Inside the “Fort Knox of Caviar”: How Experts Make Sure Their $4000 Delicacies Are Worth Price
Petrossian exec takes RealClearLife on a taste-testing tour of the best caviar in the world.
As the holiday season begins, there are gifts that showcase good taste — and then there are gifts that boast exquisite taste of the more literal kind.
Petrossian may feature product with four-figure price tags, but the 98-year-old company has earned a reputation as the purveyor of the finest caviar in the world.
To taste for ourselves, RealClearLife was invited to make a secret pilgrimage to the headquarters that has been enthusiastically referred to as the “Fort Knox of Caviar.”
How secret? This writer cannot even reveal its exact location — thanks to the staggering value of the caviar housed onsite — suffice to say it’s located on a small road in Long Island City. There’s no signage or indication of what lies inside other than the odd delivery truck or two. Those trucks leave packed with 1,000 to 1,500 luxurious parcels a day bound for one of Petrossian’s brick and mortar outposts in Manhattan, or as part of a longer journey to West Hollywood, Paris, Brussels, and Dubai, or more directly to the web customers who, in the last month of the year, usually account for an estimated 60 to 70% of the company’s total year of business.
Overseeing the madness is Alexandre Petrossian, the de facto Vice President and great grandson of founders Melkoum and Mouchegh Petrossian, who are credited with introducing caviar to France in 1920.
The caviar scion often acts as a sort of sommelier, intent on demystifying the idea that the rare fish eggs are just salty. It can be nutty, yolky, milky, and even floral depending on where it hails from, ranging from the U.S. to China to Uruguay.
“The only word we never use is fishy,” Petrossian quipped as he doled our large spoonfuls of caviar. “Fishy is our F-word here.”
During our half hour tasting, these were displayed in beautiful bulk quantities, which are aged by rotating the large canisters to distribute the oil inside, much like a bottle of champagne. This is done with care, as the single kilo tin can be worth up to $12,000.
The selection on offer was the same one shoppers will find in The Caviar Coffret, a new collection of rare caviars released for the holiday season. Limited to just 100 pieces, the sleek black lacquered chest glides open to reveal six 50g tins of Petrossian Special Reserve Caviar – two each of Special Reserve Ossetra, Special Reserve Alverta and Special Reserve Kaluga Huso Hybrid.
“This is the ultimate gift for the caviar connoisseur,” Petrossian said. “And best of all, the packaging can be repurposed as a watch box.”
The price? A cool $4,000, available now online and at Petrossian’s Manhattan flagship store.
But with that price tag comes nearly a century of knowledge…and good taste.
“We were raised in the shop, and it wasn’t uncommon for us to work in the shop after school,” Alexandre recalled during a break in our caviar tasting, sporting his custom-embroidered lab coat required in the packaging room. “It was a beautiful place to do homework, but there was this amazing clientele at the boutique — politicians, stars, housewives — who sometimes would have time to waste on you and we would talk to them and learn, which was beautiful.
“There was also the training — always watching how they pack the caviar and slice the salmon, and the more you learn, you realize you don’t know anything. It’s really a deep pool of knowledge, especially with caviar.”
To buy the caviar for yourself: https://www.petrossian.com/limited-edition-special-reserve-caviar-coffret