The cognac-making process, from vine to decanter,is lengthy and intricate,involvingthe preciseamalgamationof a
range of elements to maintain the consistentlysuperb level of
qualitythat the house of Louis XIII has been renowned for since its inception
in 1874. Only the finest Ugni Blanc grapes are harvested from the sacred terroir of theGrande Champagne region, before the resulting wine undergoes double distillation in copper
pot stills, transforming into eaux-de-vie. Less than five per cent pass the scrupulous tasting sessions led by
Baptiste: those that do are ready for ageing.
This is where the magic happens, where time becomes the crucial raw material that
Baptiste so passionately speaks about. Baptiste selects the most exceptional of the eaux-de-vie for ageing in
tierçons, precious century-old casks made of Limousin oak that were originally used to transport cognac, arranged
three by three (hence the name) on horse-drawn carriages. They play an essential role in the aromatic development of
Louis XIII, in a more nuanced way than regular barrels due to their ageand
the extended maturation process that they allow for. “In the
tierçon,the way the eaux-de-vie will extract the tannins and aromas will of
course evolve during the ageing; it will be totally different from the classical barrel in terms of evaporation and
angel’s share,” Baptiste explains.
The creation of a tierçon is no small task - in fact, it’s a process that spans
lifetimes. “From the seed of the magnificent oak for our ageing tierçons to the creation of the final blend of Louis
XIII, centuries pass by - decades of dedicated craftsmanship and slow, steady maturation,” Baptiste says. It all
begins in the Limousin forest, with the seeds of pedunculated English oak trees, chosen for their
tannin-intensifying coarse grain wood. It takes up to 200 years of growth before these trees are ready for felling,
when a lengthy process of drying, heating and shaping can occur, before the resulting tierçons are filled with the
house’s young eaux-de-vie and left to mature over decades.
A tierçon is irreplaceable. Now,after a
century of use, many arehaving to be
carefully restored, using the staves of sacrificed tierçons. An extensive
restoration project is underway, involving a collaborative effort between Baptiste and Louis XIII’s talented master
coopers,to ensure that the newly repaired tierçons maintain the rich aromatic
profile that Louis XIII cognac has been renowned for since 1874. In the meantime, oak trees are being planted under
the supervision of the Office National des Forêts, ready for felling in 150-180 years time so that the cycle may
continue. The venture is a new opportunity for the house of Louis XIII to engage with its heritage whilst
simultaneously paving the way for its future.“Before we were only focusing on how to guide the eaux-de-vie, and now the rule of the
cellar master is to guide the tierçons, learning how they will behave throughout the ages,” says Baptiste. He
acknowledges the importance of trusting his instinct, in the same way that is required when tasting the blends.
“Maybe I have in mind that [the tierçons] will be ready in the next 40 or 50 years to welcome the oldest eaux-de-vie
of Grande Champagne of Louis XIII, but it’s kind of intuition. Maybe the cellar master, after 40 or 50 years of this
oak tierçon, he or she will decide that it’s not the right time, and it will need a lot more time to be
It’s these sort of measures that reinforce Louis XIII’s commitment to craftsmanship
and its unwavering devotion to continuing a rich, storied legacy for generations to come. There’s a reason the
cognac house has come to be regarded as the best in the world. Perfection can’t be rushed, says Baptiste.
“It’s ready when it’s ready… Patience is key.” We’ll raise a glass to