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Royal journey

Anandhi Gopinath
Anandhi Gopinath • 5 min read
Royal journey
A look at the legendary story behind L’Odyssée d’un Roi and what it means for Louis XIII, the king of cognacs.
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A look at the legendary story behind L’Odyssée d’un Roi and what it means for Louis XIII, the king of cognacs.

As one of the world’s most storied Grande Champagne cognacs, Louis XIII has been a part of every milestone in the history of luxury travel — from the legendary bar car of the Orient-Express to the sleek cabin of the supersonic Concorde jet. To pay tribute to this heritage of adventure and discovery, L’Odyssée d’un Roi was launched — a unique collaboration inspired by the first shipments of Louis XIII in the late 1870s and the iconic journeys that followed to the farthest corners of the globe.

But this is no ordinary collaboration; it is the coming together of four companions who share a passion for rare craftsmanship and unbroken tradition. Louis XIII partnered luxury label Hermès, legendary Art Deco silversmith Puiforcat and royal cristallerie Saint-Louis to create three unique objets d’art that salute a savoir faire that is centuries old. The four partners also have in common the typically French sense of art, style and sophistication.

“You don’t have that many companies with as much history and heritage of craftsmanship, so choosing who to work with was not very difficult for us — the list of partners was not very long,” says Vincent Gere, regional director of Louis XIII. “However, this is not a project that was easy or quick. We started with a study of the patrimony, and it took at least three years to decide what exactly we wanted to do. After approaching the partners, it was another three years [of work].”

Gere, a former winemaker now based in Hong Kong, was in Singapore recently to unveil L’Odyssée d’un Roi to a select coterie of guests. And truly, it has to be seen to be believed because images do little justice to its sheer majesty, right from the intricacy of the crystal used to the flawless finishing of the grey leather trunk in which it nestles. “This project took a long time because of the craftsmanship [involved]. There is nothing like it, and in my career I have never seen anything so beautiful,” Gere says.

At the heart of L’Odyssée d’un Roi is a blend of Louis XIII cognacs, enriched with a selection of the house’s oldest treasures from Grande Champagne. This tailor-made blend was completed by the pioneering Pierrette Trichet, who retired in 2013, and her protégé Baptiste Loiseau, the house’s current cellar master. Working together, they uncovered the oldest Louis XIII eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne, as well as those set aside by previous generations of cellar masters in dame-jeanne, or demijohns, inside the house’s most secure cellars.

The final product is a blend of Louis XIII enriched with this selection of precious eaux-de-vie. It is a unique spirit revealing flavours that are at once singular and complementary. Only time — combined with the audacity of individual cellar masters — could bring these qualities to their fullest expression. The result is a tribute to the aromatic universe of Louis XIII, with authentic, dense and complex notes such as wax, leather and coffee, married with remarkable notes of fresh mint, as well as vibrant spicy nuances of nutmeg, saffron and ginger.

This precious liquid is presented in a sublime crystal decanter with four elegant serving glasses by Saint-Louis. Each decanter is etched with a 19th-century map of the continent it is bound for — Europe, the Americas and Asia. A whitegold pipette forged by Puiforcat completes the accessories needed for the ritual of service, and the entire piece is completed with a bespoke trunk, hand-stitched by Hermès using the finest leathers in a design that evokes a bygone era of luxury travel.

These one-of-a-kind masterpieces have been travelling all over the world, gracing exclusive events in culture capitals in different continents as part of a year-long calendar. Sotheby’s has auctioned off two of them in New York and Hong Kong, with the final piece set to go under the hammer in London on Nov 16.

Once the three masterpieces have been auctioned off and the funds channelled accordingly, what is next? Gere smiles. This is clearly a question that has come up a lot. “I think what’s most important is for people to realise that the best things are proven and tested by time,” he says thoughtfully. “Craftsmanship proves itself if it can last for generations.

“The second message we really want to emphasise is that we prepare [for] the future and we think beyond just generations. That is why this project benefits The Film Foundation, which is concerned with restoring old films. This notion of a masterpiece of time — that is what we want to push to the forefront. Think about this — our cellar master today is selecting eaux-de-vie to make a Louis XIII that will be released in 2116. My child, your child — even they won’t have this.”

Anandhi Gopinath is an assistant editor at the Options desk of The Edge Malaysia.

This article appeared in the Options of Issue 754 (Nov 14) of The Edge Singapore.

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