The beauty of cognac and the importance of heritage, as told by Martell’s Heritage Director Jacques Menier to Ajeng G. Anindita.
Jacques Menier, Martell’s Heritage Director, is a prominent figure in the spirits and winemaking industry. Some time ago, the man was in town ahead of Martell’s HOME event series. Prestige met with him at Grand Hyatt Hotel Jakarta—Menier’s favourite hotel in the city since his first visit back in the ’90s—for a chat about how Martell’s longevity, his ideal way of drinking cognac and the weight of being a Heritage Director of a legacy brand.
How has 2019 been for Martell?
It has been a very busy year for us! We are presenting a new product, which you will see in Indonesia in the near future. But I can’t talk much about it. [Laughs]
What do you think is it that allowed Martell to thrive for more than 300 years?
The cognac market is changing rapidly. Up until the ’90s, cognac was my father’s drink and was sort of looked at as an old-fashioned drink. But we have seen big changes in the industry as of 2005 and cognac has become the new trendy drink. It can be consumed in different ways and one of the main factors is its link to gastronomy, which is booming everywhere in Asia these days, especially with Martell Cordon Bleu that pairs extremely well with Asian gastronomy. People’s palates are becoming more and more sophisticated. More (Michelin) starred restaurants and customers are trying to pair Martell’s cognac with their dishes.
You’ve been with Martell for over 30 years now. Has there been any big changes since you joined the family?
A lot! Cognac is not a static product and we do listen to our consumers in terms of their palate and what they are asking for in terms of taste. For example, the Martell VSOP Red Barrel. The Martell VSOP, which came out before the VSOP Red Barrel, has a woodier taste because when it was created, consumers preferred it that way. But now that the palate of consumers have become more sophisticated, we need to add more mellow notes instead of woody—something that is more fruity, like apricot or peach; fresh fruit, like vanilla notes that comes from a barrel that has been aged at least three years or used at least three years. During the first three years, they released a lot of woody flavours; but when you use it after those three years, you get the best vanilla notes without the woody notes. This is how you can make a blend which is a lot fruitier, with different flavours of fruits, and of course you avoid the bitterness. That’s one of the examples of how the palate of consumers change throughout the years and how we adapt to it.
What makes cognac unique from other spirits?
It is a purely natural product. It’s made of fresh white wine and we only have five months of the year to distil this wine. Also, we only distil the fresh white wine without the sediments in order to make a light type of cognac. On top of that, even though Martell’s cognac has so much flavour, it’s easy to drink and you can wake up the next day with no hangover. That’s very important.
Do you see any peculiarities in Indonesia that you don’t see in other countries?
I think people in Indonesia go out more and also—what I also admire—is that they dress to nines for big parties. People are always so smartly dressed—colourful as well. I feel like this is what we’re missing in the other side of the world, particularly in Europe, where people tend to be casual and don’t want to dress up anymore. But here, whenever you throw a party, you always have those nice people who dress up and look nice! It’s almost like a rule for you guys to dress up. And whatever the reason behind that, it actually adds a good ambiance and feel to the party and the night itself. It creates a very special atmosphere.
Your title is “Heritage Director.” Can you tell us why Martell has this position? Because I don’t think any other brand use the term…
I mean, look at me. [Laughs] I basically carry the heritage. It is actually linked with the essence of the product, the story of the products. It’s important to understand that our brand is 300 years of age. But just because our brand is 300 years old doesn’t mean that it’s not a vibrant brand. We’re a very old brand with a very young heart. We adapt to our consumers. Everything is all about bringing out the essence of Martell and mentoring is very important in the team. Because you need to know the brand, you need to know what you’re drinking; because it’s important to know, so you can make your own choices.
You drink something because you like the taste. Cognac is a pure, natural product, which is important right now, as younger people now are looking for natural products. When they shop, they look at the label and they’re very careful about what they drink and eat—and I think it’s important that we bring this knowledge, how it’s made. That’s part of my job. The other part is to work with brand ambassadors from all around the world. My job is to keep them in line with what they do in the brand and to teach them about the products, how to drink, how to bring consumers together.