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Updated: May 21, 2014 16:38 IST

Cognac conversations

SHONALI MUTHALALY
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FOCUS ON ASIA Jean-Pierre Damatteo (left) and Laurent Robin Photo: V. Ganesan
The Hindu FOCUS ON ASIA Jean-Pierre Damatteo (left) and Laurent Robin Photo: V. Ganesan

Laurent Robin's got a bee on his lapel. Which certainly beats having one in his bonnet. Though, to be honest, he is rather pernickety when it comes to cognac.

Robin's the master blender for Louis Royer Cognac, which recently launched in Chennai with a glittering dinner party at Sheraton Park Hotel and Towers. The event, hosted by the hotel's general manager Virender Razdan, marked Louis Royer's entry into India.

Which brings us back to the bee. In the form of a nifty little lapel pin, it's Louis Royer's mascot, since the company's founder originally made honey as a hobby. It also represents how hard they work. “I taste maybe 30 varieties a day,” chuckles Robin, adding: “But, I never get tired because I always discover something new. There is no routine in my job. Every year the wine is different, so the cognac is different.”

He goes on to explain why he feels the drink is more complex than wine. “Cognac is the essence of the wine. We take the best from wine, concentrate flavours by distillation. To me a good cognac has to be very rich. It should have a complex character. But, it must also be the fruit of the terroir. It should make the most of the wine. Be well-balanced with ageing.”

Robin takes an appreciative sip of Louis Royer Force 53, a heady brew with flavours of dry fruit and a punch that almost makes your eyes water. It's served with a mellow red bell pepper and cashew soup, and crostinis topped with sweet dehydrated figs.

The main course, a lemon garlic grilled basa fish, is teamed with Louis Royer VSOP, which is warm, velvety and round. “Quality depends on age,” says Robin, adding: “By law it has to be a minimum of two years — but it can go up to 30, 40, 50, 100 years. This is what is extraordinary about cognac. You can keep it for years and years, and not lose its essence.”

Dessert is a vanilla bean crème brulee served with the Louis Royer XO, which is smooth and lingering. Between sips, Jean Pierre Damatteo, technical director for Louis Royer, discusses how the company is now focussing on Asia. China, he says is currently fuelling the growth of the industry.

And, he adds with a laugh that both he and Robin aren't exclusively cognac drinkers, though that's where their loyalties lie. “Life would be very boring if you drink the same thing. I think only makers of Coca Cola drink Coke every day. As long as the product is well made, and a pleasure to the palate, we'll drink it.”

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