You’ve had an interesting career thus far. When did you first acquire an interest in cognac?
I was born in the Cognac region sixty-four years ago. My family has been working in the Cognac region for many generations. Since the end of the 17th century we’ve been in the same place. So in my family we always talk about cognac and it’s our life. I became interested in cognac from a very young age as a result.
Do you remember the first time you tried cognac?
My father used to distil and so when I was very young I would sometimes taste it. So it’s a very old story. I don’t remember the exact date but I guess it first started with me just smelling it and not tasting it. Then eventually I put my fingers in and started to taste it. So over the years I learned a lot.
How has the industry changed since you started?
In terms of process, nothing has changed. It’s the same process and we always use the same grapes from the same region where we produce the vines. The pressing is more modern and efficient today, but process remains the same. Now we also have computers to check the process and control it. Aging is always done in barrels. So as you see, not much has changed other than it becoming more efficient because of computers. but cognac is a product that has been able to be very traditional and very modern. Modernization happens in the world but we still retain tradition because we want to respect the product and maintain its quality.
How do you determine the quality of the cognac?
To get a good cognac, it is essential that you first make good wine. To get good wine, you have to respect the process. The grapes must first be harvested from the vineyards of the French Cognac region. They then ferment for four to eight days before undergoing double distillation in a copper still, where the liquid is aged in oak casks to develop flavours. I then select the cognacs and blend various crus and vintages to obtain a unique and well-balanced cognac, that I then combine with the essence of bitter orange. Once the cognac is married with the exotic bitter oranges, we let them rest in large oak vats for one to six months before being bottled.
A lot of times people drink cognac after dinner, but what else can people pair it with?
There are so many different ways to enjoy it, it really depends on the person. For instance, I enjoy drinking it as an aperitif and when I do that I’ll pair it with something like small cakes. Some people enjoy drinking it during dinner and pairing it with their meal. Grand Marnier is also great in a cocktail like a margarita or sidecar, among others. And others prefer to drink it on ice and enjoy it that way. So it really depends.
If someone is new to drinking cognac and Grand Marnier, where would you tell them to start?
I think it’s good to have some knowledge about the product itself. For instance, with Grand Marnier, it’s good to know about bitter orange, cognac, where the cognac is made, what kind of oranges are being used. I think it’s important for us to help the consumer have that understanding.
What is the best way to taste Grand Marnier to appreciate the flavours?
For a professional tasting, all you need is your glass of Grand Marnier and some water to clean your mouth. And it’s better to do a tasting before lunch around 11am-12pm. Your ability for tasting is much better at this time of the day.