It’s not enough to read about something in a magazine or see it on television these days: Major companies want to treat customers to an “experience.”
Hence, the Grande Champagne Cognac Louis XIII, what Rémy Martin bills as “the world’s most complex and prestigious spirit,” has opened a “Legacy Experience” in a store in SoHo. It will travel to Los Angeles and Miami so New Yorkers aren’t the only ones to be able to experience the experience.
On Wednesday, Todd Harrison, the founder and CEO of Minyanville Media, and a former vice president at Morgan Stanley, hosted a group of his friends for a peek at the “Legacy Experience” and then a dinner of Elysian Fields lamb with kamut berry ragout.
Representatives from Louis XIII responded to Mr. Harrison’s leadership, innovation and dedication to philanthropy. Beyond his business endeavors, Mr. Harrison is also the creator of the Ruby Peck Foundation for Children’s Education.
“They called and I first asked: ‘How much is it going to cost me?'” Mr. Harrison recalled. Not only would it not cost him, but Louis XIII is donating a limited-edition three-liter “Le Jeroboam” for Ruby Peck’s auction in December. The estimated value is €16,000, or about $22,750. A typical 750 ml bottle, is $2,300.)
Still, Mr. Harrison, said, he wasn’t much interested in cognac. “I’m a vodka drinker,” he explained. “They said, ‘Try our vodka.’ My opinion is not for sale. I think Grey Goose is the best. But it was really good. They converted me.” They also ended up sponsoring a recent party for his book, “The Other Side of Wall Street.”
As for the event Wednesday, “I also said, ‘I don’t want any gimmicks,'” Mr. Harrison said.
The invited guests, which included Peter Atwater, CEO of Financial Insights LLC; Scott Redler, the chief strategic officer at T3 Live, Michael Curcio, the president of E*Trade Securities and Keith McCullough, chief executive of Hedgeye, had a brief champagne toast. They were then given a pair of 3-D glasses and ushered into a small room with red sofas and a large screen.
So much for no gimmicks. A short film began with a heavy-handed score, showing a bottle of Louis XIII in a display case, another among romantic candles and still another on a mossy step. There were images of châteaux, of vineyards and of what the company calls extremely rare, antique Limousin oak “tiercon” casks, but we tend to call barrels. There were close-ups of cobwebs on those “tiercon” casks, which looked very James Cameron in 3-D.
The movie ended, and Pierre Bollet, the company’s brand ambassador, delved into a PowerPoint presentation explaining the legacy of Louis XIII, which was founded in 1874. He gave what he called “fun facts” about the four generations of cellar masters who have harvested the product.
“Creating Louis is comparable to building the cathedrals in the Middle Ages,” Mr. Bollet said. “Many who worked on it would not see the results of their labor.”
The presentation ended and the screen was lifted. In an adjacent room, there was an empty “tiercon” cask marking the first time in history said barrel has been brought to the United States. How did they get this through customs, you ask? Nothing too Thomas Crown, but rather “a lot of paperwork,” Mr. Bollet said. Oh.
It was time to taste the Louis XIII. “Tonight it’s going to be a century in a glass,” Mr. Bollet said. “This tasting experience is truly like no other. Wait for my signal at every single step.” Glasses were passed around the room.
“So, in other words, no shots,” said Barry Ritholtz, the CEO at Fusion IQ, a quantitative research firm.
Mr. Bollet ignored him and dove in: “Imagine in 1911, a peasant was working on what you are about to drink. Admire the color, the viscosity. Now let’s take the first nose. Smell it from a distance. Now bring up your glass slowly. The elegant floral notes, the iris, the jasmine. Come closer and the fragrance grows more intense, spicy, complex. Oak and vanilla, incense, dark pepper, freshly crushed. A cigar box.”
“This is like nasal foreplay,” said Mr. Redler.
“It’s good you say this,” replied Mr. Bollet, “because this leads me to the seduction phase. Taste it for the first time. Take the smallest amount and wet your mouth. The explosion of flavors! It can last on the palate for an hour.”
“That means I might have a hard time explaining where I was tonight,” joked Mr. Ritholtz.
Mr. Bollet suggested a longer swig. Everyone got quiet for a moment, and then someone asked, loudly: “So, can we get a refill?” When they were all ushered to dinner, it appeared the answer to that question was no.
Write to Marshall Heyman at email@example.com