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Appreciating cognac, the Malaysian way

Appreciating cognac, the Malaysian way

Martell has a cognac for every occasion. — Picture by Hari Anggara
Martell has a cognac for every occasion. — Picture by Hari Anggara

KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — For many, cognac can be a mysterious drink.

But Pernod Ricard Malaysia managing director Sebastien Mouquet only had one word for it as he sipped on a glass of Martell Cordon Bleu: “Bold.”

Rightly so.

Martell’s history goes back 300 years and it is the world’s oldest cognac house.

A cognac with several household names such as the Cordon Bleu, Chanteloup, L’OR de Jean Martell, Noblige and VSOP, and a brand with countless of awards throughout its existence.

Mouquet arrived in Malaysia one-and-a-half years ago and was surprised on how well-received Martell is in the country.

“What amazed me is how passionate they are about their Martell. It’s truly one of a kind,” he said.

He also said Martell is one of the top selling drinks in Malaysia and the market continues to grow at a rapid pace.

“There is a strong appetence for cognac so we are always striving to give the best to our consumers,” he said.

When he first arrived in 2016, Mouquet was taken aback by the drinking culture.

“Being French and a person who has travelled around Europe, people generally drink after a meal termed as ‘digestive time’, but it is different here,” he said.

“A meal is started after a round of drinks and ends with another round of drinks before eating again.”

Today, he enjoys his drink like a Malaysian. 

“I was surprised on how cognac can go well with some food.

“In Malaysia, we play around with a variety of curries and meats, and there is a different type of Martell that pairs well with a specific dish.

“It is funny but really makes up for a good combination,” he said.

Mouquet’s career with Pernod Ricard stretches over 23 years but his time in Malaysia has opened his eyes the most.

He added that it was an honour that a French brand was well appreciated here.

Liang May Lin (left) and Sebastien Mouquet continue to find new ways to develop the brand in Malaysia. — Picture by Hari Angga
Liang May Lin (left) and Sebastien Mouquet continue to find new ways to develop the brand in Malaysia. — Picture by Hari Angga

Despite the good times he has had with Pernod Ricard Malaysia and Martell, he felt the only issue preventing Malaysians from consuming a bottle of Martell is the tax rate imposed on alcohol products in the country.

A bottle of Martell VSOP is priced at about RM280 while a Cordon Bleu costs close to RM700 (prices vary).

He said this usually led to some consumers switching from higher to lower quality brands, or bad products.

High taxes, he added, served as a big incentive for smugglers who produce counterfeit alcohol beverages in Malaysia although there is no official data on the issue.

However, Pernod Ricard’s sales have experienced steady growth.

In May, Bangkok Post reported that a Malaysian man had been arrested in Thailand after producing counterfeit liquor during a raid in Hat Yai.

In August last year, the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry seized RM16,557 worth of contraband liquor during a raid in Puchong.

On their drink, Mouquet said the reason why they had cognac with “remarkable taste” was because the grapes come from Borderies, one of the best areas in the crus (tightly defined geographic denominations where the grapes are grown).

Senior brand manager Liang May Lin said it was the only brand with double distilled clear wines that have been freed of all sediments.

This results in a better and smoother taste.

Fine grain oak is used for ageing as compared to the white oak grain typically used by other producers.

The result is a more aromatic taste.

Both Mouquet and Liang said Martell’s market is studied and analysed closely.

She added that there has been steady growth year-on-year and they are always trying to be more relevant and consumer-centric by the type of products they bring in.

“When you talk about growth, it is not only about bringing in new products for a new occasion but to take care of our current consumers too,” she said.

She also echoed Mouquet’s sentiments when asked whether Martell catered across a wide range of alcohol consumers.

As for how she preferred her Martell, she said: “I love the Chanteloup Perspective and treat it more like a dessert.

“I sip it with a chocolate caramel because it complements each other.

“One word to describe Martell is elegance.”

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