I am not going to speak of cabbages and kings, but of a wonderful drink that I once enjoyed during my halcyon days of college. I was working almost full time and carrying eighteen credits a semester, so my days were quite packed. At work, I had the chance to meet many beer, wine and liquor distributors and I used to hear with very hushed and reverent tones of Louis XIII and this was from a group of individuals that were very boisterous normally. I remember one of my drinking mentors years ago telling me that “all cognac is brandy, but not all brandy is Cognac,” and more sage advice was ever uttered at the rail of a bar. Now Louis XIII is a fabled bottle of Cognac and even the crystal decanter is gorgeous and a work of art, and the crystal work gets grander I presume as one gets higher up in to the heavens of the assorted versions of Louis as it was referred to, and tradition at least in the Detroit area was that if you had the last shot of Louis, you could take the bottle home with you, just for the price of the shot, which may be one of the best investments one can make.
Louis XIII is made by Remy Martin, one of the leading brands of Cognac, founded in 1724. There are six fabled districts that the finest Cognacs come from and Remy Martin is known as a specialist in Fine Champagne Cognac and produces only Cognac from two areas; Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne, and these areas have nothing to do with the products from Epernay and Reims. Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne have long been recognized for the ability to produce an end product that ages potentially for decades and perhaps centuries. They are also proud that they age for a minimum of ten years, instead of the usual six years. Cognac and Brandy are distilled wines, that is a wine is placed in a still and heated up and the finished product is called brouillis, which is then distilled again to create raw Cognac or bonne chauffe. This colorless product which is made from a wine that considered thin and unattractive after years of aging becomes the thing that dreams are made of. The raw Cognac is laid to rest in Limousine Oak barrels and that is where the color and the flavor evolve and the craftmanship of the Cellar Master as he blends the liquids from the different barrels that are stored for decades, just for the ability to blend. One of the other considerations of the reason that Cognac is so expensive, is that while it is aging in the barrels there is a natural evaporation that occurs and this “Angel’s Breath” is considered to be the equivalent of the Cognac consumed in France each year.
I mention all of this, because this is one of my favorite stories, and I do have plenty of them. While in college I eventually chummed around with another student who was not into being a student and this was his fourth university to attend, and he was about four years older than I. One of our “jobs” in the summer was to make sure that his parent’s monthly food tab was used at their two country clubs, one was just for the family and the other was for business, so twice a week we went golfing with a schedule of breakfast, nine holes, lunch, nine holes, dinner and then time at pub afterwards. It was grueling work, but somehow, we managed to get through the day. One day, after dinner, there was something special going on at the bar, so we left early and went back to his house, so that I could pick up my car and go home. He lived in a separate wing on his parent’s home and the maid had quarters on the back end of his wing with a private hall that connected her suite to the main part of the house, so I never saw her. My friend was thirsty and he left me in his parlor as he went off and returned with a beautiful crystal decanter that had maybe a couple of shots left in the bottle, and he also had grabbed a couple of snifters for the occasion. It was Louie, and we proceeded to finish the bottle, at which time I professed to admiring the bottle and this was before I had learned of the traditional lore of claiming rights of ownership if one finished the bottle…he gave me the bottle. Two days later when I saw him for our usual routine of the summer, he looked at me rather sheepishly, and asked if I could return the decanter. His parents couldn’t have cared less that we finished the Cognac, but they sure wanted the bottle, so the following week, I returned the decanter. So, for a week I had in my possession a legendary crystal bottle, and though I do eyeball the liquid level of every bottle of Louis that I see in a bar, I have never seen the levels low enough to pop for a shot.