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The bizarre tale of the world’s oldest cognac

The only remaining bottle of the world’s oldest cognac will sell at auction next week, and will almost certainly set a new price record for a bottle of the famous French brandy. Like many of the world’s most expensive cognacs, the bottle of Gautier Cognac was made prior to the phylloxera plague that wiped out Europe’s grapevines in the late 19th century.

Indeed, this cognac has been authenticated as being a 1762 vintage Gautier Cognac, which means it was distilled 258 years ago during the reign of King Louis XV of France, nearly three decades before the French Revolution of 1789.

Three bottles (two small and one large) of the rare Gautier Cognac 1762 were discovered, having been held in the same family for generations with their original labels attached.

The bottles can been traced back to the 1880s at Lachaise, a town in the Cognac region of France, and were owned by the Donsir family. The glass bottle containers date from around 1840, at which time they were filled with a cognac distilled by Cognac House Gautier in 1762.

The story of the Donsir family ownership began when the family adopted a son by the name of Alphonse. Alphonse went to the vineyards of Cognac in 1870 to find work, not long before the phylloxera outbreak. Phylloxera destroyed between 75 percent and 90 percent of the vineyards of France, and a decade later Alphonse returned home with a cart laden with bottles – as vineyards had been financially ruined, they would often pay wages with the only form of currency available to them, which was the bottles of cognac they produced. Amongst these bottles representing Alphonse’s “savings” were three bottles of highly-regarded Gautier 1762. When WW1 commenced in 1914, Alphonse was conscripted to the French army, perishing that same year.

Alphonse’s legacy was preserved in the form of his bottles of Gautier 1762, having been stored in the family cellars for a century, and will culminate on May 28 with the oldest vintage cognac ever to be sold at auction.

The Maison Gautier museum is located where the company has been crafting cognac for 265 years.
The Maison Gautier museum is located where the company has been crafting cognac for 265 years.

One of the smaller bottles is now housed in the Gautier Museum. The 265-year-old cognac maker is still in business, with the company having been passed down through 10 generations of the family, proudly displaying its near priceless royal warrant signed by King Louis XV himself in 1755.

This small bottle of 1762 Gautier Cognac was auctioned by Bonhams in New York on April 30, 2014, selling to an online bidder for a final price of $59,500.
This small bottle of 1762 Gautier Cognac was auctioned by Bonhams in New York on April 30, 2014, selling to an online bidder for a final price of $59,500.

Bonhams / Wealth Solutions / NewAtlas.com

The second smaller bottle of 1762 Gautier Cognac was auctioned by Bonhams in New York on April 30, 2014, selling to an online bidder for a final price of $59,500.

The new owners of the bottle wasted no time in having it validated by Guinness World Records as the oldest bottle of cognac ever to sell at auction
The new owners of the bottle wasted no time in having it validated by Guinness World Records as the oldest bottle of cognac ever to sell at auction

Wealth Solutions

The winning bidder turned out to be Wealth Solutions, a Polish company that specializes in rare spirits and collectables. Once Wealth Solutions had secured the bottle it submitted the evidence to Guinness World Records and had the “world’s oldest cognac sold at auction” claim validated.

From there, Wealth Solutions did something quite unconventional that has the potential to change the marketplace for whisky, rum, cognac and other spirit collectors.

They opened the bottle!

The Gautier 1762 was opened, decanted and sealed in smaller bottles. It was still quite drinkable apparently.
The Gautier 1762 was opened, decanted and sealed in smaller bottles. It was still quite drinkable apparently.

Wealth Solutions / NewAtlas.com

Then the bottle was decanted in a ceremonial gathering and the apparently still drinkable contents were then resealed in much smaller bottles that had been allocated to partners.

Wealth Solutions' opening, decanting and resealing ceremony.
Wealth Solutions’ opening, decanting and resealing ceremony.

Wealth Solutions

From there, the first partner in Wealth Solutions plan for the bottle was unveiled: Armin Strom, a Swiss Watch Manufacture.

Armin Strom then produced in a limited edition mechanical timepiece with each wa;tch featuring a small drop of the cognac in a capsule. Just 40 pieces of the watch were made, with a mixture of stainless steel, 18k rose gold and titanium cases.

Each of Armin Strom's 40 Cognac watches contains a small capsule of the world's oldest cognac. The watches were made in a variety of stainless steel, 18k rose gold and titanium with the least expensive stainless steel version selling for €25,000 ($27,300).
Each of Armin Strom’s 40 Cognac watches contains a small capsule of the world’s oldest cognac. The watches were made in a variety of stainless steel, 18k rose gold and titanium with the least expensive stainless steel version selling for €25,000 ($27,300).

Armin Strom / NewAtlas.com

The limited edition watches were then shown to Armin Strom’s best clients behind closed doors with a large percentage of the production run sold prior to the watch being announced at Baselworld 2016, the world’s best-known jewelry and watch fair. There are still stainless steel Cognac watches available at €25,000 ($27,300) apiece.

Wealth Solutions didn’t stop there though, leveraging the $60,000 bottle of the world’s oldest cognac into several more items of merchandise.

Montegrappa's limited edition Cognac Fountain Pen
Montegrappa’s limited edition Cognac Fountain Pen

Montegrappa

Wealth Solutions partnered with Italian manufacturer of writing instruments Montegrappa to create a limited edition Cognac Fountain Pen, this time containing drops of the world’s oldest cognac so they are visible in the end of the fountain pen cap. In total, 100 silver fountain pens were hand-crafted, and 10 gold versions. The gold edition retailed for €12,000 (US$13,000) and the silver edition retailed for €4,000 (US$4,375).

Lux Coin Company's Cognac Coin
Lux Coin Company’s Cognac Coin

Then Wealth Solutions also partnered with Lux Coin company and the Mint of Poland to create 300 gold coins each containing a drop of the world’s oldest cognac and 2 ounces of pure gold. Wealth Solutions has now produced three coins series in collaboration with Lux Coin: a Whisky Coin, Rum Coin, and the Cognac Coin. The coins are all le

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