It is 1968. Gold is no longer required to back the value of the US dollar; 2001: A Space Odyssey opens in Washington D.C.; 60 Minutes debuts on CBS; The Beatles release the White Album. In the midst of a busy year for news and popular culture, it was also a remarkable year for the grandest of the old cognac houses of France, Martell. In the oldest of its cellars, the keen senses of the cellar master detected something special in the eau-de-vie from the Grand Champagne region of Cognac. Unlike the big news stories of the year though, this one would stay out of the public eye until now.
Forty three years later, in 2011, Martell is debuting the first expression of its Millésimes Collection. The Millésimes 1968 is the result of that rare single eau-de-vie from 1968, carefully selected by Martell’s Cellar Master Benoit Fil from the Chais de la Coquille, the oldest cellar of the house, built in 1833.
Now, there is some confusion about the difference between eau-de-vie and brandy itself. Before we concern ourselves with the Millésimes, which of course has a proper definition, just like VSOP, XO and the other usual qualifiers, we have to be clear about exactly what eau-de-vie is. To put it simply, eau-de-vie refers to the liquid that emerges after a double distillation of white wine.
Exceptional Organoleptic Temperament
What we think of as finished brandy or cognac is the result of aging eau-de-vie in wood casks. So, in the case of the Millésimes 1968, the year refers to the vintage of 1968. That is to say, the eau-de-vie of that year in particular has been aged for more than 40 years - with even the eau-de-vie going into the barrels to account for part the “angel's share” (lost to the heavenly forces of evaporation) coming from the vintage year in question. No other eau-de-vie is introduced into what the casks. It is this purity that gives any Millésimes its specific properties.