The ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2014

12 08 2014

The prestigious photography award that recognises the Singapore best of the best in photography, the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu, returns for a fifth year. As with the award of the previous years, an exhibition of works of the award nominees will be held, this time around in conjunction with the Singapore Night Festival at the Stamford Gallery of the National Museum of Singapore from 20 August to 5 September.

Lavender Chang: Eldest Daughter (2011)

An additional highlight of the exhibition will be an interactive room on which Martell and ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2013 winner Sarah Choo have collaborated on. The presentation will attempt to draw parallels between both photography and cognac making and is intended to convey the message of how discernment in the details is important to both.

Wilfred Lim: Superhero (From the series ‘Self Portraits’, 2013)

Jeannie Ho: Brunch Is The Order Of The Day (From the series ‘All In Between’, 2012)

Also to look forward to during the period of the exhibition is the visit of Martell Heritage Ambassador Christophe Pienkowksi, formerly a chef at the Chateau de Chanteloup (where Martell entertains its guests). Pienkowski’s gastronomic expertise and knowledge of Martell cognacs lends to the expert pairing of different cuisines with the various marques of Martell cognacs for which he will share and make recommendations. 

Eugene Soh: Venus & Grace Edition 30 (2012)

During the period of the exhibition, visitors will also be able to complete the Martell experience at a pop-up bar that will serve Martell cognacs and cocktails.

Ang Song Nian: Detour No. 3 (From the series ‘Many Detours : Washed-­‐out & Interrupted’, 2011)

The nominees for the award this year are:
  • Ang Song Nian
  • Eugene Soh
  • Jeannie Ho
  • Ken Cheong
  • Lavender Chang
  • Neo Xiaobin
  • Wilfred Lim
More information on last year’s awards and winners can be found at this link.

And the winner of the ICON Martell de Cordon Bleu 2013 is …

13 09 2013

The winner of the coveted ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2013 was announced at an award ceremony at the Chan Hampe Galleries last evening. The evening belonged to the young but highly regarded Sarah Choo who picked up the top prize which carries a cash prize of $30,000. Along with the top prize, two Discernment Awards each worth $8,000 were also given out, with Sim Chi Yin and Darren Soh picking them up. A Eternal Discovery Award worth $1,000 plus a bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu was also presented to Sim Chi Yin for having the most number of public online votes.

Sarah Choo speaking after receiving the award.

Sarah Choo speaking after receiving the award.

The award which recognises the top photographer in Singapore, is one which is decided on by a jury made up of both international and local members presided by Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr Sarah, a photography curator. Also on the jury is Mr Gueorgui Pinkhassov, a Magnum Photographer; Ms Emmeline Yong, Partner, Objetcifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking; Mr Venka Purushothaman, Provost, LASALLE College of the Arts; and Ms Charmaine Leung, Marketing Director, Pernod Ricard, Singapore.

Sim Chi Yin and Darren Soh who picked up the Discernment Awards.

Sim Chi Yin and Darren Soh who picked up the Discernment Awards.

Speaking at the ceremony, Madame de Gouvion Saint-Cyr explained the decision which was made by the jury after a long debate. It was felt that Sarah Choo’s works “masterfully addresses the theme of solitude with her multidisciplinary approach of photography.” She also added that Sarah’s series on teenagers suffering from anorexia and eating disorders, work which she is not able to show publicly out of respect of privacy for those she photographed, “displays a very accurate use of the photographic medium based on strong pictorial know-how such as a sense of composition, framing and the use of light”.

Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr.

Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr.

Besides the cash prize, the winner Sarah Choo also wins an organised trip to a photography festival of her choice in France which will present her with an opportunity to network with galleries, curators and agents based in Europe.

The winners with the members of the jury.

The winners with the members of the jury.

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.



The ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2013

24 08 2013

This year’s edition of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu, an award to recognize the most outstanding photographer in Singapore, was launched at a gala premiere at the Asian Civilisations Museum on Thursday. Now in its fourth year, the presentation of the photographic works at the premiere took the form of a cinematic screening to which the public would be able to view at screenings with the nominated photographers in attendance on 23, 29 and 4 September 2013. The screenings will be held at Screening Room at Ann Siang Hill (more information can be found on the accompanying graphic below).

JeromeLim 0058

The award, established by Martell Cordon Bleu in 2010, comes with a top prize of $30,000 and aims to honour the photographer with original photographic works demonstrating powerful narratives and thought-provoking concepts expressed through a defining visual language. The nominees for this year are Alecia Neo, Darren Soh, Dawn Ng, Liana Yang, Ore Huiying, Sarah Choo, Sim Chi Yin and Tan Ngiap Heng.

ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu Public Screenings

The winner of the award will be decided by a jury of international and local judges which includes Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, photography curator and writer, the President of the Jury; Mr Gueorgui Pinkhassov, Magnum Photographer; Ms Emmeline Yong, Partner, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking; Mr Venka Purushothaman, Vice-President (Academic) & Provost, LASALLE College of the Arts; and Ms Charmaine Leung, Marketing Director, Pernod Ricard Singapore.

Besides the screenings at Screening Room,  an exhibition of the video compositions will be held at the Chan Hampe Galleries at the Raffles Hotel from 6 to 15 September as well as a host of activities such as Martell Cordon Bleu tastings and food pairings. The winner of the award will be announced on 12 September 2013. More information can be found at The public is invited to vote online for their favourite photographer for the Eternal Discovery Prize. The winner of the prize will receive $1,000 and a bottle of Martell Cordon Bleu.

The ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 Award

22 08 2012

The Martell Cordon Bleu Heritage exhibition to mark the 100th anniversary of the celebrated name in Cognac and the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 Photography exhibition drew to a close this evening. The closing of the exhibition at the Timeless Capsule , a temporary art gallery outside ION Orchard, also saw an awards ceremony during with the winners of the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 awards were unveiled. Besides the top prize which was won by Edwin Koo, there were Discernment Awards given out to two photographers, Jeremy San and Ernest Goh and for the first time, an Eternal Discovery Prize based on public voting created for the centenary celebration, awarded to Wesley Loh. The title prize brings with it $30,000 in cash, a trip to Cognac, France and the chance to publish a photography book of his works, the Discernment Awards carries a cash prize of $8,000 each, while the Eternal Discovery Prize is worth $1,000 and an exclusive Centenary Limited Edition set of Martell Cordon Bleu.

Edwin Koo came prepared with a speech …

The winners were selected from nine nominees and picked by a jury of international and local judges who looked at the strength of the photographer’s portfolio, a body of work that shows a coherent vision, unique points of view as well as skillful and well-developed artistic expression. This year’s jury consists of Madame Agnes de Gouvion Saint-Cyr, photography curator and writer; Mr Ian Berry, Magnum Photographer; Ms Emmeline Yong, Partner, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Filmmaking; Ms Bridget Tracy Tan, Director, Institute of Southeast Asian Arts & Art Galleries, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and Ms Charmaine Leung, Director of Marketing, Pernod Ricard Singapore.

About ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu

Organised by Pernod Ricard Singapore, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu is an annual photography award that recognises Singapore’s most outstanding photographer. As part of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary celebrations and to pay homage to this celebrated cognac that has given its name to the award, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2012 was organised around the centenary theme of Eternal Discovery. New elements were introduced to the third edition of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu.

About the winner Edwin Koo’s portfolio

Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Edwin Koo’s three series, Dreaming of Phayul, Paradise Lost and We Would Be Heroes, shares an overarching theme of “A Strange Place Called Home”, where the concept of home and homeland is explored. Dreaming of Phayul examines the hopes and dreams of Tibetan exiles yearning for a “fatherland” that is no longer theirs, while Paradise Lost, set against the backdrop of the Swat Valley in Pakistan, is an investigation into the notion of physical paradise as home. Meanwhile, We Would Be Heroes dwells on the heroic ambitions of young Nepali men and women to free their homeland from feudalism, only to end up estranged from home as the civil war ended.

A selection of Edwin Koo’s works (images provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu):

A timeless capsule

3 08 2012

Step outside ION Orchard, it would be hard not to notice a temporary structure that has made an appearance close to the corner where Orchard Road and Paterson Road meets. What will probably draw one to it would be the name ‘Martell Cordon Bleu’ – which celebrates its 100th anniversary with an exhibition which traces the history of the celebrated cognac to its origins in 1912 as well as featuring old shipping invoices and newspaper advertisements which provide a link to its presence in Singapore that dates back to the 1930s at the structure named The Timeless Capsule which will be opened to the public from 3 to 22 August 2012 . It isn’t however just the celebration of Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary that makes it worthwhile to visit what has been touted as Singapore’s largest art gallery, but also another joy – one that celebrates the works of nine nominated ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu photographers – in an annual photography award organised by Martell Cordon Bleu for which the nine will vie for the top prize of $30,000.

Mr Paul-Robert Bouhier, Managing Director Pernod Ricard Singapore introducing The Timeless Capsule.

