Three Hundred Years of Martell
Founded in 1715, the house of Martell is the oldest of the great cognac houses.
To celebrate its tricentennial anniversary, The Gourmand was invited to explore the Château de Chanteloup–historic residence of founder Jean Martell–and the nearby Martell archive, where 300 years of design, branding and advertising history are carefully preserved.
Although quintessentially French, Martell was actually founded by an Englishman from Jersey, who had moved to France in search of the most exquisite eaux-de-vie, or ‘water of life’–the clear, colourless distillate used in brandy production.
For the next century, Jean’s family continued to refine the brandy, developing the business and the brand with exports soon reaching the US and Asia.
In 1848, Martell commission a Parisian designer to create the iconic blue and silver label, seen here on the oldest bottle in the Archive, which dates from 1877 [fig 1]. Thought to have been inspired by the original coat of arms of Champagne, the blue and silver branding would adorn Martell products for centuries to come, and can be seen still in use on gift boxes dating from the 1960s [fig. 2] [fig. 3].
In the booming 1920s, Martell begins using illustrated advertisements to market itself as a luxury brand, to be enjoyed by the most discerning imbibers. The original 19th Century engraved label can still be seen in use in the advert shown in fig 4.
The 1930s were characterised by a less decadent, more accessible approach - with Martell encouraging a leisurely enjoyment of cognac for the upwardly mobile professional, seen here raising a friendly post-match toast [fig 5].
In the postwar period, Martell focus on the human endeavour and technological development that had allowed its product to stand the test of time, as can be seen in the illustrations of Alain Cornic [fig 6] [fig 7]; while John Bainbridge’s illustration from 1956 positions Martell once again as a grand icon of French identity, with the French flag proudly at its core [fig 8].
By the 1960s Martell had firmly established itself as a gentleman’s favourite, and so sights were set on a new audience - the fashion conscious ‘modern woman’ of the 1960s - seen here enjoying Martell in various exotic holiday locations [fig 9].
Having been enjoyed by the likes of Napoleon and Winston Churchill, served at royal weddings and coronations, toasted on maiden voyages across the Atlantic and on supersonic Concorde flights, Martell remains to this day an enduring symbol of French Art de Vivre.