Enter the Château de Chanteloup, the spiritual home of Maison Martell – where the roots of oldest of the great cognac houses run deep.

At the heart of the Borderies terroir near Cognac, France, stands a historical chateau surrounded by forests and vineyards that welcomes hundreds of guests from across the globe every year for one main purpose: to (re)discover a love for cognac.

Enter the Château de Chanteloup, the spiritual home of Maison Martell – where the roots of oldest of the great cognac houses run deep.

It was inside the grand parlour of this picturesque manor that we were given an exclusive taste of the new Martell Chanteloup XXO last September – an outstanding cognac deserving of its own lengthy introduction. But it’s one that’s very much interwoven with the story of this Martell family estate.

The home of the Martell family

The origins of the estate can be traced back to the 16th century, when it was just a fortified farm. Theodore Martell, the grandson of founder Jean Martell, then acquired the land in 1838. He was responsible for expanding the domain and developing the original house into a residential chateau set amidst parkland.

Later in the 1930s, Maurice Firino-Martell renovated it into the Anglo-Normand building it is today out of love for his wife Elisabeth, who felt homesick for her motherland of Normandy.

Many generations of the Martell family have graced its halls and slept in its rooms since, as our group of curious journalists and cognac aficionados learnt during our tour of the place.

Today, the Martell group, who now owns the grounds, has opened its doors as an exclusive guesthouse to top customers and special guests – embodying the spirit of generosity that the Martell family and Maison Martell have always taken pride in.

A treat for the senses…

We couldn’t have asked for better weather during our inaugural visit to the castle. It was near the end of summer. The skies were a beautiful shade of blue, punctuated with clouds that let the perfect trace of sunrays through to warm us up in the cool evening breeze.

There was plenty to bask in outdoors – from the stunning exteriors of the manor juxtaposed against the manicured lawns to the breath-taking vistas of the Borderies region from its entrance. But equally magnificent were the interiors that made us thank the heavens twice for our senses.

Our eyes were first greeted by neo-medieval wallpapers, tapestry and rugs in majestic shades of crimson at the parlour. Portraits of the Martell family hung on the walls whilst other emblems and ornaments decorated the mantelpiece and shelves. The usual furniture was replaced with dinner tables on the day to host us for an exclusive cognac pairing dinner.

Martell Chanteloup XXO Masterpiece

In the next room was the bar, where guests can indulge their sense of taste with the range of Martell cognacs. Here, we also had the opportunity to experience a Martell Chanteloup XXO Masterpiece workshop, detailing how each element of the trunk is made to order by Ateliers Normand and personalised by the client after a private consultation with Cellar Master Christophe Valtaud.

Stepping in further into the main lobby, we found more family portraits adorning the walls, telling of the long Martell ancestry. Taxidermy must have been a family tradition, at least in the past, as evidenced by the stuffed animals (touch only if you dare!) that lined the staircase leading us to the upper floor. Upstairs, we were rewarded with glimpses of the rooms where Maurice and his kin once slumbered in, now reserved for honoured guests.

The main lobby of the manor

A guest room on the upper floor of the manor

Archives on the Martell family include letters, invoices, bills, photos and more

The pathway leading from the manor to the private estate

(swipe left for more)

How do we know all this to be history? From five kilometres worth of archives on the Martell family, including log books, invoices and letters dating as far back as Jean Martell’s early days in Cognac. Colour us impressed.

…culminated in the private cellar

One of our favourite parts of the entire estate, however, is the private cellar located a few minutes down the pathway from the manor. Also known as Chai Chanteloup, it is the birthplace of the exceptional Martell Chanteloup XXO. That’s why the cognac bottle bears the intricate volutes of the grill at the entrance of the cellar.

Upon entering the garden, we were instantly rewarded with a bouquet of spices and florals embodied in the XXO. The delightful trail lingered on and culminated inside the cellar itself, where rows and rows of oak barrels were laid to age in the tranquil darkness. This resulted in intense aromas all around from the evaporation during the aging process, known as the ‘angel’s share’.

A majestic display of more than 450 eaux-de-vie from the four most prestigious terroirs of the Cognac region – all of which are at least 14 years old – further highlighted the Martell art of blending, thus concluding our tour of the estate in true savoir-faire.

By the time we sat down for dinner after dusk to savour the star cognac of our trip, we had indulged more than our five senses; we had inspired our sense of imagination. But we’re pretty sure the resident deer we saw upclose on the lawns after finishing dessert wasn’t just in our head.

So this is the soul of Maison Martell.

For a 360-degree virtual tour of the Chateau de Chanteloup, click here.

Photos: Martell