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A Night with the ‘King of Cognacs’

Dusk Restaurant hosts an evening of unparalleled dining to celebrate the rich legacy of LOUIS XIII Cognac, where each sip and bite unfurls a narrative of timeless craftsmanship

By Malu Lambert

Night has fallen, cloaked in silvery rain. The street lamps cast long, golden reflections as we enter Dusk Restaurant in a hush. The halogen glow outside mimics the deep, golden amber of the LOUIS XIII Cognac displayed at the entrance. Encased in an elaborate crystal decanter, the cognac looks as if it is lit from within. Each decanter, topped with a fleur-de-lys stopper, is handcrafted by 11 artisans. The design is inspired by a 16th-century flask discovered on a battlefield in Jarnac, France.

Known as the ‘King of Cognacs,’ LOUIS XIII was first created in 1874 by Paul-Émile Rémy Martin. Time, they say, is their raw material. This is no mere lip service. LOUIS XIII is composed of a multitude of eaux-de-vie from grapes grown in Grande Champagne, with the selection of eaux-de-vie that has the ageing potential to be part of a future LOUIS XIII representing less than 0.5% of all cognac eaux-de-vie produced in one year. The blending process is precise and highly technical to ensure the signature flavour profile remains constant through the centuries.

Because of the high-selection process of the eaux-de-vie, it can take up to four generations of cellar masters to produce each decanter. The task requires thinking a century ahead by setting aside carefully selected eaux-de-vie for future cellar masters to use. The fifth consecutive cellarmaster is Baptiste Loiseau.

“We’ve closed the doors to the public, tonight is a showcase of Louis XIII,” says chef-patron Darren Badenhorst. “This is what we do at Dusk, we collaborate with like-minded brands and people.”

You could hardly think of a more fitting backdrop for the glamorous cognac. The interior is dark and moody, charcoal. Downlights on the tables cast personalised spotlights as if every table was a stage.

The evening begins with tulip glasses filled with Telmont Réserve Brut. Recently introduced to South Africa, Telmont was established in 1912. The House claims a line of conduct: the wine will be good if the Earth is flourishing. Thus, after earning its first AB (organic agriculture) certification in 2017 for part of its vineyards and following the acquisition of a majority stake by the Rémy Cointreau group, Telmont launched a program in 2021: “In the name of Mother Nature”. The aim is to produce a very high-quality champagne while reducing its environmental footprint as much as possible. The House’s wines are defined by an airy, structured style, between tension and freshness, and by subtle, balanced acidity, which ensures impressive length on the palate.

Dusk is a chef-driven restaurant, evident in its insouciant and creative dining. Award-winning chef Darren Badenhorst co-owns the restaurant with chef Callan Austin, a category winner at the international S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition.

The multi-course feast is mind-bending, much like the way LOUIS XIII commands and shapes the light around it. The dishes build up to the dinner’s showpiece, creating a culinary crescendo.

Miché Petersen, Private Client Sales Manager for LOUIS XIII South Africa, dons white gloves to demonstrate the perfect pour. She delicately siphons the centuries-old liquid with the LOUIS XIII Spear, a specially designed tool that emulates the traditional pipette used by the cellar-master to draw the eaux-de-vie from the centenarian tierçons.

“Do you see a daisy or a sunflower?” Petersen asks the room, as guests are given the crystal stemware created especially for the cognac. The golden liquid fills the channels of the glass blooming as a flower, mine a daisy.

Disguised as petit fours, duck liver parfait encased in dark chocolate is served alongside LOUIS XIII. Delicate scents of ginger blossom, jasmine, sandalwood, and spice float from the glass. Beneath these aromas lies a layer of preserved apricot and orange rind. We are advised to savour the cognac one drop at a time, starting with a single drop to “let it crack between your lips.” Liquid silk glides onto the palate, unfolding flavours of stone fruit, roses, plums, figs, walnuts — and time itself.

Drop by silky drop, the glass empties, yet the scent still paints the air – an aromatic missive, cast from the past into the present.

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