CODE meets Jack Charlton, Rémy Martin

Published 25 November 2020

Some may say it’s outdated, but Rémy Martin are successfully reinventing cognac’s reputation. This week, we speak to ambassador Jack Charlton about the brand, how to consume cognac and staying true to tradition after so many years.

Can you tell us a bit more about Rémy Martin for those that aren’t familiar with it?

Rémy Martin is a 300 year old, family owned cognac house, synonymous with excellence and crafting Cognac Fine Champagne. Recognised globally by its centaur emblem. With a commitment to quality and harmony, the house has become one of the most adored cognac producers in the world.

Cognac is still not very well understood. How would you describe it?

It can be a very intimidating liquid to some and has always been seen as ‘stuffy’, however it is one of the most interesting spirits in the world with a rich and vibrant history. Cognac is made by distilling acidic white wines, aged in oak, then blended. It’s technically a brandy, however not all brandy can be called cognac. Comparing the two would be like comparing sparkling wine to a champagne. Cognac is the king of brandies and Rémy Martin focuses on Cognac Fine Champagne only, it’s the crème de la crème of the category!

And what makes it special in your opinion?

Cognac has a geographical appellation, like Scotch or Champagne does and is protected by law. It can only be made in the cognac region in south western France, near Bordeaux. For me the location of the vineyards and the expertise used to craft the spirit are elementary, however, even more important is the terroir that shape the character of the spirit.  

What sets Rémy Martin apart when it comes to cognac?

Being founded by a winegrower, the Maison was instilled with a huge respect for the land early on. There are 6 crus (growth areas) in Cognac and at Rémy Martin we only  focus on the premier crus: Grande and Petite Champagne, collectively known as Cognac Fine Champagne. What makes it so special is the chalky soil which is perfect for growing highly aromatic grapes with great aging potential. 

Rémy Martin has been going since 1724. How do you stay true to tradition after so many years?

Not much has changed in the way we make cognac over the years, we still slowly double distil the wines on the lees (unfiltered), we still use small copper pot stills (which is risky and more labour intensive), we still age in large grain limousine oak and our cellar master Baptiste Loiseau still blends and harmonises the aged cognacs like an alchemist. The singular vision of the house hasn’t changed and with 9 generations of expertise and savoir-faire coupled with a deeply rooted understanding of the region, Rémy Martin understands the importance of making excellence a habit.

As a novice, what does one need to know in order to judge a good cognac?

Trust your instincts and your palate. What makes a good cognac can be very subjective, however what I look for in a good cognac starts at the nose. I like younger cognacs that are very vibrant and fresh, slightly floral. At Rémy Martin we start with VSOP where the youngest component in the blend has a legally required minimum ageing of four years. I like mid-level expressions that are mellow, fruity and rounded like our Rémy Martin 1738 or extra old cognacs (where the youngest eaux-de-vie has been aged a minimum of 10 years), bursting with complexity like Rémy Martin XO, with notes of figs, late summer berries, accented with a hint of spice.

How is cognac best consumed? Are there any food it pairs particularly well with?

I have quite a seasonal approach when It comes to enjoying cognac, in the warmer months I prefer highballs or simple mixes with Rémy Martin VSOP and tonic water or Rémy Martin 1738 and ginger ale. In the colder months a nice neat Rémy Martin XO with some artisanal cheeses, an apple tart or chocolate fondant is always a winner, especially when hosting people. We have just done a collaboration with Borough Box to provide a Rémy Martin XO home tasting experience.

What is your favourite cognac cocktail?

There are many great cognac cocktails to choose from. For me it’s Sidecars in the summer, made with Rémy Martin 1738, Cointreau and fresh lemon juice. In the winter a cognac old fashioned is always a treat, which is why we have worked on an easy to make Old Fashioned hamper that lets you experiment with your favoured flavours at home.

And finally, if you could enjoy a Rémy Martin drink anywhere in the world, where would it be?

On a scorching hot beach in the south of France surrounded by friends and family. 

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