The Martell Trunk packs thrills for lovers of exquisite eau de vie and spectacular craftsmanship. Daniel Jeffreys reports.

The lilting overture that begins the second act of Mozart’s The Magic Flute is so perfect that it instantly elevates the spirit.

Everything is in harmony but there are lush surprises, especially the duet between flute and violin. It is often the perfect pairing of two surprising elements that creates the most memorable experiences. A painter with his imagination illuminated as the sun breaks through a cloud or a dancer as the orchestra gives her feet the space to sing.

A new entrant among the marriage of magic elements is the partnership between Martell, the French Cognac house that was founded in 1715 and Pinel & Pinel, a company of supremely accomplished trunk makers who opened their doors in 1998.  Although the two passionate participants in this relationship have an age difference of 273 years they are both rooted in the timeless codes and aspirations of French craftsmanship. The result of their affaire de fabrique is the Martell Trunk, manufactured by Pinel & Pinel and stocked with Martell’s complete oeuvre, together with 28 montres that  are known as Les Assemblages Exclusifs. They were created by Martell’s cellar master Benoît Fil, using four of the maison’s most exclusive blends.

The montres are one of the trunk’s most treasured components, a diamond among diamonds. The 28 are made frrom exclusive blends of eau de vie derived from grapes grown in Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois and Grande Champagne. To create each montres is a task that can only be undertaken by a master. Like an eagle that can detect the tiniest variations in light beneath a lake’s surface before it dives to take a fish, Fil is able to locate minute points of difference within each eau de vie, which he then deploys to make blends that  have a transcendent quality, one that makes connoisseurs question their senses when they realise how much the cellar master has packed into a humble amber liquid.

Packing – and a degree of craftsmanship that defies quantification – is also one of Pinel & Pinel’s defining qualities. The company was founded by Fred Pinel who left his job in advertising 18 years ago after he discovered a passion for trunk making. “I found a suitcase in my grandfather’s attic and remodelled it,” said Pinel. “The results weren’t so bad so I practiced and got better. After four years I founded my own company.” Pinel has made a Bang & Olufsen music trunk, a bike trunk and one with a  bonsai garden inside. Everything is made in the company’s atelier in Montmarte.

The creation of Pinel’s company bears a strong resemblance to the way a young Jean Martell arrived in Cognac from Jersey in 1714 and decided he could revolutionise a heritage product. The innovations that Martell still develops today created a perfect marriage with Pinel & Pinel, a company known for its contemporary sense of humour but absolute commitment to quality.

Pinel & Pinel assigned 10 skilled craftsmen to make the trunk and the artisans devoted over 1,000 painstaking hours to their task in the maison’s Paris workshop, using the highest grade full-grain leathers, copper, silver plate, oak, crystal and linen. The leather was dyed in Martell’s signature blue and the frame has over 200 individual joints that were cut by hand.

The trunk is a treasure trove of accessories, chosen to ensure that connoisseurs can enjoy the complex tastes and aromas of Martell cognac. For tasting there are Sèvres crystal tulip glasses, balloon snifters, cocktail glasses, and Schott tumblers. An ice machine is located in the lower section of the trunk, complete with a sleek silver-plated metal ice bucket designed by Ercuis.

For preparing cocktails there are steel accessories, a linen apron, tea towels, napkins by Alexandre Turpault and Coucke, and an oak chopping board that echoes the materials use to make Martell’s oak casks.

Fully aware that cognac and cigars are often found together, Pinel & Pinel ensured their masterpiece includes a cigar humidor and finely crafted smoking accessories including a cigar cutter, lighter, matches, an ashtray in crystal and rosewood, and five Roi Soleil candles from Trudon in a scent reminiscent of freshly waxed parquet at the Palace of Versailles. A small blue leather-bound Cellar Master’s notebook contains all the handwritten tasting notes of Benoît Fil, with blank pages for trunk owners to record their own experiences.

Marking the first collaboration between Lane Crawford and Martell, the trunk was displayed at Lane Crawford’s Pacific Place home store last year with tastings of Martell’s Chanteloup Perspective. The cognac was served in Baccarat white wine crystal glasses, a symbol of French Art de Vivre since 1764. The trunk is set to make periodic visits to the Shanghai and Beijing Peninsula this winter. For those who want to have their own version, Pinel & Pinel are on hand to take their order.

More stories like this are available in Quintessentially Asia.