Perhaps I should start by defining what a trading house generally means.
These companies in the main buy in distilled grape juice (Eau de Vie) and then age, blend and market the final product. Most of the cognac suppliers that we are aware of such as Remy, Martell, Hennessey and Corvoissier fall into this category, yes they do own vines but not so many in terms of their overall production. They will purchase the bulk of their spirit already distilled from a large number of small often owner/family operated distilleries and then use their expertise from that point forwards.
Today I had the pleasure of being shown around a small niche trading house based in the narrow back streets of Jarnac called Delamain. My guide for the tour was their export manager Olivier Jadeau who explained the Irish heritage of the company just like Hennessey.
Behind these un assuming walls lies hundreds of casks of premium cognac.
There is still an original still on the premises which has not been used for many decades but is kept for display, our tour started in one of the cellars pictured below where the master blender was nosing a glass.
It was pointed out that they only created Cognac XO, vintage& single cask bottlings, XO cognac will have been in the cask for at six years although often much longer, so no VSOP in their product line up. The XO is pictured above.
From this cellar we visited the premium cellars where the vintage or prospective vintage casks are held. Unlike the standard casks these are sealed with wax, should the seal be broken on purpose or not then the cask looses vintage status.
Another cellar beyond contained more vintage casks but un sealed, instead these were behind two locked gates for which two sets of keys are required, one set held by the house and the other by the French customs service, so un authorised access is impossible.
These are the casks in this cellar.
Finally once the cask or casks in the case of a blend are chosen then they are sent for bottling on site. The bottles are rinsed (in cognac) before being filled, labelled and packed for delivery around the world.
The labelling machine ready for use.
With thanks to Olivier Jadeau.