ON LOCATION: French cognac house Martell is establishing itself as a luxury cognac Maison with travel retail a “key component” in building the brand vision and its latest ultra-prestige launch, L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup, is propelling the company toward its goal.
The cognac launched with aplomb on 12 December at a sumptuous candlelit dinner prepared by three-Michelin-star-winning chef Alexandre Mazzia at Château de Chanteloup – the site of the final ageing process for the new rare blend, and the historic home of the Martell family.
TRBusiness Managing Editor Faye Bartle was in attendance for the grand unveiling, which was meticulously planned to reflect the passion and craftsmanship that has been poured into producing the new cognac.
L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup, which is priced at $7,200, is the first in a new limited edition Réserve du Château series that will illuminate the brand’s portfolio with yearly releases.
The French château that will bear the name of the next edition is being kept under wraps for now, but it’s understood that Maison Martell Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud has settled upon the blend for the next three in the series.
Only 1,000 numbered decanters of each expression will be available globally.
A total of 50 bottles of L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup have been earmarked for global travel retail.
It will be available from 2024 at the Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail brand’s key travel retail hubs, including Hainan, Shanghai, Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Paris airports.
“The majority of the bottles will be going into Asia as well as global locations that are strategically important for us, such as Paris and Dubai,” said Jon Yau, Global Brand Manager for Martell, at Pernod Ricard GTR, in a sit-down interview with TRBusiness.
A draw card for cognac collectors
Designed to appeal to High-Net-Worth Individuals (HNWIs), the cognac is a draw card for collectors and has an undeniable giftability factor, with its enclosed wooden box with golden detailing and bespoke Baccarat decanter that evokes a drop of cognac.
The liquid is crafted from 1,400 eaux-de-vie, aged in 300-year-old oak barrels (in the historic cellar in Cognac, followed by the chosen château) for a sensory journey of rare flavours and aromas.
Guests at the dinner were the first ‘consumers’ on the planet to try the new blend, guided by Christophe Valtaud.
The bottle rose from a ‘secret compartment’ in the central table during the incredible 22-plate dinner.
Musicians from the Paris Philharmonic delivered a moving performance of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons throughout the serving.
As for the liquid itself, L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup gives notes of iris, wild carnation, and honeysuckle, which merge into sweet, rich aromas of red and black fruit – notably cherry and blackcurrant heightened by a hint of spice.
As the cognac evolves, aromas of earth and rancio are at the fore, while fragrant notes of sandalwood and cedar recall the special qualities of the casks.
Another step in the ultra-prestige direction
The new launch is a prominent milestone in the Maison’s growing portfolio.
There’s the ‘recruitment level’ cognacs, such as Noblige, with prices at approximately $50-150, as well as its core offering, including Cordon Bleu, fetching around $200-400.
Then, of course, comes the ultra-premium editions, for which the price tags understandably rocket into the thousands.
“Right now, Martell is developing the ultra-prestige segment and building our image as luxury cognac house, which is why we are focusing on expanding our most special L’Or de Jean Martell collection,” said Yau.
Martell’s business in Asia provides over half of its overall global travel retail business, with key markets of China and Singapore, on top of other key locations such as Hong Kong International Airport and Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Chinese consumers are of “utmost importance to the business” and this latest series will be a stand-out offering for them during what will be the first full year of unrestricted travel, following the pandemic.
It complements the existing zodiac limited editions in the L’Or de Jean Martell family, designed to mark the Lunar New Year.
There’s a tiger and rabbit edition already in the range. The next variation is set to be unveiled in 2024.
“This will also be a key offering for us as it’s very relevant for the Asian nationalities and resonates well with the culture,” said Yau.
“Martell was introduced in China many years ago and it has been very popular with people living in Southern China.
“As a result, this love of cognac is widely spread and it has become very popular in business drinking and gifting as well.
“Chinese consumers like to travel the world and buy cognac in different locations.”
Martell’s analysis shows the most important shopping ‘mission’ for consumers in travel retail is gifting – hence the rise of limited editions across the portfolio.
