When a company has more than three centuries’ worth of history, it’s easy to assume it’s stuck in tradition or stagnant in growth. But with Martell Cognac, the opposite is true. The famous Cognac house uses its storied path to forge new ways of connecting with consumers.
It all started when a determined and highly intelligent businessman named Jean Martell arrived in Cognac, France, founded his own Cognac house in 1715, and married Jeanne Brunet. Because Brunet was the daughter of a top Cognac merchant, marrying her was a smart business move for Martell. After Jeanne died, he married his wife’s cousin, Rachel Lallemand, which was viewed as a somewhat ambitious move since it allowed him to maintain his link to Jeanne’s family of merchants. That decision is likely the reason Martell Cognac still exists today. When Martell died in 1753, control of the company went to his brother-in-law, who was intent on growth and expansion to global markets. Without that turn of events, we might never have seen Martell Cognac on this side of the Atlantic. Read on for 10 things you need to know about Martell Cognac.
Martell Wasn’t Even French.
Jean Martell was born in 1694 in Jersey. Not the Garden State, but the largest island in the English Channel that New Jersey is named for. Jersey is a self-governing English territory, but it’s closer to France than England. The heavy French influence on the island instilled a lifelong love for French culture, and eventually Cognac, in Jean Martell.
Martell Was One of the First Cognac Houses.
More than 300 years ago, in 1715, Martell Cognac was established. Jean Martell, who came from a family of successful English wine merchants, arrived in the Charente region to buy wine and send it back to his home in Jersey. He became enamored with the area and its brandy and decided to stay and start making his own. He was only 21 years old at the time.
Martell Cognac Came to America Only Seven Years After It Declared Independence.
In 1783, the Treaty of Paris recognized the independence of the United States of America, seven years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. That same year, 87 units of Martell eaux-de-vie were shipped to Philadelphia. Distribution increased significantly in the early half of the 19th century once a network of agencies was established in Baltimore, followed by New York in 1848 and San Francisco in 1852.
The Martell Logo Was Created From the Family Coat of Arms.
The Martell coat of arms includes symbols of a martinet bird and hammers. Said in French, martinet and marteau refer to the name “Martell.” The coat of arms was used to mark the Cognac barrels and was added to the house’s labels in 1848.
Hollywood Came Knocking in 1979.
Martell Cognac had a brief moment on the silver screen in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” considered one of the best movies ever made and nominated for eight Academy Awards. Martin Sheen’s character is seen savoring a Martell Cordon Bleu Cognac in one of the film’s first shots.
Martell Has a Secret Cellar for Its Oldest Eaux-de-Vie.
In 2016, Martell’s cellar and blending secrets were transferred from Benoit Fil, the house’s previous cellar master, to Christophe Valtaud. Valtaud moved from vineyard manager to cellar master and acquired centuries-old secrets, including recipes to iconic blends and the location of “Paradis,” a hidden cellar where the most precious eaux-de-vie is stored — some of which dates back to 1830.
Shenzhen Is Home to Martell’s First Interactive Retail Experience.
In 2020, Martell launched an immersive, state-of-the-art retail concept in Shenzhen, China, with the intention of rolling it out globally. The retail store allows consumers to draw liquid from a cask to fill their own bottles. Bottles can then be customized with a choice of cork, hand-printed label, or custom engraving. L’Atelier Martell also features a VSOP Cognac created especially by Valtaud for shoppers in Shenzhen.
You Can Tour Martell Cognac From Your Couch.
Even in the world’s current state, you can still travel and experience the magic of Martell Cognac. The house’s interactive photo/video tour gives Cognac fans an all-access pass to its grounds, cellars, and chateau. The tour even includes a virtual bartender whipping up a variety of cocktails that will surely inspire you to experiment with Cognac in your own way.
Martell Is One of the Four Top-Selling Cognac Houses.
Data published by The Spirits Business in 2019 shows that Martell is behind only Hennessy when it comes to Cognac sales in the United States. It’s one of four Cognac houses that sell more than a million cases a year. Within this small-but-mighty club, Martell’s increases last year were more than double those of any other Cognac brand.
It’s Got a Unique Link to Kentucky and Bourbon.
According to data from Shanken News Daily, the release of Martell’s Blue Swift Cognac boosted brand sales in the U.S. by more than double. Blue Swift uses Kentucky bourbon casks to finish aging its VSOP Cognac. Since the product’s release in 2017, total Martell sales have grown in the U.S. to 233,000 cases.