The Time: Thursday, 2pm. Springtime. Sunny. The Place: Astor Center, 23 E. 4th St., 2nd Fl., New York. A two-tiered auditorium designed for cooking demonstrations. Every seat has a corresponding sink. The Reason: The release of Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6 Cognac, suggested retail price $22,000 per 750 ml bottle. The Scene: Pierrette Trichet, Cellar Master of the House of Rémy Martin, speaks to a gathering of spirits and lifestyle journalists. "Nature plays an important role," she says in French. "Every vintage, every harvest is different." A man with a tray places a tasting glass with an ounce or so of Louis XIII Rare Cask 42,6 in front of each of us. An uplit tile on our desks allows us to admire the color of the liquid. We look at it, sniff it, swirl it. Finally, we taste it.
My Brain: If this cognac is $22,000 a bottle, I wonder what the value is of the glasses on that tray. Can you imagine if he dropped that tray right now? Would Trichet scream at him, pass out, or cast her eyes downward, stoically, finding dark humor in the situation? What if one of us went crazy, grabbed that bottle on the counter, and took off running? Or smashed it? Would it make the news? If I was in charge of this event I’d deliver the glasses one by one. I’d never risk a tray. Eggs, basket, etc. Okay, focus. Look at this glass. It’s very pretty, this liquid. It captures the light. Smells nice too. Wow. Plums, dates, like she says. Ginger. Sure I get that. Can we taste it now? Great. Yes, I’m going slow. Small sip, make it last. Oh, that’s nice.
They say this is a blend of 1,200 eaux-de-vie, 100 years in the making. Another sip. That’s longer than any Scotch for sure. Another sip. They’re still talking but I’m having trouble concentrating. Having a moment here. I taste honey, I taste plum. I don’t know about the tobacco leaf. I never ate one of those.
Still, this is sublime. Another sip. I wonder how much money is in my mouth right now. They said fancy hotels and cocktail lounges will sell this for 1,800 euros a glass. That’s like 2,300 bucks, yeah? Maybe five sips in this glass. So, this sip could be $500. Whoah, man.
I mean it’s good, really good, but would I ever pay that? Ah, it’s a ridiculous question. I can’t even conceive of having so much money that I can just buy this. Nice to be a journalist then. It’s a rough business these days, but this is my Thursday afternoon.
I can’t say it’s not worth $2,300. Sure it is. I mean, how can you put a value on it at all? It’s the best in the world, or at least the best I’ve ever had. Maybe the best I ever will have. It opens your mind, lets crazy thoughts in. They’re still talking, but my eyes are closed. I hope I don’t look rude. Another sip.
Oh no, this is the last one. How long can I hold it in my mouth? Flavors exploding. Swallow it, let it go. Don’t hold on to the experience, savor the memory. There are metaphors here. Will this ruin me for other, more affordable cognacs?
What kind of person really orders this? Super rich guys? Guys who just won six figures in Atlantic City? How rich would you have to be to spend $22,000 and not really think about the money?
Doesn’t matter. I’m glad it exists. I’m glad I tried it. It’s gone now. I might never have it again. But I’ve tasted it. And it’s magnificent. I have to go back to the real world now. It’s different. I’m different. It really is a beautiful day.