Early wild-flower notes, lime blossom, fresh fruity notes, such as pear. Indications of a magnificent future are already evident in this fierce young spirit.
The newborn spirit is fresh from the still, a single unblended eau-de-vie, as yet untouched by the process of ageing. The spirit is at this point altogether untamed, but its future promise is already there for the expert nose to discover. It has that special intensity that is the signature of an eau-de-vie with the potential for exceptionally long ageing. And already, the Cellar Master can detect the beginnings of delicate flavor notes that will grow more refined and elegant with each passing year.
Notes of fresh fruit, such as pear, are now evolving into ripe fruit, like apricot and peach. Vanilla notes are now turning into liquorice and brioche.
What were once single eaux-de-vie are now blends of 50, each blend representing two-to-three Vintages. An ordinary eau-de-vie at this age would be entering maturity, but this one is only just beginning to display its keynote flavors. The tannins in the oak cask are gradually taming the power and potential of the eau-de-vie – most vigorously at the start of the journey when the cask is new oak. But it will be many years before the taming of this eau-de-vie is complete.
Qualities of candied plum are now acquiring a jammy character. Long ageing brings forth rich notes of fruit – ripe fruits at first, evolving gradually into candied fruit, which in turn evolve into the unctuous flavors that we associate with rich fruit jam.
Each cask is now a blend of 300 eaux-de-vie and the duty has passed to a new Cellar Master. The eaux-de-vie have to this point aged in traditional Limousin oak casks, and the tannins in these casks have largely completed their work of taming the powerful spirit. Keynote flavors have grown in subtlety and strength, and texture has developed as well.
The increasing complexity of the blend now apparent in the emergence of rare flavors such as mushroom and walnut. Advancing age brings forth a chorus of rare notes. Dried flower petals (honeysuckle) and jammy fruit flavors are now joined by saffron, cigar-box wood, mushroom and forest nuts.
The voices of 600 eaux-de-vie now sing in blended harmony. Keynote flavors are evident, the spectrum of flavors is growing, all flavors are coming into balance and texture is evolving into velvet – but there is a mellowness yet to come. What lies ahead is a long and patient period of nursing in tierçons. There are no tannins to come from this ancient oak – just a fine exchange between the eau-de-vie and the air around the cask, regulated by the cask's unusually large size and the exceptional thinness of its oak walls.
Up to 1,200 eaux-de-vie are now joined in an act of true genius. Nectar of ever-lasting dried flowers, dried fruit, leather, nutmeg, sandalwood, honey and wood bark – and a length of flavor that surpasses all expectations. The complexity of the blend is displayed in exceptional length, as is the presence of rare flavors that are never apparent in a lesser eau-de-vie.
All elements are now perfectly united in a polished and mellow, nectar-rich opulence – intense, yet refined. There are more than 250 discrete flavors that an attentive taster might now identify, but never all on the same occasion. Each encounter with LOUIS XIII will be a fresh discovery.