Mzansi is undergoing a cognac renaissance. OK, maybe just a “naissance” – our current cognac obsession and love for all things exclusive is a recent thing, after all. The statistic most pantingly bandied around by industry insiders is that SA is one of the world’s fastest growing cognac market, after the US.
But as all things that gain mass-market acceptance, more blends come out the woodwork. From Hennessy to Remy Martin, cognac’s are being made with more complexity and more zing than their big cousins. Whisky.
Here’s one I came across recently at its local launch, and that I’ve taken a particular liking to. Based in the capital of it all, Cognac which lies in the southwest of France; Martell Cognac’s Caractere offering is the latest cognac brand on the proverbial block, founded by Jean Martell in 715 after recognizing his passion for the blended art and sharing it with the world to experience.
“We decided to finally introduce the brand to cognac loving SA,” says Sumaiyah Connolly, Martell Cognac’s Brand Ambassador, “as we saw a huge opportunity. Cognac is the drink of the moment and we see ourselves – we see Martell rather – as leading the revolution in South Africa.”
While Martell Cognac’s striking bottle design is said to be based on the company’s founder, Jean Martell. We vouch, it is strikingly bold and somewhat keen. Keen in such a way that it tempts you to touch and feel it before cracking it open. Is ‘cracking it open’ still a relevant term? Connolly considers Martell to be an urban brand. It is in Africa’s cities where the pulse of the continent is determined by its consumers. Its sophisticated, and all of its offerings cater for the consumers individual taste.
Suitably, this is a pulsating cognac. As young as it is, it is much stronger to the palate, it comes with a distinctive kick to the nose but its all soon forgotten thanks to its sweetly builds. The blend comes alive with floury dark pepper sharpness, hints of vanilla and raisins (could be prunes), rounded off with floral and tropical fruit notes. Everything seems well rounded. The Caractere is the first of three planned products to be released, and the least fairly priced (cheap is not the word I’m looking for) at +/- R350. The Caractere pours a pale yellow,golden hue with a distinctive light brown colour.
With great body and great balance, Martell’s Caractere is not skollie-ish at all; rather it is refined, accessible, session-able and versatile. So versatile that a non-cognac drinking friend called it “so good in a cocktail”, which was about as good a complement as he could think of. But even for more heavy-footed drinkers, Martell has something to give in the cognac market that is quickly growing up.
You can pick a bottle of Martell Caractere from R349 at all major liquor outlets. If that’s an insult to your spending habits, check out their other blends here.