Martell’s cellar master Christophe Valtaud debuts a modern reinterpretation of the maison’s most iconic product with Cordon Bleu Extra

Martell’s invitation to a tasting session of the new Cordon Bleu Extra came in the form of a glass jar filled with raisins, cranberries, dried apricots and lightly toasted almonds — healthy fuel for all the late nights we journalists are so famous for keeping. It was also a reminder (not that one was required, of course) of the dominant flavours contained in Cordon Bleu, a cognac for true connoisseurs that has become the stuff of legends since its creation by Edouard Martell in 1912.

Spending several days staring at the quickly dwindling contents of the jar resulted in some amount of retrospection on my part. Cordon Bleu, a true gem in the beverage world, was in fact the first cognac I tasted almost a decade ago. It turned out to be a tremendous rite of passage — it was through this amber-coloured nectar that my love and understanding of all manner of spirits would grow.

Although this may not be an anecdote shared by many, we can all certainly be in agreement about Cordon Bleu’s provenance — its distinctive taste characterised by a predominance of Borderies eaux-de-vie, along with its timeless bottle design, make it an unequalled classic. Although Pablo Picasso’s Blue Period was a few years before the Cordon Bleu was launched, one is left to ponder if the rich Prussian blue tones used in the iconic cognac’s packaging were inspired by the famous Spanish artist.

Whether enjoyed in a cocktail or neat in a balloon glass, the best accompaniment to Cordon Bleu remains simple — an open heart and a willing palate. It is flawless in its layers of complexity, with each sip revealing tastes of crystallised plums and apples, and also mocha coffee, toasted almonds and vetiver. Cordon Bleu’s extra silkiness is thanks to the rare eaux-de-vie from the small Borderies cru, which makes up a mere 5% of Cognac vineyards.

If a little bit is good, a little more must be better — and that is the simple and elegant logic behind the new Cordon Bleu Extra, Martell’s latest iteration of its iconic classic. The Extra, like its legendary predecessor, is distilled using the renowned Martell method — double distillation of exclusively clear wines to reveal with exceptional purity and finesse the specific aromas of each terroir. But while the Martell Cordon Bleu is notable for the influence of rare grapes from the Borderies region, the Extra benefits from the addition of a generous portion of very old Borderies spirits.

“It’s a reinterpretation of the Cordon Bleu,” says Christophe Valtaud, Martell’s youthful cellar master. “We intensified some flavours and, at the same time, kept what’s old. The youngest blend of cognac that went into this new Cordon Bleu Extra is 30 years, and the oldest is close to 60 years. It is made using the same recipe as Cordon Bleu but with much older blends. The extra maturation, extra years that went into it, is what gives it its name. This is the eaux-devie made by my predecessors. Using it, I created the next expression based on what I felt was good.”

Cordon Bleu Extra has heightened its muse’s fruity flavour notes almost tenfold, and at the first sip, my palate was bathed in warm notes of caramel and sweet spices of cinnamon, closely followed by dried grapes, almonds and apricots. Its fruitiness then developed into a well-rounded mellow sensation that ended smoothly, providing a lengthy and sensuous finish. It was light yet with weight, rich and almost womanly in its elegance — this is seriously supreme luxury in liquid form.

“The Cordon Bleu Extra allowed me to look beyond the Cordon Bleu to go further. The House of Martell has always believed that beyond just seeing something for what it is, you have to keep seeking what’s behind it. What’s better? What does it mean to go further? This allowed me to go there.”

Housed in a sleek and elegant bottle that has been slightly stretched — compared with its original counterpart — the royal blue of Cordon Bleu Extra beams proudly at you. Martell has added a touch of class and sense of tradition by placing a wax seal of approval that leads up to the top of the bottle. This is closed with a wooden cap featuring a metal medallion that is engraved with the Martell seal — a reminder that the house recently celebrated its tercentenary.

Enjoyed neat or on the rocks, the Martell Cordon Bleu Extra is a unique and intense experience. For connoisseurs of Martell Cordon Bleu who wish to reignite their curiosity and discover an extra dimension of a legendary cognac, as well as for lovers of the finer things in life, it represents a rewarding discovery — an exciting new expression of an icon.

Anandhi Gopinath is assistant editor of Options at The Edge Malaysia

This article appeared in Issue 801 (Oct 16) of The Edge Singapore.