“The multi-star chef Yannick Alleno, who notably worked for Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris and Cheval Banc in Courchevel, talks about his passion for cognac. Meeting.”
What does cognac represent for you?
Y.A. Cognac represents two things for me. Of course, it’s this delicious wine-based spirit that we all know, but cognac was also at the origin of a major discovery in our work on modern cuisine. My meeting with a master blender from Hennessy was decisive in our approach to Extractions®. Thanks to our exchanges, particularly in relation to the blending techniques that have been applied to cognac for years in order to obtain a perfectly comparable taste for each vintage, I understood the need to blend the various ingredients of a modern sauce after cooking them individually at the right temperature in order to guarantee the consistent taste that is essential for a 3-star establishment.
What do you like most about cognac?
Y.A. I must first say that I am passionate about wine and everything related to it.
I love trying to recognize a cognac “blind”, identifying the barrel, the year, the different flavors. Cognac is of an incredible sophistication. And then the idea that a cognac always outlives its maker fascinates me. Cognac represents pure transmission, self-abnegation, a total giving of the self, since spirits are often kept 50 years or even double that before they are tasted. Mathematically, it is rare to taste the cognac that one creates oneself—that’s incredible.
Your Parisian establishment, the Pavillon Ledoyen, hosts the annual France Quintessence event which showcases the best of French spirits. Since its creation, many brands of cognac have been presented there. How do you see the role of cognac in this sector, its strengths, its dynamics? Do you consider cognac to be modern?
Y.A. I am delighted that we host France Quintessence every year. I consider it primordial that we defend our savoir-faire, our unique identity. On the Champs-Elysées, they manage to bring together nearly 100 exhibitors of 15 emblematic spirits to propose 400 appellations for tasting. It’s a superb way to highlight our heritage. Cognac is always extremely well represented and is a true testament to the history of France, its heritage, its land, and its tendency to change with the times. We are seeing cognac more often in cocktails now, its consumption is no longer reserved for the end of the meal. But changing habits is a real challenge!
Has cognac surprised you, and if so, how?
Y.A. My actual discovery of cognac itself was an absolute surprise. I’m not talking about tasting a good cognac in a bar or a restaurant. I’m talking about visiting a two-hundred-year-old cellar, seeing the old copper alembics still working, and learning from those who have worked there so long that they have dedicated their lives to cognac.
How would you describe the world of cognac in three words?
Y.A. Savoir-faire, luxury, French.
Do you have a special memory of cognac that you can share with us?
Y.A. I have immense admiration for the men and women who make cognac and for their infinite knowledge. There is a major cognac producer that usually chooses two heirs to receive this knowledge and during their first ten years of learning, these “silent ones” cannot speak; their sole duty is to store up this vast accumulation of knowledge.
You travel a lot abroad. Where have you been surprised by the way cognac is consumed?
Y.A. I have vibrant memories of absolutely divine cognac cocktails in the United States.
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