Insights + interviews

In Conversation with Richard Gillam, Rémy Martin’s regional brand ambassador

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We speak with Mr Richard Gillam, Regional brand ambassador for Rémy Martin about his Cognac journey as well as some tips on how to appreciate a good cognac.

Remy Martin

The Active Age (TAA): How did you begin your cognac journey?

Richard Gillam (RG): It started many years ago through exposure as a bartender. You always want to be the guy selling the most expensive liquor in the bar and that was usually Louis XIII de Remy Martin. So in order to sell it you have to know and understand it. That set me off on my way and my knowledge expanded from there.

TAA: How does one get to become a specialist in cognac?

RG: It’s purely through passion and applying yourself. Remy Martin is unlike many large cognac houses as progression to such roles as Cellar Master is solely through ability and being the perfect person for the job. You’re not guaranteed the role just because you’re lucky enough to be from the family of the house, you’ve got to know your onions as the saying goes, or grapes in this case.

TAA: Is your role all about passion or just fun?

RG:It’s mostly passion! There’s plenty of fun, but like any role it’s not all roses. Travelling can be tiring and it’s not just drinking! We have to perform and present while keeping to the brands principles. Educating, public speaking and training all have heavy demands both mentally and physically, not to mention some long hours on occasion.

TAA: Given that your role is a dream job for many, what do you see yourself doing 5 – 10 years down the road?

RG: Hopefully more of the same. It’s an amazing career if you’re right for the role. I’m not just an ambassador, my role is to create ambassadors!

TAA: What are some of the highlights and specialties of cognac that people don’t realise at the beginning?

RG: Well, there’s a lot more people, processes and details involved than most people realise. However one of my favourite revelations to tell is that cognac was the original mixological spirit. Most people associate a nice cognac as a digestif, or in Asia especially, as a nightclub decadent treat. But way back in the early 1800’s, cognac was the base of most of the original cocktails, from Crustas, Punches, Juleps, Sazeracs and many more including of course the Business Brace, the competition winning cocktail from the late 1800’s now known as the Classic Champagne Cocktail (Cognac, brown sugar, bitters and Champagne).

TAA: What should a cognac noob look out for, when being introduced to the drink?

RG: Firstly, choose your cognac wisely! They’re not all made equal. Remy Martin is a Fine Champagne cognac. This means we only use eau-de-vie from the 2 premier terroirs from the 6 cognac producing areas, which are Grande and Petit Champagne, this ensures our cognac possesses characteristics which allow it to age more elegantly.

Secondly, pick the right time and place to get to know cognac. Somewhere you can appreciate the aromas and nuances it possesses.

Third, it’s not over when the glass is empty. As the alcohol dissipates the aromas become easier to appreciate, so savour the warmth that will continue to remain in the glass.

TAA: What’s your favourite way of enjoying a cognac and why?

RG: I really love Remy Martin XO with a huge cube of ice, a lemon twist and a splash of good soda as an aperitif.

TAA: Share with us your fondest memory of enjoying/appreciating a cognac drink.

RG: Well, my favourite memory is a little hedonistic. It was standing in one of the original cellars at the Remy Martin Chateau on a summer evening, just as the sun was setting with Patrick, one of our top ambassadors, and we were tasting Louis XIII straight from the barrel. Simply incredible, like sunlight on the palate! For a more approachable moment of serendipity try Remy Martin VSOP neat, straight from the freezer with some dark chocolate, that’s also close to perfection!



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