Grand Marnier’s newest expressions have officially arrived with the release of its release of two Grand Cuvées, Quintessence and Révélation. Under the expert eye of master blender Patrick Raguenaud, the long perfected technique of blending flavour and aroma have come together to create a toast to its long history and the ever growing evolution of the iconic Grand Marnier look.
We chatted to master blender Patrick Raguenaud to find out more.
How did it all start?
The Grand Marnier story began in 1827, when Jean Baptiste Lapostolle founded a distillery in Neauphle-Le-Château, a small city outside of Paris that produced fruit liqueurs. It was in 1876, when his granddaughter married Louis-Alexandres Marnier, the son of a wine making family from the Sancerre region, that the House of Marnier Lapostolle was born. Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle had the innovative idea of blending cognac with a rare variety of orange from the Caribbean, the Citrus Bigaradia, picked green for a far more bitter flavour than the sweet oranges that we are used to consuming. At the time, oranges were an exotic luxury item and it was by combining the complexity and mellowness of cognac with the exoticism of distilled essence of orange (which still today is a secret recipe), in 1880 Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle created the famous Grand Liqueur.
Tell us about the new Grand Cuvées Quintessence and Révélation and what makes them special?
Both editions pay homage to Grand Marnier’s history and demonstrate how the most complex flavours can be derived from seemingly the simplest of combinations: cognac, orange essence, wood, and time. For both of the Grandes Cuvées sensorial journey, Grand Marnier called on French perfumer Marie Le Febvre to explore the limits of scent perception and aroma identification. The expertise she has honed over years of developing fragrances proves invaluable for understanding spirits and explaining why Grand Marnier delivers such a compelling organoleptic experience.
The Quintessence is a tribute to the origins of Grand Marnier – a masterpiece that elevates the assemblage of cognac and bigaradia orange to its ultimate expression. It also showcases the rarest and oldest hors d’âge Cognacs, which are each exclusively selected from the personal reserves of the Marnier Lapostolle family cellar, blended with Bigaradia orange peels. While traditional Grand Marnier is made by macerating the Bigaradia oranges in neutral spirit, to make Quintessence, the oranges peels are macerated in Cognac and then double distilled. The drink is richer, more full-bodied and more complex than what Grand Marnier drinkers are accustomed to. It is based on a century-plus- old recipe found in the archives. The Quintessence is also of course housed in an exquisite decanter – crafted by the experts at Baccarat to create a vessel as prestigious as the liquid itself. A luxurious experience from start to finish!
The Révélation is the prestige expression of the iconic French house, with the most cognac-forward taste. Révélation’s XXO cognacs come exclusively from the distinguished Grande Champagne cru, perfectly aged at the prestigious Chateau Grand Marnier in Bourg-Charente. The final assemblage of cognac and bigaradia essence rests in oak tanks over several months, allowing ‘alchemy’ to take over. Unlike a lot of the Grand Marnier SKU’s, the Révélation is without sweet flavour elements so the classic sweetness of Grand Marnier is curbed and it is actually made up of 91% cognac.
Tell us about the shape of the Grand Marnier bottle and the story behind it
When Louis-Alexandre Marnier Lapostolle came up with his recipe, he named it Curaçao Marnier, and he sold it in a quite standard bottle.
After a few years he came up with a new iconic bottle shape that was reminiscent of a cognac pot still, which he promptly patented. This shape has been maintained by Grand Marnier over the years and is an integral part of what makes the brand so instantly recognisable.
How has the acquisition of the brand by The Campari Group improved Grand Marnier?
Campari has allowed Grand Marnier to innovate, become more premium and scale volume globally to educate the world on high quality cognacs. Grand Marnier also benefits from Campari’s experience in growing brands, especially brands with a long heritage. Moreover Campari‘s strength in the on-trade and proximity to bartenders has enabled Grand Marnier to regain relevance in the cocktail scene.
Grand Marnier features brandy made from Ugni Blanc grapes from five Cognac crus. Tell us about the vines that go into Grand Marnier and how the grapes are picked?
In cognac there is a very old tradition – the farmers grow the vines, they make the wine and they sell the cognac to the traders, and then the traders they blend, they age, they ship and then they sell. We grow only Ugni Blac Grapes. These grapes are not the best for making wine but they’re very good for making cognac – they are acidic and fresh. It is a quick harvest. We pick the grapes and put them into a press which creates a grape juice which we then put into a tank with yeast and sugar for fermentation. This takes 5 days – very simple.
Tell us about the distillation process and the barrels used to age Grand Marnier
When the wine is ready, we start the distillation. We put the liquid into a pot still to distil the wine, we boil the wine, collect the vapours in a separate still to get the distillate of 30%. We then put this through a second distillation so all liquid goes through double distillation. This creates the heart of the cognac. We then put this into Oak casks for ageing. This is a slow transformation where the liquid components are matured with the flavours, aromas and tannins of the oak cask cognac blending over many years.
Cognac ageing potential is dependent on your wine – for example if you are using wine from Champagne there is a long potential for ageing, it can age for 50 years. After comes the key part of the job – the blending. The Master Blender selects the cognacs, marrying various and well-balanced cognacs which are the perfect match for the essence of the bitter orange.
What makes Grand Marnier different to other orange liqueurs?
While traditional triple-secs use neutral alcohol, Grand Marnier is cognac based, which enhances the orange aromas and flavours, the Grand Marnier blend has remained unchanged since it was created in 1880. Its use of exotic, bitter Bigaradia oranges blended with fine cognac creates the unique and eccentric aura that Grand Marnier is famed for.
Grand Marnier quality is always consistent. Blending has no recipe so consistent quality is key to the creation of Grand Marnier and is maintained across all Grand Marnier products, this has been key to the brand throughout its existence. Our knowledge of the stock has to be very strong to make sure that we maintain this quality.
What food goes well with the Quintessence and Révélation Grand Cuvées?
Given the rarity of the liquid and the multisensorial experience of orange and cognac, consumption alone is perfect; yet if desired a food pairing with orange zest chocolate can enhance the experience, but nothing too sweet or too spicy.
What is next for Grand Marnier?
The launch of the two Grandes Cuvées marks the start of further premiumisation for Grand Marnier, as the brand makes its mark in the luxury market.
To discover more, visit: grandmarnier.com
All imagery courtesy of Grand Marnier / Campari.
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