One of a kind Luxury

Louis XIII cognac for the modern Maharaja

The interiors at Sujan Rajmahal Palace in Jaipur, designed by Adil Ahmad   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Growing up in a house with secret corridors and attics, I remember coming across storerooms piled high with boxes and handmade trunks. Each full of splendours from around the world, frozen in time. One such discovery was a sealed consignment of custom-ordered Louis XIII cognac. A couple of decades later, revisiting the stock, I realised the cognac had been sitting there for over 60 years, perhaps ordered for a state banquet for a visiting viceroy.

Louis XIII Black Pearl

More recently, at a well-curated dinner at The Lodhi hotel in New Delhi, I had the pleasure of meeting Maxime Pulci, the International Brand Ambassador for the House of Remy Martin. At the sit-down dinner, in a dimly-lit room with roses and candles, insight into the world of spirits were shared during what was named ‘The Evening of Louis XIII Experience’.

Maxime Pulci at the Louis XIII Dinner in The Lodhi Hotel, New Delhi

Maxime Pulci at the Louis XIII Dinner in The Lodhi Hotel, New Delhi   | Photo Credit: Gulshan Sachdeva

My earliest memory of tasting cognac was courtesy Tikka Shatrujit Singh, of Kapurthala. “Let the tongue do its job,” he had said, “and experience the flavours coming alive as it seeps down the funnel — maple, smoked wood, honey and passion fruit.” The beauty of cognac lies in the discovery of a unique flavour with each sip. Made for the modern Maharajas, the Louis XIII cognac has no real custom (it can be had before or after meals). And with just a handful of bottles available in the world, the limited-edition Louis XIII Black Pearl is the king of cognacs. Each bottle is matured for over a century and made with 1,200 individual eaux de vie (fruit brandy).

Of the two bottles designated for India, one was opened at the dinner. With the handmade Baccarat crystal bottle held high, Pulci spoke about its history, and how the master cellars work on the spirit knowing they won’t see the final product. The right etiquette of savouring the cognac, Pulci tells us, is to start with a drop and let the palate “experience it”. A couple of seconds later, take a small sip. He cautions us not to swirl our glasses, as it could destroy the consistency by encouraging rapid evaporation. personally admire how Europeans are masters of the art of the bespoke.

Return of decadence

Meanwhile, I’ve been tracking the highly-appealing sensibilities of a new aesthetic in interiors — of reviving a “rich classic, complimented with a twist of decadence”. Zen, a trend that has prevailed for decades, has seen a subtle halt; the fresh choice is more opulent, rich in texture and objects, and stylish without being OTT.

Someone who has become synonymous with this particular style is Adil Ahmad. Viewed through his eyes, it effortlessly combines space and design and is most visible in the Raj Mahal in Jaipur, and many personal spaces including his own home. With a distinctive approach of mixing ultra-classic luxury with quirky and rare artefacts, his collaborative approach gives the client a voice and participation in designing their own space. While this can become a challenge sometimes, it also allows the interior to inherit bespoke flavour and a personality.

Interiors by Adil Ahmad

Interiors by Adil Ahmad   | Photo Credit: Royd Tauro

From my perspective as a designer, I’ve noticed that it is not just a product that matters; it is also that product’s ability to create an experience. Whether it is through a romantic story or an aspirational offering, it must create a majestic beauty. Hence, my takeaway of this new designer-client relationship is about mastering the art of co-creation. Maintaining the delicate balance of listening to the client and offering design wisdom is generally the area of conflict and has to be treaded carefully. Whether it is a palace, an old family home, or even just a corridor, each element must dovetail an experience that is an echo of the client’s personality. The charm of creating bespoke interiors lies in the ability of these spaces to offer an experience that is one-of-a-kind, while narrating the beautiful stories of its people’s lives and emotions.

Raghavendra Rathore is a lifestyle designer, owner of a bespoke fashion brand, and a philanthropist.

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Printable version | Apr 20, 2021 7:49:33 AM |

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