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Martell

It may surprise you to learn that the oldest of the great Cognac houses was started by an Englishman, Jean Martell, after he left his hometown of Jersey to start trading eaux-de-vie in 1715. Many aspects that would come to define the brand and the profile of its expressions were implemented by Jean Martell, such as his decision to own vineyards in the exquisite Borderie subregion, and that Tronçais oak be used for exclusively when barrel-making. It would more than century of building the company from the ground up, however, before Martell established two of its most iconic features: first, in 1838, the family acquired the Château de Chanteloup to be its home, and it remains as such to this day, and in 1848 Martell began to market the first of its bottles to be decorated with a blue and silver label, produced by a Parisian printer. The process of creating Martell Cognac begins, of course, in the company's own vineyard holdings, which comprise of 160 hectares in Borderies, 45 hectares in Grande Champagne and 38 hectares in Petit Champagne. Jean Martell was right to be passionate about the Borderies, famed for its silica-clay soils that bring its Ugni Blanc grapes distinctive floral aromas and an exceptionally unique terroir, making Martell eaux-de-vie truly stand apart. Martell produce in total around 70% of its own distillate, with the remainder of company's remaining supplemented by an even supply of newly made distillate from third-party distillers and aged eau-de-vie. It is alone among the great Cognac houses for its engaging in its practice of distilling only clear wines, where all sediments and impurities have been removed. Martell is also notable for refusing to use Chauffe-vins to preheat the wine prior to distillation, in the belief that this is detrimental to the wine's flavour. The traditional copper pot stills used to heat the low wines will most likely the ones located at Gallienne Distillery, where Martell boast the largest première chauffe (first distillation) stills in Cognac. With a capacity of 130 hectolitres, just 10 hectolitres short of the legal maximum, the stills replicate the shape and proportions of Martell’s original stills but around four times bigger. Gallienne Distillery, constructed in 1992 for Martell, remains one of the largest and most technically advanced distilleries in Cognac. Martell has always opted exclusively for Tronçais barrels, made of new, soft and fine-grain oak, which is lightly toasted. The Tronçais style dictates that oak trees are planted close together to reduce the amount of light available to sapling, slowing their growth rate, causing the rings representing growth to become more compact. Once Martell has decided that its eaux-de-vie has aged for the appropriate amount of time, it will transport it from the oak barrels and place it in demijohns to rest for one to four months prior to bottling. This halts the maturation process, preserving the eaux-de-vie in its ideal state. There are more than 200,000 casks of maturing eau-de-vie stored by Martell at any one time, the finest of which are stored in the Jean Martell cellar, some of which will age for over 200 hundred years to make the rarest of cognacs. In total, Martell produces around 1.5 million 9-litre cases of cognac a year. A truly legendary and renowned Cognac house, Martell boats a long and storied history thanks to the quality and refinement of its spirit. Martell Cognac has featured at numerous royal occasions, such the coronation of King George V of England in 1911 and in 1957, when Martell Cordon Bleu was served at a reception given by the French president René Coty in honour of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was also present in 1936, when it was served on the Queen Mary's maiden voyage from Southampton to New York, and in 1951 when famous explorer Paul-Emile Victor took eight cases with him on a polar expedition. In 1977, Martell Cordon Bleu held the distinction of being served at twice the speed of sound to Concorde passengers flying from Paris to New York. With a wealth of impressive records set and counting many distinguished and famous fans of the brand, Martell Cognac is simply too good to ignore. A range of its expressions, including Martell XO Cognac, Martell VS Single Distillery and Martell VSOP Medaillon are available here.

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