bleu expression.
Valtaud (left) and Menier were in town recently to launch the new VSOP. Photo: Pernod Ricard Malaysia
Valtaud explained that one of the objectives for Red Barrels was indeed to get the VSOP closer to the Cordon Bleu in terms of the flavour profile.
“When you taste the Cordon Bleu, it has a complicated Martell style with fruity and dense flavours. It has the perfect balance between the woody and the fruity notes. Normally the spicy notes (in the Medallion) are not part of our usual footprint. We want the balance and more fruity notes so it is closer to the Cordon Bleu.”
“The previous VSOP was not really in line with the success story that is Cordon Bleu,” Menier added. “It’s all about sophistication – what food you eat, and what you drink with it.
“This new VSOP also matches very well with all types of food, Western Asian, spicy or non-spicy… it has the perfect balance for pairing with food.”
Ultimately, the new VSOP is also about moving the brand forward while still paying tribute to the past, Valtaud said.
“We need to produce something new for our consumers, while still keeping to our legacy. I wanted to keep the best of what my predecessors had created, and add my own touch while still keeping with the Martell style. The only thing we can’t change is the Cordon Bleu, because it is perfect!” he concluded with a laugh.
Michael Cheang was relieved to see that the Red Barrel didn’t turn his tongue red. Drop him a note at the Tipsy-Turvy Facebook page or follow him on Instagram.
H.O.M.E. by Martell returns with the promise of more unexpected surprises, treats and flavours.
The brand will make its pop-up appearance from July 26-29 at the Penang Rendezvous 2018 luxury event in Straits Quay, Penang.
Set against the emerald sea speckled with lavish sailboats and yachts, this year’s H.O.M.E. by Martell is taking the cognac experience to uncharted waters.
With secret rooms and optical illusions that challenge curious explorers to look beyond appearances, guests are encouraged to experience Martell cognac with a Be Curious twist.
Those seeking to deepen their appreciation for Martell can immerse themselves in numerous Be Curious mentoring workshops hosted by Martell brand ambassador Pierre Boyer on July 28 and 29.
Early-bird guests will enjoy a special rate for a hands-on introduction to Martell’s rich history and craft.
For those with a curious mind, Martell Malaysia’s Facebook page is giving away exclusive invites.
Be Curious dinners will allow guests to whet their appetite with curious flavours paired with Martell cognac.
Follow Martell Malaysia via Facebook and decipher a cryptic riddle to win free entries to the Be Curious mentoring session on July 28.
Those with a taste for adventure can take a mysterious ride via Grab to secret bars and join in the fun cocktail-tasting games to win free invites from July 2-7, 9-14, and 16-21.
To enjoy a curious, yet safe trip to-and-from these secret bars, passengers need to key in the Be Curious Grab promotion codes worth RM10 that will be shared on Martell Malaysia’s Facebook page.
Explorers who wish to discover secret delights within H.O.M.E. by Martell can walk in with a friend and enjoy two Martell cocktails for the price of one, between noon and 5pm from July 26-29.
Curious explorers who wish to discover secret delights within H.O.M.E. by Martell can walk in with a friend and enjoy two Martell cocktails for the price of one between noon and 5pm from July 26-29.
The Be Curious dinners will be held July 26-28 from 7pm to 11pm for guests to whet their appetite with flavours paired with Martell cognac.
Gastronomers eager to savour a modern twist on French cuisine by locally acclaimed Chef Nathalie from Nathalie Gourmet Studio can enjoy early bird rates.
H.O.M.E. by Martell promises unexpected experiences that reward the curious spirit, steering bold explorers towards exciting discoveries and beyond.
Martell is the oldest of the great cognac houses founded in 1715 by Jean Martell.
Since then, it has produced, exported and marketed cognacs, which are recognised worldwide for their outstanding quality and finesse.
Martell’s vast portfolio of cognacs includes Martell NCF, VSOP, Cordon Bleu, Cordon Bleu Extra, XO, Chanteloup Perspective and l’Or de Jean Martell.
The House of Martell continues to build on its founding values of integrity and curiosity with the launch of its first global communication concept Be Curious, encouraging people to go beyond appearances in order to discover – and share – new pleasures, new perspectives and new ways of experiencing cognac.
Bookings can be made at Martell Malaysia’s website. Follow Martell Malaysia via Facebook.
Numerous Be Curious mentoring workshops will be held for those who wish to deepen their appreciation for the cognac.
The “La Part des Anges” charity auction is a prestigious cognac sale held in France, attracting connoisseurs and collectors from around the world.
Some of the country’s most prominent Cognac makers donate their finest bottles for a good cause, with this year’s proceeds going to “Cuisine Mode(s) d’Emploi” – a school founded by chef Thierry Marx teaching underachieving young people and ex-convicts professions related to cooking – and to Association Fraineau, which supports mentally disabled young people with a programme of learning through cooking.
“La Part de Anges” means “the angels’ share” in English. This poetic and evocative name refers to a well-known phenomenon in the world of cognac making. As it ages, this French brandy draws flavour from the oak barrels it is stored in to mature. Since the cognac is in constant contact with air, some of the spirit’s alcohol evaporates during the process. This is known as “the angels’ share.” The process also helps cognacs develop more complex and refined flavours.
The auction is held on Sept 20 in Cognac, France.
