Transmission is undeniably one of the key issues at stake for today’s vine-growing in France, and especially in the Charentes region.
Master distillers are specialists in the art of distilling cognac. They are a vital and essential link between winegrowers who do not own a still, and trading houses. The region has more than 110 master distillers who account for more than half of the production in Charente. Master distillers apply increasingly strict quality-driven specifications to the wines they buy or distil.
They may conduct micro-distillations in the oenological laboratory for each vat or each plot that they supervise from year to year, in order to ensure quality control and optimal distillation for each wine. They usually work for a single trading house, sometimes exclusively so. Houses impose their cognac specifications for distilling with variable levels of lees, recycling head and second cuts on wine or brouillis, temperatures and flow rates, and cut levels for heads and seconds.
This is how the house style is born, creating the aesthetic of their cognac, even before the steps of aging and blending.
The master distiller’s specialization makes him an expert in achieving the perfect outcome from the method and the terroir used in each winter distillation season.
His alembics and even his alembic heads may sometimes have a specific shape to meet the requirements of the tasting committee of the trading house. Master distillers thus maintain very long-term relationships with their clients, sometimes for more than a century, testifying to the immense mutual trust between these companies and even between families.