Cognac and photography at its best

12 09 2013

The annual ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu season brings with it not just great photography by some of the best practitioners of the art but also opportunities to indulge in some of the cognacs the oldest of the great cognac houses has on offer. I had the opportunity this year to attend a tasting session at the Chan Hampe Galleries during which I got to sample four different cognacs in Martell’s range, learn a bit more about the cognacs themselves, as well some interesting notes on the design of the bottles. There was also a chance to hear from two of this year’s nominees for the prestigious award (the results of which will be announced this evening), Darren Soh whose work on changing landscapes I can identify with, and Sim Chi Yin – who is my personal favourite for the award, present their works.


The cognacs that were served during the tasting session were the Martell Cordon Bleu, Martell XO, Martell Chanteloup Perspective, and Martell Création Grand Extra, all of which (particularly the last) I am given to understand goes very well with chocolate (who can resist that combination – and I had to miss the chocolate tasting session the next evening)!

Cognacs on offer at the tasting session: Martell Cordon Bleu, Martell XO, Martell Chanteloup Perspective, and Martell Création Grand Extra.

Cognacs on offer at the tasting session: Martell Cordon Bleu (single bottle), Martell XO (left), Martell Chanteloup Perspective (middle at the back), and Martell Création Grand Extra (right).

What I did first find out about cognacs are they are made from white wine produced from grapes grown in the Cognac region: Borderies, Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne and Fins bois. The wine or eau-de-vie is twice distilled twice before being aged in oak casks. Cognacs also are a blend of several vintages and of eau-de-vie made from grapes from different cultivation areas giving each blend a unique flavour which does make it a challenging task being a cellar master.


Of the four on offer, the blend that I did enjoy the most was the Martell Création Grand Extra.  I can’t (and probably don’t want to) admit to knowing what I am talking about when it comes to tasting cognac, so the tasting notes I received on the four do come in handy:

Martell Cordon Bleu

Martell Cordon Bleu is the cognac for true connoisseurs and has acquired legendary status since its creation by Edouard Martell in 1912. Its distinctive taste, characterised by a predominance of eaux-de-vie from the Borderies growth area, and its timeless bottle design make it a classic unequalled in the world of cognac.

Martell Cordon Bleu Tasting Notes

Elegance and aromatic richness. Explosion of fruity and spicy notes. Rich in mouth.


  • •Deep, golden copper


  • •Orchard fruits: crystallised plums and apples
  • Roasted notes: mocha coffee, toasted almonds, vetiver
  • •Rich spice aromas: cinnamon, orange tree flower, honey and beeswax


  •  Well rounded mellowness•
  • Sustained finish with fruit and spice notes•
  • The preponderance of Borderies eaux-de-vie gives Martell Cordon Bleu an elegant, mellow and complex character


  • Ideal for special occassions. Best enjoyed near or with a splash of water.

About Martell XO

With its distinctive arch-shaped bottle, Martell XO is a powerful symbol of vision and inspiration, which is a testimony to Jean Martell’s will to connect the best of things. A unique combination of the elegance of the Borderies and the power of the Grande Champagne, Martell XO is an outstanding XO which bears the hallmark of the Martell style.

Martell XO Tasting Notes

More secret on the nose. Starting with the elegance of the Borderies, then followed by the intensity of “Champagnes” eaux-de-vies. Long after taste.


  • • Golden amber with dark copper and mahogany highlights


  • Ground spice (black pepper, coriander) and red berries
  • Rich fruit flavours: fig chutney and compote, almonds and walnuts
  • Beeswax and sandalwood


  • Rounded and fruity on the palate (notes of fig and walnut) followed by the characteristic power and finesse of eaux-de-vie from Grande Champagne
  • A long and silken finish


  • Ideal for special occasions. Best enjoyed neat or with a splash of water

About Martell Chanteloup Perspective

Martell Chanteloup Perspective is an invitation to pass through the gates, to enter within the secret Chais of Chanteloup, where precious eaux-de-vie lie.

It is also a tribute of a cellar master to a specific place: the belvedere which leads to the Chais de Chanteloup, which offers a magnificient perspective that has inspired each and every generation of Martell Cellar Masters.

Martell Chanteloup Perspective is an extra-old cognac that has recently joined the ultra prestige quality segment of Martell.

Martell Chanteloup Perspective Tasting Notes

A nose specially complex and characterised by riched honey notes. Complex and fruity notes. Longer after taste.


  • Amber hue that catches the light


  • •Fresh stone fruit aromas: peach, apricot
  • Crystallised fruit: figs•
  • Dried fruit: raisins, almonds and other nuts


  • •An aromatic impression remarkable for the depth of its fruits.
  • The rounded, balance tenor of these aromas joined with the structure, elegance and power that yield a long, ingering finish in the mouth


  • A cognac to enjoy neat for a unique and special occasion


The unique grill gate on the Martell Chanteloup Perspective was inspired by the gates to the Chais of Chanteloup and a tribute to a cellar master.

About Martell Création Grand Extra

With its unique architectural arch-shaped decanter created by famous French design Serge Mansau, Martell Création Grand Extra is a tribute to the creative spirit of the Martell house. At its heart is a powerfully built blend made of a marriage of the fresh and fruity notes from the Borderies with the subtle, spicy notes of aged Grande Champagne eaux-de-vie.

Martell Création Grand Extra Tasting Notes

Powerful and intense aromatic architecture. Good length in mouth.


  • Amber topaz, catching and reflecting the light as it glows.


  • •Compote and jam: lemon and orange peel and dark-red plum.
  • •Exotic riches: cocoa beans and strong, dark chocolate, vanilla pod.
  • •Woody, spiced notes: curry paste, rancio and amber leather.


  • •Silky-smooth attack
  • •Mellow mid-palate
  • •Powerful and unique finish, its duration punctuated by woody and spiced notes.


  • •A cognac to savour neat, for a unique tasting experience

Photographs from the event:

Sim Chi Yin.

Sim Chi Yin.

Darren Soh.

Darren Soh.






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