10 Questions with Maison Prunier
We recently sat down with some of the team at Maison Prunier; Stéphane Burnez, the 11th generation of Maison Prunier, CEO and Master Blender, Alice Burnez, Director of Operations and Thibalt Mauxion, Commecial Director. They gave us an insight into themselves, what they do at Maison Prunier and how they craft their beautiful Cognacs.
1.) Welcome to ellustria.com! When did Maison Prunier first begin?
Stéphane Burnez: From 1620, the Prunier family were known already as wine growers and merchants.
Alice Burnez: But the first branded bottles started a little later as demonstrated by a Cognac Prunier label dated 1769.
2.) To date, how many generations of the original family have devoted their working life to Maison Prunier?
Alice: It’s been eleven generations; 7 of the Prunier branch until Alphonse Prunier had no heir and the nephew of Alphonse Prunier took over.
Stéphane: We know from our own family history, that in fact we are more than 11 generations. However, the official French papers only certify to 11 generations ago. So that is what we market. But in reality it goes back even further.
3.) Do you have a special brand ethos / motto that you adhere to?
Alice: At the time of my grand-father the motto was “Vieille Maison, Vieux Cognac” (old house, old cognac). Unfortunately the BNIC (Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac) forbade us the usage as we did not produce only XOs qualities… it was transformed into “La Vieille Maison” (the old house). In many countries people will use the motto the “Golden House.”
Thibault Mauxion: Being a craft producer of elaborate Cognacs as it was done in the past, in the respect of the tradition with the traceability from the vines to the bottle.
Stéphane: For me, it is the continuity of the family philosophy. Which influences the Cognacs of the past, the present and the future. We are always planning ahead, for we have casks ageing today, that will only be discovered decades in the future.
4.) How does the location of Maison Prunier attribute to the success of your final products?
Alice: The offices and the bottling lines are in the heart of Cognac, in buildings built 150 years ago by the Prunier family. It’s very important for the image to be in the historical building and in the city center, even if it can be a challenge sometimes (age of the building and the amount of maintenance, access to logistics, etc…).
Stéphane: The cellars are in Gimeux upon a branch of the River Charente. That is very important for the humidity in the cellars. I insist on the presence of water/humidity near all of our locations. It is one of the major factors to mature great Cognacs.
5.) Can you tell us a little about the ageing and blending process?
Stéphane: Not easy in a few words. We take the time and do not hesitate to delay bottling if I consider my Cognacs not ready. The most important for me is, the balance. The balance of terroir, distillation, nature and of course time. I am not really using new casks, I prefer the taste of the Cognac itself opposed to the over-expression of wood.
6.) What do you love most about the area of Cognac and why?
Alice: To be around so many local families participating in the process of making a Cognac. There is a real local know-how, passed down the generations and it’s something to be proud of.
Thibault: It is the region which creates the best Eaux De Vie in the world, discovered by the Romans 2000 years ago with an amazing location. Next to the ocean, prefect terroir and away from pollution of big cities but only 150 KM from Bordeaux and now with the new fast train line we are 2H from Paris. Cognac is the perfect place to welcome tourists.
Stéphane: The place, the quality of life and arguably the best job in the world.
7.) Ellustria stock the following Premium Classics: VS, VSOP, VSOP Grand Champagne and Carafe XO. Do you have a recommended serve for each of these?
Alice: The younger qualities of Prunier can be used for just about everything. They are great on their own, with complex florals. They are perfect in cocktails as they are light but full of flavour. They are also fantastic in food. I love using the VSOP in my grandmother’s secret chocolate ganache recipe.
Thibault: One of the best cocktails I have tried was as Dukes Hotel London, where Alessandro Palazzi uses Prunier VS for his Sazerac cocktail. For the XO and higher qualities, a cigar is just great.
Stéphane: Do not hesitate to break the laws of eating and drinking, at the end it’s all about you. We made our products with passion so that our consumers can enjoy them in whatever way they want.
8.) Do you have any particularly fond memories of your time at Maison Prunier that you can share with us?
Alice: Childhood memories in fact! As I used to sneak into the cellars as a little girl and explore. I also organised a treasure hunt there for one of my birthdays!
Thibault: It is only 3 years at Prunier for me but the ambiance of the team, the location, the history, it’s really special.
Stéphane: I started to work with old guys who worked before the second world war. I will never forget all of the insights that they gave me about our trade.
9.) What is your favourite Cognac expression and why?
Alice: For me the VS or 20 Year Old. The VS is such a well rounded product that is easy to use for anything you want. While the 20 Year Old is a real treat!
Thibault: VSOP Grande Champagne and the Claire Limited Edition. The Grande Champagne VSOP adds that something extra and different to the usual VSOPs you can find on the market. The Claire, well it’s a work of art. From the packaging to the liquid.
Stéphane: Honestly, it must be the XO Very Old Grande Champagne. It is the flagship product for us. It’s simply exquisite.
10.) When you are not busy working, how do you like to relax and recuperate?
Alice: Reading Sci-FI or detective stories to be transported into another world.
Thibault: Very easy; being in the vineyard driving tractors especially during harvest time. In winter it will be being in the distillery and tasting fresh Eaux De Vie.
Stéphane: Collecting stamps with good music from 1960/1970.