Words By: Sam Kessler
Aside from a few incredibly rare whiskies, you’d be hard-pressed to find any spirit more prestigious than Louis XIII. The hundreds, if not thousands of individual eaux de vie that come together in each bottle instil a complexity the likes of which no other liquid can match. In a word, it’s a masterpiece.
If you think the cognac impossible to improve upon… well, you may be right. But what about the bottle? The fine metalwork? The case in which the decanter rests? Louis XIII makes cognac, not glassware or leather, a fact that they themselves have accepted, embraced even, in their latest celebration of French artisanry - L'Odyssée d'un Roi.
The aim of the partnership is to not only showcase the exceptional nature of Louis XIII’s fine cognac itself but to surround the liquid with accoutrements befitting of its station. With that in mind, the house endowed an exclusive blend of its cognac with vestments crafted by three other exceptional artisans.
Of all the various names in Parisian craftsmanship, none is quite as prestigious as Hermes. It’s not hyperbolic to say the brand is legendary for their exquisite leather, whether that’s in its standard sumptuous state or incorporated into one of their various signature designs. There’s a good reason the year-long waiting list for a Birkin bag has barely wavered for decades.
It’s to this esteemed house that Louis XIII turned for the cognac’s case. Modelled after a classic steamer trunk, the bespoke creation is the very epitome of vintage travel, one which would be at home in the glamorous surrounds of the Orient Express in its heyday. The beautiful charcoal leather has been hand-stitched with a quality typical of Hermes, the trunk able to hold the unique cognac magnum accompanied by a quartet of glasses.
Of course, that glassware is just as important. Founded in 1767, Verrerie Royale de Saint-Louis – or simply Saint-Louis nowadays – has more than enough expertise to do the task justice. The standard Louis XIII decanter is already a beautiful object regardless of the cognac itself, but Saint-Louis have taken it to new levels.
The signature cavalry flask-inspired shape is still very much prevalent in each of the three stunning decanters, the ancient art of copper wheel engraving has been used to enhance the regal profile of the hand-blown glass. The final touch to the three decanters – and the glasses - is possibly the most stunning aspect of the collaboration: the maps.
As evidenced by the Hermes steamer trunk, there’s a distinct travel theme to the partnership. Indeed, even its name translates to The Journey of a King. Fitting then that each of the three decanters and the glasses that go with them are painstakingly inscribed with 19th century maps depicting a trio of different locations, namely the Americas, Asia and, of course, Europe. While the decanters illustrate the continents, each of the four glasses focuses on a single country, ensuring that even the vessels are inimitable.
The final touch to proceedings is possibly the easiest to disregard at first; it’s only when you actually get to sample the liquid that the pipette comes to the fore. Created by renowned silversmith Puiforcat from shimmering white gold, the instrument is used to add a little ritual to the serving of Louis XIII. After all, it’s a liquid that deserves all the pomp and circumstance it can be given.
The end result is triumvirate of masterpieces the like of which has never been seen before, a combination of 50 artisans working towards one exceptional goal. With the different maps each is a unique, utterly breath-taking example of French craftsmanship at its finest, celebrating the grand journey that Louis XIII cognac has taken over the centuries.
After taking their own tour of the world, the three bespoke decanters will come to rest at Sotheby’s to raise money for Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation, a charity dedicated to restoring and preserving classic films.
Each decanter will be auctioned within the continent it depicts in New York (10 September), Hong Kong (1 October) and London (16 November). If you want to take part and get your hands on one of the three, the reserve price is set to start at €350,000 – just under £270,000.
To make an enquiry, contact your personal shopper below.
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