Liquor cabinets are funny things. You fill them up with liquor, you drink the liquor, and then you fill it up again.
And yet, some bottles just disappear in the back, never to be found until you have to clean it out while re-doing the shelves. It was only during this that I found bottle engraved with fleur de lis and a rubber stopper smiling at me in the very back next to some long expired bottles of sake: Louis XIII de Rémy Martin
Current price at an Oregon liquor store: $3,097.95.
Only about a third of the bottle’s original contents remain. Dark brown with a glimmer of what appears to be oil floating on the surface. On the back is a tan sticker reading “Dowell Remy LLC: the sole distributor in Japan.”
How did this trophy come into the possession of a penniless alt-weekly freelancer? It’s a long story.
It all starts with my grandfather, Bartholomew Locanthi II
. In 1975, the esteemed audio engineer was named Vice President of Pioneer North American Development. Working for the American front of a Japanese company meant he’d be spending more time in Japan. He picked up this ancient cognac at some point. Or maybe it was a gift from one of his Japanese contacts. (The aforementioned bottles of sake next to this Louis XIII were dropped off at our house by Japanese businessman about a decade ago.)
My grandfather lost a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer in 1994. This bottle was one of the trophies we took from his house in Altadena, Calif.
Louis XIII is aged 100 years before being bottled.
This cognac might predate not just the phylloxera crisis
—which devastated the Folle Blanche grapes originally used to make the liquor—but the 20th century itself. It doesn’t taste like modern cognac. It can never be made again.
Most of my experience with Louis XIII came from gazing longingly at it on the menu in the cigar bar at Kell’s. My freelance income combined with the $387 a glass pricetag prevented me from ever tasting it.
It has an odd almost watered down nose that leads into a bitter finish. It lacks the saccharine taste of too many brandies and cognacs I’ve had the misfortune of tasting. The strong aroma of alcohol belies a remarkably smooth drink. The small particles floating about the caramel liquid and oil floating on top suggest that the current flavor might be something other than the makers’ originally intended.
With the past weekend spent mourning those that lost their lives in military service, this is a proper time and way to celebrate my late grandfather.
It is a fitting tribute to the man who grew up the poor son of a Sicilian immigrant in New York, rose through the ranks of JBL and Pioneer and left an expensive bottle of cognac for his grandson to preserve—poorly.
With the original bottle cap missing, I threw on one from Blanton's. (That's still classy, right?)