The Luxury Channel talks exclusively to Ludovic du Plessis, the young and handsome Global Executive Director of Louis XIII, about his vision for the brand, films and the future. We find out more about the brand’s l’Odyssée d’un Roi project, stars of the silver screen including Charlie Chaplin and John Malkovich, and why 100 years of love means drinking the finest cognac in the world….
Four French luxury houses have come together to create a masterpiece, called L’Odyssée d’Un Roi. A bespoke tribute to cognac’s mythical journeys through the ages, Louis XIII has collaborated with Hermès, Saint-Louis and Puiforcat. To pay ode to the luxury travel heritage of Louis XIII, each house has contributed its own centuries-old savoir-faire for the creation of a series of three objets d’art. These one-of-a-kind pieces are being presented in culture capitals on different continents as part of a year-long travelling exhibition. The bespoke trunk, modelled on a classic steamer trunk and hand-stitched by Hermès using the finest leathers, has been designed to hold an exclusive creation – a magnum decanter of Louis XIII. We talk exclusively to the charming Ludovic du Plessis to find out more….
Tell me about the process and history of making Louis XIII and the l’Odyssée d’un Roi project?
It takes four generations of cellar masters over 100 years to craft each bottle which means during 25 years, each cellar master will select the very best eau du vie and then these four generations are blended together to make the very finest cognac. The difference between Louis XIII and l’Odyssée d’un Roi, which means Journey of a King, is that we added some eau du vie dating back from the 19th century. The eau du vie is selected from the best grapes and the best region in cognac. This is called Grand Champagne and is the best of the best Louis XIII. Louise XIII itself was created in 1874 when one man from Remy Martin decided to create the ultimate luxury spirit. At the time, everyone was selling very young eau du vie and cognac because they had to sell it straight away but this one young man said no, I am going to keep them because when you age them, they are going to get more complex and more mature. In 1874, he was ready to put this magic liquid in a bottle. He called it Louis XIII and two years later in 1876, he went to the US market, then to China, then Australia and then the UK. It then became a global brand within two years after its birth. So its journey all around the world started then and today it is everywhere, in the top 35 countries in the world. For me, it became a global brand in 1876, so we wanted to make a tribute to that. For l’Odyssée d’un Roi, we have created only three magnums, each one with a map of Europe, Asia and America.
How did you chose your partners for the project?
We wanted the best of the best and Hermès has such a heritage and history in the travel industry, it was not difficult to choose them! It was the same for Saint-Louis, in terms of the crystal. The engraved, white gold pipette of L’Odyssée d’Un Roi has been handmade by the Art Deco silversmith Puiforcat, for the ritual of service. With that, you take it drop by drop. So then you have the four houses together to make a tribute to the journey of Louis XIII. They were all very interested. It took almost four years from the start to finish. It’s a lot of time, a lot of men and women behind the project. For example, there’s only one man in the world who can engrave the decanter like that, and he worked for months and months on it.
Why are all the benefits of the L’Odyssée d’Un Roi project going to Martin Scorcese’s Film Foundation?
The money will preserve the movies and with part of the benefits, we are going to work on a Charlie Chaplin movie from 1916 – the colour etc – so with Louis XIII, you go from Charlie Chaplin in 1916 to John Malkovich in 2015!
[Click here to watch an interview with Martin Scorsese about the work of The Film Foundation].
What was the thinking behind the John Malkovich film, “100 Years?”
The idea behind John Malkovich’s story – which he wrote! – came to me when the cellar master told me the first time I arrived at the company that in a bottle there is 100 years of history because it takes four generations to make it. He told me that in the morning he had selected the best eau du vie and some of this will be in the Louis XIII which will be tasted in 2115. So I said to him, you are working for people who are not even born yet! So I wondered, how am I going to tell the world that, and reach out to the new millenials? I thought the best way was the cinema platform. From Hollywood to Bollywood, we all love cinema and John Malkovich is the best guy to do that. We needed someone who had the maturity and the craziness and the magic, and Malkovich was that. The hashtag #NotComingSoon is for them!
[Click here to see the trailer for 100 Years, and here for further information about the film].
Do you think the new millenials in 100 years time will still appreciate luxury in the same way as they do today?
Absolutely. It’s all about time and every generation appreciates the time it takes to make true luxury. In today’s world, it’s all about instant gratification and social media but the whole thing about Louis XIII is delayed gratification so it means so much more to them. For me, when I accepted the job, I realised it was mostly about men after dinner with the cigar, which is very true but the best moment for me is at the aperitif time at 7pm before the dinner. Your palette is fresh and you are ready for an amazing evening, and you start with Louis XIII because it’s very smooth and you take it drop by drop and have some pieces of Iberico ham. Then you think, wow, the evening is going to start in the best way! It’s also true for women. I recently went to a friend of mine’s wedding in Israel and took a decanter engraved with the name of the bride and a toast to 100 years of love because it means something to get married.
Where is the best market for fine cognac?
Cognac was introduced into China in the 1880s, so they know it well and they love cognac, but also in the UK and USA. Louis XIII is very well known in Asia beyond China but today when I look at the sales, it’s very balanced between the continents.
I hear you are opening a retail store in the SKP in Beijing, which is a different step for a luxury spirits brand – how is this changing the way you deal with consumers?
The idea is to re-engage with our clients. None of the wine and spirits companies have a boutique anywhere in the world – we are the first and it shows you how client-centric we are. It’s all about the client and the experience that we can have with them. It’s about changing the rules in the wine and spirits universe for me to sell directly. The boutique is 130 square metres, it’s beautiful and in three parts. First, you enter the salon then you have the boutique, then you have the eternity room that only family and friends can go into, so it’s the whole idea of going bigger then smaller – it’s about the image of concentration. Like the eau du vie, the water of life becoming very concentrated. So the design is about the concentration and it’s really about making history, so I can shout and sing about it. The official opening is on October 27th.
Is it getting harder for luxury brands to engage with consumers?
Unless you keep engaging your clients with new things, then yes. Look, in two years we have produced a movie with John Malkovich which is going to be released in 100 years, we produced a masterpiece with Hermes for the Film Foundation, we opened a boutique in Beijing and we have a lot of new projects to come soon, so we have many ideas. Everyone wants to hear our story and there are 100 ways to tell that story so these three things we have just done are only just the beginning. As for next year, I can’t tell you as it’s a secret, but I can tell you that we will be here in the UK in the middle of next year and everyone will be extremely happy. I have already said too much!
What’s your personal motto?
Steve Jobs said, “do what you love to do and make a difference.” That’s my personal motto, because I love what I do.
Personally, who has been your mentor on your journey through life?
I have been lucky to have three good friends. Sir Richard Branson is one of them and for me, the things that he has taught me are management and leadership, which are the key. Then I have a good friend, Serena Williams, she taught me how never to give up and the last one is Leonardo Di Caprio and he taught me never to take anything for granted and to give back. That’s very important.
If Louis XIII was a car or an animal, what would it be?
Wow, that’s very personal. If it was an animal, it would be a wolf because it’s very beautiful, delicate and aware, and if it was a car, it would be an Aston Martin because of its style and craftsmanship. Voila!
The three ultimate masterpieces featuring a rare blend of Louis XIII cognac will be sold at auction at Sotheby’s (the next auction will be held in London on November 16th 2016). The proceeds will benefit The Film Foundation, a non-profit founded by director Martin Scorsese. For further information, visit:- www.louisxiii-cognac.com.