The Czars of Russia loved it, the Prince of Bulgaria enjoyed it, royal families throughout Europe imbibed it over the centuries, and even Grace Kelly had it on her banquet table when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco... Martell Cognac was much more than just a drink; it was a piece of living European history as the maison celebrates its 300th anniversary in 2015.
Flash back to 1715. A man named Jean Martell started a trading business in Gâtebourse, Braye-Sous-Faye, France. We are standing in his little house where it all started. Everything inside has been kept as if he was still living there. From the letters, orders and deliveries preserved in pristine conditions, we can clearly see this was a flourishing business – which started off with the first sales to England, the Channel Islands and Northern European countries – run by a man of determination and acumen.
"All I want is the best, without frills," he writes in one of his correspondences with eaux-de-vie providers in the region, with the first records dating to 1735. In fact, if we trace back all the family names in Jean Martell's suppliers list, we can pinpoint the villages in Charentes where he used to get the highest quality eaux-de-vie for his production.
With quality came recognition and expansion. We see shipment orders from as far away as North America (1783), Russia (1803), to Britain's King George IV (1820, as the UK remains Martell's largest market today), Australia (1851), China (1858, but records show that the Martell Cognac had been appreciated for a good period of 16 years even before the order arrived) and Japan (1868). Martell also flexes its marketing muscles with beautifully draw advertisements from 1870 to 1940s, staying ahead of the game.
Indeed, Martell Cognac has graced the best dining tables in European history: Tsar Alexander III, Nicolas II of Russia... It was served during the signing of the Armistic at Rethodes, the inauguration of the Normandie and Queen Mary's maiden voyages, the wedding of Prince Rainier with Grace Kelly...
Looking at the Martell family tree in Jean's house, it is clear that quality has always been central to the business through the generations. Three centuries on, this is certainly an anniversary worth celebrating.
Martell Premier Voyage, a limited edition blend of the maison's 18 best vintages, is three hundred years of history in a bottle. It is also a tribute to Jean Martell as a precursor of quality, and a celebration of a blessed region producing the best eaux-de-vie that make Martell Cognac so special.
Aged in an oak barrel made from a 300-year-old tree, the new blend contains 17 eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne and one from Borderies. An amazing sensorial experience of smoothness and complexity, the nose starts off with generous notes of candied orange peel, blackcurrant, honey and gingerbread. Take your time, because after a while you will also discover old walnuts, dried fruit, apricots and raisin. Due to the large percentage of Grande Champagne, a hint of blackcurrant lingers on the palate as you experience a long finish like spice and beeswax.
Martell Premier Voyage is not complete without the right decanter. Artist Bernar Venet has been commissioned to create a contemporary sculpture to go with a minimalist-designed bottle. Three clusters of steel arcs surround a minimalist yet elegant teardrop-shaped Sèvres crystal decanter. COR-TEN® steel reflects the Tricentenaire blend's structure and body, its cold grey contrasting beautifully with the Cognac's warm caramel colour.
Limited to 300 bottles worldwide, every Martell Premier Voyage will be produced to order, then signed and numbered. Have the House of Martell contact you for your very own piece of history at premiervoyage.martell.com