Drinking Sh300,000 Cognac at a 100-year-old Camp


Jörg Pfützner (Left) He is private client director Louis XIII de Remy Martin at Rémy Cointreau and Calvin Cottar, a director of Cottar’s Camp in Maasai Mara. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Don’t add anything to that drink. Trying to make a cocktail with a Louis XIII is a sin,” says Jörg Pfützner, a man with 17 years experience of tasting alcohol, and getting paid for it.

I am staring at a 100-years-old Louis XIII cognac that costs Sh300,000 a bottle while sitting at the Cottar’s 1920s Safari camp in Maasai Mara, a facility that was also started 100 years ago.

Both brands are an epitome of luxury. They are to luxury travellers what the Lamborghini or Ferrari is to car lovers. Back to the drink.

Pfützner removes the cognac from a casing, revealing an oval-like glass bottle with embossing. Just that they don’t call it a bottle. It’s called decanter and for a good reason.

The decanter with royal-like lid that holds the light brown cognac is an inspiration from the French battlefield.

It was picked by a soldier in a battlefield during the 17th century and later bought by the House of Rémy Martin, the distillers of Louis XIII cognac. From then, the legendary decanters have been made from fine crystal for generations, mouth-blown by some of the most skilled master craftsmen.

The cognac package also comes with six glasses. Every buyer of the Cognac gets the full package; the casing, decanter, the royal glasses and your name on a list of select few powerful men across the globe that take the Louis XIII.

“It’s a small exclusive club. I know all of them by name, interests and where they live. I deliver the cognac personally if possible,” says Pfützner, who is also the private clients director and brand ambassador of Louis XIII.

Back to the cognac. Pfützner hands the men and women on the table a glass. I take mine and peep inside. Inside, the glass is flower-shaped and when Pfützner finally pours the cognac, it sits neatly on the glass, its orange colour radiating through the engraved glass.

It’s time for the sip. The sip evokes a taste of myrrh, honey, dried roses, plum, honeysuckle, cigar, leather, figs and passion fruit. And by the gods of cognac, you can feel it in your mouth. A smooth yet sour taste that tingles your buds.

Louis XIII is a blend of up to 1,200 eaux-de-vie (colourless fruit brandy, or water for life as the French call it) sourced 100 per cent from Grande Champagne, the French vineyards of the Cognac region.

I have just tasted a Sh300,000 cognac that is a century old. That is a second-hand car or a plot in Ruai in my mouth. It’s a good feeling to drown that alcohol.

So, what does it take to make a century old cognac? The patience of a Kenyan voter, precision of the Swiss and extraordinary confidence in the future of the planet.

Named after the French king who protected the Cognac region, Louis XIII was created by Paul-Émile Rémy Martin in 1874. Each generation of cellar master, selects from their cellars the oldest and most precious eaux-de-vie for Louis XIII.

They set aside those with the very best ageing potential. Those chosen in 2019 will for instance, make cognac that will be ready in 2119.

“Each cellar master knows that they will not see the fruit of their work. They are a vital link in a human chain, working to transmit the legacy that ensures Loius XIII lives on,” says Pfützner. Today, cellar master Baptiste Loiseau is setting aside the ingredients for the future.

As we enjoy the drink, the conversation starts flowing. The venue also helps. Having hosted guests from British Royalty to Hollywood stars, Cottar’s 1920s camp features as one of the top five lodges to visit in the 2019 International Wealth Report and has a spectacular hangover-ending view of the Maasai Mara, where we had spent hours on a game drive that morning.

The third generation of Cottars, led by Calvin, manage the camp.

We are in a perfectly lit main house at the Bush villa, a massive 10,000 square feet property. Footnote. It costs between Sh250,000 to Sh350,000 per night to rent the bush villa. The good-life is good.