Here’s a look at five lots likely to be in demand at the sale, held in partnership with Artcurial.
The cognac brand, owned by luxury group LVMH, stands out each year at this charity auction with the sleek, stylish simplicity of its bottles. On the inside, master blender, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, has created an exclusive blend of Hennessy’s most prestigious eaux-de-vie for this unique edition.
The cognac in this prestigious carafe comes from a unique batch of very old Borderies, from the smallest of the cognac growth areas around the village of Burie. It is housed in a Baccarat decanter that will be engraved with the buyer’s name.
This Meukow creation is a veritable work of art. Cellar master Anne Sarteaux has selected ten crus and vintages, housed in twenty 5cl test-tube-like containers. Their contents tell the story of the cognac-maker, taking connoisseurs from its Borderies cognacs to its Grande Champagne 1900, Bons Bois 1976 and Fins Bois 1964.
The five eaux-de-vie from the Borderies cru selected for this blend have aged for several decades. Martell has also partnered with the artisans of the Ateliers de France to create a prestigious container for its blend, housed in an ebony and parchment case.
La Maison Larsen
As wine producers experiment with aging wine in underwater cellars at the bottom of the sea, La Maison Larsen brings an oceanic touch to the ageing process for this most exceptional eau-de-vie, within the walls of the mythical Fort Boyard.
Estimation: €5,000 – AFP Relaxnews
It was an intimate affair for 10. When we walked through the door to where dinner would be served, it felt as if we had just crossed over to Narnia!
Well, OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Still, it was an awesome sight to be greeted by gold arches on the walls that had each of our names at the top and, at the dining table itself, personalised virtual placemats.
That marked the beginning of Martell’s exclusive epicurean experience, served in a cinematic wonderland made possible with immersive, state-of-the-art 360° projection, blurring the l
ines between taste, scent and sight.
Indeed, the spirit of curiosity and French Art de Vivre was alive and well at The House of Martell.
During Martell’s recent collaboration with chef Nathalie Arbefeuille of Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio, specially invited guests had a chance to savour a first-of-its-kind, multi-sensory fine dining affair that presented an amazing fusion of art and gastronomy, using cutting-edge technology.
The award-winning chef, known for her creative and modern innovations in French and fusion cuisine, crafted a splendid five-course culinary journey to pair and magnify the flavours of Martell cognacs.
“Martell is the oldest of the great cognac houses, founded in 1715, at the height of French art de vivre, when craftsmanship, gastronomy and taste were celebrated in style.
“Three centuries on, the philosophy remains: we want people to enjoy the pleasure of exploration itself, and later, enjoy the pleasure of sharing these new experiences with others,” said Martell brand ambassador for Malaysia, Pierre Boyer.
“Truly, chef Natalie has transformed the pleasures of dining into an art.”
Chef Nathalie Arbefeuille of Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio is known for her creative and modern innovations in French and fusion cuisine.
Gastronomy enthusiasts were invited to “Be Curious”, and embark upon a journey of awe and wonder as they dined. Prepping the palate for the multi-sensorial journey were Three Finger Foods of red detox juice, pomegranate jelly, smoked salmon and ginger; Hokkaido scallops and caviar ring; and broccoli gorgonzola spiral, paired with Lillet Vive with cucumber.
As our virtual host for the evening, Daniela, welcomed us and introduced the scene as it unfolded before our eyes … the arches melted into the vast galaxies.
The adventure began with “The Red Planet” – a dish of Japanese momotaro tomatoes in three textures, rich basil pesto and mozzarella cream – which held fast to its namesake, served with a refreshing Martell VSOP Summit cocktail.
As the planets gave way to the lush forest, the most ambitious of soups awaited In The Woods, a second starter of crispy foie gras, artichokes, porcinis in two ways, shaved truffles, and a duck and truffle consomme, disguised as a nest, matched nicely with Martell Cordon Bleu.
It was truly a diverse universe as we traversed “Under Water” for the third starter, caramelised Hokkaido scallops, poached oyster and pearl cream, dieppoise sauce and mushroom mousseline, complemented by Martell Cordon Bleu Extra.
The In The Woods soup, made up of crispy foie gras, artichokes, porcinis in two ways, shaved truffles, and a duck and truffle consomme.
The main course was a “Circus” of delicate morsels made up of veal paired with risotto, capsicum jelly and ground sea influence, which went perfectly with the spicy and peppery flavours of Martell XO.
All good things must come to an end and we made our final wish upon a Perfect Green Apple, a dessert which proffered “What you see is not what you eat”. The fragrant aroma of the Martell Chanteloup Perspective brought out the flavours of the sugar-crusted lemon mousse with a heart of green apple.
Aligned with Martell’s “Be Curious” dinner series, was an exclusive “Be Curious Mentoring Session’, a guided appreciation of Martell’s cognacs with brand ambassador Pierre Boyer, for which only 20 guests were invited.
The tasting session featured a wide range of Martell’s signature cognacs, from the classic Martell VSOP to the smooth and well-balanced Martell Cordon Bleu and Cordon Bleu Extra, and the distinctive Martell XO.
Martell also gave away dinner tickets for the five-course meal worth RM4,600 to four lucky attendees of the session.
Pernod Ricard Malaysia marketing director Emmanuel Dokhelar.