“Travellers are attracted by limited edition liquids and packaging,” said Yau. “We have been creating very appealing designs for the consumer to enhance the giftability of the product as well as the collectability. This is key to attracting consumers.”
A strategic travel retail roll-out
In travel retail, L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup will go into Martell boutiques, as well as wall bays and via activations.
“As it is a brand new proposition, we will observe how it will perform, but we anticipate they will sell out before the next edition comes in,” said Yau.
“While it can be enjoyed, I believe this will be more of a collectible item that’s more for display purposes.”
On the cognac category in GTR in general, Yau is noticing a rise in interest in personalised offerings, such as bespoke gifting, in the channel.
“This has been a trend in many categories in GTR,” he elaborated. “This is what we are planning to enhance to meet our consumers’ needs in 2024.”
The new launch tops off a vibrant year for Martell.
“This year has been very exciting for Martell as we have seen multiple launches, such as the two city limited editions for Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac – Hainan and Singapore – as well as this new L’Or de Jean Martell as well,” summarised Yau.
“The recovery of global travel is part of this and with business and travel is coming back, we believe it will be really exciting for us to launch these new products to meet consumer needs and lead this category.
“For Martell, what we want to do is build the luxury image in the category and to establish the house as a truly luxury cognac Maison.
“This will be a key focus for our brand and travel retail will be a key component to deliver this overall brand vision as we have a lot of wonderful locations around the globe to feature our products and activate them with good visibility, in good spaces.
“This is where the brand is wanting to go to, and we are getting there.”
Immersed in the story of L’Or de Jean Martell
By travelling to Château Chanteloup, TRBusiness followed in the footsteps of a long list of high-profile individuals, from private clients to representatives from powerhouse retailers including China Duty Free Group.
It’s a stunning 16-bedroom property that is the ideal showcase for new launches such as this, complete with deer roaming the grounds.
The amount of time that L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup was aged before being transported to rest in the Château was not stated. However, we got an insight into the making process thanks to a Martell cellar tour, which revealed that it was developed from a ‘base’ blend of L’Or de Jean Martell originally created in 1993.
We were also able to take a look at the archives, which date to the 1700s (Martell was founded in 1715), stacked high with rows of giant notebooks documenting the work of Jean Martell, who was born in Jersey.
It provides a fascinating insight into his processes and wisdom, from the effect of the wood on the ageing process to routes to market around the world – the first shipments were naturally to Jersey and the UK, followed by Germany and, in the 18th century, to the US and Asia, followed by the rest of the world, including China, South America, Australia, in the 19th century.
The writings are studied by the team to this day.
Martell only uses fine grain wood – described as a “bodacious dedication” to the craft – for a more mellow and balanced effect.
Usually, the House selects trees that are 180-200 years old, so utilising 300-year-old oak for this latest edition is extra special.
The forest the company selects from is sustainably grown and managed and Martell maximises the lifecycle of the barrels. They are typically used for up to 66 years before being sold for use to companies operating in other drinks categories.
The company’s rich history spans nine generations of cellar masters, with the current team of seven experts tasing around 40-80 samples per day.
The recipes are hand written with all the accuracy and detail you’d expect, and these vital reference tools command respect.
The immersion into the story of the new expression was enhanced by a visit to Baccarat House in Paris to discover more about the partnership with Martell through the years.
As well as browsing the boutique on the ground floor and exploring the museum housing the French fine crystal company’s heritage collection, we got an up-close view of crystal glassware engraving.
“Martell is further accelerating its ambitions in the ultra-prestige segment with the launch of L’Or de Jean Martell Réserve du Château Chanteloup,” commented Liya Zhang, Vice President Marketing, Pernod Ricard Global Travel Retail.
“We see the new edition as a testament to the brand’s commitment to quality and craftsmanship, reflecting our mission to elevate premium offerings in travel retail locations.
“We know that exclusive and rare cognacs are highly sought after by collectors and connoisseurs in travel retail, so we are thrilled to be able to offer a rare Martell expression for global travellers in 2024.”