Courvoisier are all about embracing the Here and Now, which, naturally, includes spending a weekend in Jarnac and Paris with a bunch of consumers and a couple of lucky bartenders.
Courvoisier’s ‘Here’s to Now’ campaign was directed at consumers and bartenders, with the ultimate aim of bringing a group of them together for a weekend in Jarnac, the home of Courvoisier (for knowledge), and then on to Paris (for shenanigans).
A cocktail competition held earlier in the year selected two bartenders (Sarah Mitchell and Federico Gisbert Johnson) who would join a group of twenty-odd consumers for the trip.
Everyone was told to meet at the crack of dawn at a Victoria coffee shop, passports in hand, with very little idea of what the next two days would have in-store.
A hop, skip and a jump to Bordeaux, a guessing game and a coach ride later and we arrived in Jarnac, home of Chateau Courvoisier, an impressive building considering it has remained largely unchanged since its construction in 1835.
The group toured the Chateau’s grounds, store houses and, most notably the fabulous Le Paradis cellar, exploring the birthplace of Courvoisier’s Napoleon Cognacs.
The Knowledge bit: Why Jarnac and why Napoleon?
In 1809 Emmanuel Courvoisier and Louis Gallois started a wine and spirit company in the Parisian suburb of Bercy.
Fast forward 19 years and their sons, Felix and Jules, wanted to improve the quality of their Cognac and be more involved in the manufacture, and so moved the company to Jarnac, a largely Protestant area sufficiently close to the heart of Cognac itself.
In 1811 Napoleon Bonaparte visited Bercy and declared that his artillery companies should have a ration of cognac during the Napoleonic Wars (He also took several barrels St Helena for his exile). Later, in 1869, Napoleon personally requested Courvoisier be the ‘Official Supplier of the Imperial Court’ and so was the birth of a hallmark of excellence.
Back to current day Jarnac and with brains suitably stuffed with information, it was time to complete an outfit change, as an evening of Cognac food pairing awaited.
Joined by Patrice Pinet, master distiller for house Courvoisier, and Rebecca Asseline, Global Ambassador, The XO Imperial was a rich and complex treat that oozes harmony and big character – think crème brûlée and candied orange in a library filled with leather sofas, and you’ll get the idea.
Having savoured the XO, Patrice then took the group down to the blending room and drew some L’Essence de Courvoisier from the barrel. Decadence is one word that springs to mine, heavenly could definitely be another.
L’Essence de Courvoisier is a blend of limited eaux-de-vie from the last two centuries. Retailing at Harrods for close to the £2000 mark and worth every delicious penny if you ask me.
The next day, after a leisurely breakfast, it was time for Sarah Mitchell (Blues Kitchen) and Federico Gisbert Johnson (Hawksmoor) to take centre stage. Paired with a consumer and armed with a mystery box, the cocktail challenge began – the winner would go onwards with the group to Paris, while the loser would fly home.
Freddie and his partner created ‘Summer in Jarnac’, a raspberry and strawberry drink with a touch of Campari, lemon and Courvoisier Exclusive. The resulting cocktail was light and supremely refreshing, while still allowing the character of the Cognac to shine through.
Sarah and her consumer partner created the ‘Jarnac Jedi’ (always with the Star Wars names Sarah! – ed), an apple and marmalade drink with lemon, a touch of sugar and Courvoisier adding body.
The use of marmalade really added a tangy touch, rounding the drink out rather nicely.
Ultimately the teamwork illustrated by Sarah and Dan stole the show, but Rebecca announced that Freddie had done so well, rules be danmed, he would also come to the capital for a last night of luxury and spontaneity.
Some of the group had never been to Paris before, and on their behalf I salute the organisers for their superb choice of rooftop soiree location. It’s not often you get to sip champagne and Courvoisier cocktails on a Parisian rooftop with an unimpeded view of the Arc de Triomph on one side and the Eiffel Tower, lit up in all its sparkling glory, on the other.
The last morning of the trip started rather similarly to the way it began, huddled together looking rather bleary eyed and clutching cups of coffee – poetic symmetry. The day was spent in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont having brunch at Rosa Bonheur, enjoying the sunshine in the here and now and the last moments of spontaneity before being whisked away first class on a private carriage back to London.
Sarah Mitchell – Blues Kitchen
50ml Courvoisier Exclusif
25ml Lemon juice
2 Spoons gomme syrup
1 Spoon of orange marmalade
25ml Apple juice
Method: Shake and serve on the rocks in a rocks glass. Garnish: Apple fan with cinnamon sprinkles
Federico Gisbert Johnson – Hawksmoor Guildhall London
Summer in Jarnac
50ml Courvoisier Exclusif
25ml lemon juice
Method: Shake and serve on the rocks in a rocks glass. Garnish: Raspberries and strawberries with a lemon twist