DelamainHistory, savoir-faire, passion & tradition

Anna Caidan meets up with Charles Braastad, director at Delamain
2020-01-02
Wine Story

What could you tell me about the history of Delamain?

‘Oh, it's a long story, a very long story. The company’s legal status dated back to 1824, but my family was already making cognac before the 17th century. The name Delamain has only been around since 1762, as my 9 times grandfather married the daughter of a négociant in Cognac and became partners with his father-in-law in 1762. It is still a family run company; we will celebrate our two hundredth anniversary in 5 years and today we remain a very family driven company. It's really two families who have come together to make Delamain. Delamain is very special, because it is very small and preserved as if it has been hidden away, but now we want to open the box and show it off, because nowadays there are not a lot of companies like us, we are real and genuine so it's interesting!’

What is your favourite step in the Cognac making process?

‘Not today because I have a cold, but usually it is the tasting! Tasting is the most exciting, and I also discover the joy of the ground, the earth, the terroir. We have started again to cultivate, which we have not done for years, so we have this very nice vineyard in Grand Champagne called Belles Vignes, beautiful vines. It’s a fantastic name and I enjoy going with our cellar master to walk in the vineyards watch the grapes, watch the leaves; to watch the harvest amongst the craziness of the work is an inspiration. The best part is the tasting with the cellar master, he has been in the company for 38 years and I have been in for 23 years, so we have a very good relationship. When we taste something and we just look at each other we don't have to talk too much, we know where we are going and it's such a nice complementary relationship.’

What is the secret to making Delamain Cognacs?

‘Well there is no secret, we are quite transparent, you just need to read our brochure and you know how to make a good cognac! But the thing is, it takes a lot of time and every step needs to be done well at the right path, at the right rhythm, and if you try for financial reasons to make it shorter you do lose a bit of the quality and if you lose the quality here and there you finish with a cognac which is not as good as it should have been. So, respect and a lot of time at every stage is important. We are very family driven, and we're not pressurised by money, so I think the secret is being patient having the time to respect the process!’

What is your best memory since working at Delamain?

‘Of course, I have very fond memories of working with my father. He retired in 2000, he had some health issues, but I had 4 or 5 years with him. I learned a lot from him, and I have very fond memories of working with him and this time we had together.’

...and your most challenging moment?

‘Ha-ha, maybe now! We have lots of projects, trying to raise our level! We invented craft cognac and though we are only 15 people we produce 100,000 bottles. Everything is done manually and I want to bring Delamain to the level of a luxury craft cognac. I've already started that. I'm trying to get the quality of the packaging to that level and we need to improve our communication and improve the way we receive people when they come to the House and all that is a big challenge!’

How would you define Delamain cognacs in 3 words?

‘Elegant, delicate and authentic. The elegancy and the delicacy will come from the terroir that we respect a lot. We are a specialist in cognacs from Grande Champagne, and this terroir will produce very elegant cognacs. The way we age it is with a lot of respect and time; we don't add anything to cover it, we don't add anything that will spoil this quality. The elegance is brought and raised, and the authenticity is from the production but also the way we communicate the way we tell what we're doing, the respect we have for all our customers and making the cognac in its purist elegance coming from Grande champagne.’

How do Delamain cognacs differ from others in the region?

‘There are a lot of producers in Grande Champagne. There are not a lot of négociants who specialise in Grand Champagne, they will just use Grande Champagne for their very top level and a bottle costs a fortune! And then there are growers with their own bottle, but they will sell in France, Paris, maybe in England, but if you fly just 3 hours you will only find the big houses. Compared to the big houses, it’s a different world; we will produce in one year what the big houses do in one or 2 days. It's important to bring so much focus and attention and detail to the production. It's different, and it's fundamental to be different. I think it's also another secret of Delamain is the resilience we have in our own style. If you compare a glass of Delamain with another Cognac producer, you should be able to recognise our style which is noted by its elegance and purity.’

How are your cognacs best served?

‘It goes with the mood, with the people you're with, it goes with the timing. I mean, you can have it with a dessert you can have it with meat, you could have it with a cigar. There is a professional tasting which is in a small Tulip glass, to focus on the taste and the nose, trying to understand, and then there's a pleasure in drinking the cognac with a glass of champagne, or glass of wine, having a good party, or with a little piece of dark chocolate, to go with a coffee or an expresso or a cigar. Of course it's not the best way to analyse the cognac, but the most important thing is to enjoy it! If you like to have your cognac with a great cocktail or with great ingredients it's not something we specially push or market, but it makes sense to have a good recipe with good ingredients, its great fun!’.

Delamain cognacs represent inimitable style and subtlety. Special mention for the Pale and Dry, intensely floral or the exceptional Family Reserve, an incredible expression! Anna Caidan

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