The photographers have been shortlisted by an expert panel that comprises Ms Kelley Cheng, Creative Director of The Press Room; Mr Russel Wong, celebrated Singapore photographer; Mr Milenko Prvacki, Senior Fellow at LaSalle College of the Arts; Mr Edmund Wee, managing and creative director of Epigram books, and ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 winner, Mr Sean Lee. They are Mr Albert Lim, Mr Edwin Koo, Mr Ernest Goh, Mr Jeremy San, Mr Roy Zhang, Mr Sam Kang Li, Mr Tristan Cai, Mr Wesley Loh and Mr Yian Huang. Their works are being exhibited in non print form – through the use of a multimedia format. In addition to the cash prize, the winner of ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will also receive the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu trophy, a trip to Cognac, France and an opportunity to publish a book of his photographs. The two runners-up will each be honoured with the Discernment Award and cash prize of $8,000. In addition to this, a Eternal Discovery prize worth $1000 has also been introduced this year for the centenary, which will be awarded to the photographer who has obtained the most support through public voting. Votes can be cast online at or at the ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu exhibition in The Timeless Capsule.

Shadows of guests at the opening of The Timeless Capsule each with a glass of Martell Cordon Bleu in hand.

I did not have the time to view all the exhibits by ones that caught my eye immediately the most were the works of Edwin Koo and Yian Huang both of which I found to be extremely evocative. Edwin who has been using photography to tell stories since 2002 had previously worked in the local press before leaving for Nepal in 2008 where pursue his interest to document human displacement and political turmoil. His series, Dreaming of Phayul, Paradise Lost and We Would Be Heroes, features marginalised groups during his time based in Kathmandu, Nepal. In 2011, his works on the Swat Valley was exhibited in the Angkor Photo Festival. His works on the Tibetan exiles were also shown in Photo Quai, in Paris in 2011.

Refugees wait for tea at Sheik Yasin camp, Mardan, Pakistan by Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Edwin Koo (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Yian Huang on the other hand had a background in management consultancy before obtaining his Masters degrees from Columbia in International Affairs and Journalism. He covered the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while in the Middle East and has been exhibited at Galerie Steph at Helutrans in Singapore, the Palais du Louvre in Paris, the Singapore Art Museum, and in galleries in Russia, Italy and the US. He has also been published in the Economist, Newsweek, the Peak, and Sports Illustrated; and worked for the Newark Star Ledger based in New York City, and as an intern at the Magnum Photo Agency in Paris.

Work of Yian Huang (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

Yian Huang (image provided by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu).

An interesting display in The Timeless Capsule is a specially crafted, one-off piece of the iconic Martell Cordon Bleu cognac bottle by the renowned House of Boucheron. The unique bottle – The Ultimate Jewel which captures the houses’ passion for transforming the finest and rarest of raw materials into either exquisite blends or beautiful, timeless jewellery. The Ultimate Jewel will make a few stops on its international circuit before it is to be auctioned in China at the end of the year.

The Ultimate Jewel (image provided by Martell Cordon Bleu).

The centenary celebrations also sees Martell Cordon Bleu embarking on a charity drive. This would be to raise funds for the beneficiaries of Community Chest. The Martell Cordon Bleu Centenary Charity Drive aims to raise a minimum of $128,800. For the drive 100 exclusive Martell Cordon Bleu Anniversary Gift Sets consisting of a Limited Edition Centenary Bottle, Standard Edition Centenary Bottle autographed by cellar master, Benoit Fil, a Limited Edition photo print and photography book by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 Winner, Sean Lee, will be given in appreciation to contributions of a minimum of $1,288 each with all proceeds going to Community Chest.

The light show during the opening of The Timeless Capsule.

Several fringe activities will take place in The Timeless Capsule during the period, including a photography talk, An Eternal Discovery Revealed, on 6 August by the nine nominated photographers; a cognac and chocolate pairing session called Cognac & Chocolate: A Timeless Taste on 8 August (chocolate desserts prepared by the Singapore National Pastry Team will be paired with Martell Cordon Bleu for the public to sample the timeless taste of the cognac at the session). A photography book by ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu 2011 winner, Sean Lee, will also be officially launched on 16 August. All fringe activities are free to the public but registration is required as places are limited. The Timeless Capsule is open everyday from 3 to 22 August between 10am and 10pm. For more information about The Timeless Capsule, please visit

Claressa Monteiro performing at the opening of The Timeless Capsule.

About ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu – The Exhibition

3 Aug – 22 Aug, 10am – 10pm

The Timeless Capsule, Outside ION Orchard

Admission is free

ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu returns for its third year to recognise Singapore’s most outstanding photographer. In conjunction with Martell Cordon Bleu’s centenary celebrations, ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will include new elements as part of this 100th year milestone. Curated around the centenary’s theme of Eternal Discovery, the photography exhibition will be presented in a multimedia format, thus taking photography appreciation to a whole new level. ICON de Martell Cordon Bleu will also be awarding the Eternal Discovery prize to the photographer with the most votes. The public can vote online at

The exhibition will be held in a specially constructed gallery called The Timeless Capsule outside ION Orchard. The Timeless Capsule will also host an exhibition on the heritage of the legendary Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as well as fringe activities involving art and gastronomy.