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.

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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.

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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.

Aspect:

  • •Deep, golden copper

Nose:

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

 Mouthfeel:

  •  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

 Serving:

  • 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.

Aspect:

  • • Golden amber with dark copper and mahogany highlights

Nose:

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

Mouthfeel:

  • 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

Serving:

  • 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.

Aspect:

  • Amber hue that catches the light

Nose:

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

Mouthfeel:

  • •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

Serving:

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

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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.

Aspect:

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

Nose:

  • •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.

Mouthfeel:

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

Serving:

  • •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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Pairing with Martell on a high

28 03 2013

It is in a room with a view that I experienced what has to be one of my high points of the year. It wasn’t just that I was seated in a restaurant, which on the 62nd floor of One Raffles Place, is perched close to the top of what is one of the highest points over Singapore one can possibly get up to without boarding an aircraft, but also from the treat over lunch that was to follow.

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Compliments of the Chef: a teaser before the pairing session, Cream of Youth, that we were told (jokingly), would take 10 years off our age (photo taken with LG Optimus G).

Lunch, which was at the kind invitation of Martell and Stellar at 1Altitude, was a tasting session of a cognac pairing menu available exclusively at Stellar for the month of March (it has since been extended to Sunday 14 April 2013). The menu involves signature dishes on the Stellar menu, paired with cocktails made with Martell Cordon Bleu cognac as a primary base. After a quick introduction to the restaurant with a Cream of Youth, the tasting session proper commenced with the first pairing on the menu. This was the very rich Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote. To complement the foie gras, a cocktail with a balance of acidity (as a foil for rich foods), sweetness, aroma and texture, much as the classic accompaniment to foie gras, the full bodied white wine, Sauternes, is was required. The result is “Inside the Rocks”, a concoction with dry orange, molasses syrup and fresh parsley that is mixed with Cherry Brandy and Martell Cordon Bleu. Chilled inside a hollow ball of ice which is broken before it is served, the cocktail is indeed a delicate blend – the dry orange drawing out the notes on the cognac – a perfect accompaniment to the rich flavours of the foie gras and rillettes of duck.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Duck and Its Nest: Pan-fried foie gras in a semolina crust; duck rillettes and arfait; corn pancake and quince compote.

Which is paired with "Inside The Rocks": a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Which is paired with “Inside The Rocks”: a cocktail of dry orange, molasses sugar, herbs and Martell Cordon Bleu.

Next was a Classic Lobster Bisque, served with leek fondue and a seared scallop ravioli, paired with a champagne cocktail “Erlinda 1942”. The cocktail meant to bring out the feel of summer, brought out by the taste of lemons and herbs. Besides lemon juice and star anise, the very refreshing cocktail has also crème de cassis, rose Water, St. Germain liqueur, champagne, and Martell Cordon Bleu mixed into it, bringing out a zest which well complements the lobster bisque with a huge and very succlent piece of scallop in the ravioli.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with "Erlinda 1942" a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemonsand a hint of herbs - mixed of course with some cognac.

Classic Lobster Bisque with a succulent piece of seared scallop in ravioli which is paired with “Erlinda 1942” a champagne cocktail with a taste of lemons and a hint of herbs – mixed of course with some cognac.

The highlight of the pairing menu seemed to saved for last, the last before the dessert that was to follow, that is. To accompany the very tender slow cooked (over a wood coal fire for four hours) Kobe C beef off the ribs, served with short rib hash, tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce, was “1st and Last ”. While that certainly wasn’t the last cocktail to be served, I certainly would not have minded if it was. The deliciously penetrating and flavourful aroma brought out by the infusion of cardomom syrup and a cinnamon stick is certainly one that lingers and one which seems to melt into the tasty morsels of beef oozing with flavour from its cooking. The cocktail is one in which the spices come together with a Martell Cordon Bleu base and Zen green tea liqueur bringing out a “lemony and flowery” flavour,  “with note of camphor or eucalyptus due to cineole in the essential oil”.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Kobe C rib of beef, smoked and slow cooked over wood coals; short rib hash; tarragon baby vegetables and morel sauce.

Paired with my personal favourite "1st and Last" - rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick - one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Paired with my personal favourite “1st and Last” – rich in flavour and spiced with a cardomom syrup and cinnamon stick – one gets a high just from the aroma it oozes.

Dessert is something that always comes as a treat, more so in this case being prepared at the table. The “1-Caramel Dessert Experience” which was served on a platter and to be shared was certainly made even more irresistible with its baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; and vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream. The 1-Caramel Dessert Experience is one that is paired with “El Favorito”, a very rich combination of Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao – said to bring emotions to your head, with a sweet and creamy flavour – it did well complement the dessert experience and while it was perhaps a little too heavy for me, it was a sweet and flavourful way to bring the tasting session accompanied by one of the best views of modern Singapore out the window, to a conclusion.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Preparing the 1-Caramel Dessert Experience: Baked Alaska with strawberry ice cream and warm chocolate brownie; Valhrona chocolate praline bomb with berry compote; vanilla crème brûlée with dulce leche ice cream.

Dessert is served.

Dessert is served.

The baked Alaska.

The baked Alaska.

Dessert is paired with "El Favorito": Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

Dessert is paired with “El Favorito”: Martell Cordon Bleu, vanilla ice-cream, Mascarpone cheese and white cacao.

The “Pairing with Martell” menu is available at Stellar at 1Altitude until 14 April 2013. Besides the individual paired items on the menu, a set menu which includes all dishes and cocktails, is also available at s$185++. Reservations are highly recommended.