Review: Martingale Aims to Unite Cognac and Whisky Drinkers

A fresh take on France’s greatest export

April 10, 2024 5:54 pm
A bottle and glass of Martingale Cognac on a table
Can Martingale appeal to Cognac and whisky drinkers?

What we’re drinking: Martingale Cognac

Where it’s from: Martingale (loosely, it’s the French word for doubling down) was founded in 2023 by Guillaume and Amaury Thomas, fourth-generation Cognac makers, and Andrew Weir, a longtime drinks vet (and Burns Night enthusiast). There are also a few celebrity investors, including D-Nice and Donnie Wahlberg. The bottle marks the first Cognac commercially available from the Thomas family’s domain. 

Why we’re drinking this: “My background is mainly in Scotch,” says Martingale co-founder Weir, who says his whisky tastes veer more toward the sweeter, non-peaty Speyside bottles. “But I often think Cognac is overlooked. Most Cognac drinkers probably don’t think about the origin of the drink being a grape-based or wine-based product. To me, Cognac brings out a lot of what we like about whiskey, but takes it a slightly different and favorable direction.”

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And if you’re going to make Cognac, you could do worse than working with Maison Thomas, a grain (well, fruit) to glass operation that’s existed for over a century; they’re among the rare Cognac producers that have complete control of the entire booze-making process from the vineyards to the barrels to the final liquid.

“We’ve sold our Cognac to a lot of great brands,” explains Guillaume Thomas. “Maybe I was crazy or stupid enough to leave a fairly successful corporate career and launch our first family brand. But it’s recognizing a long-time family dream.”

Besides boasting a rather cool and modern design for its bottle, the idea behind Martingale was also to take a fresh approach to the liquid itself. “We decided to move away from Martell, Hennessey, Remy Martin — which are all fantastic — but that style of Cognac which is probably a bit richer and heavier. We wanted to let the eau-de-vie shine,” says Thomas. 

So the idea was to create something fresher and cleaner, with a nod toward a more popular spirit (at least in the U.S.). “It’s everything we love about whiskey, because of the structure, and it’s everything we love about wine, because of the aroma,” says Weir. 

Intriguing. Let’s take a sip.

Martingale bottle
Martingale’s ridged bottle design is a standout (and makes for an easy pour)

How it tastes: Coming in at 40% ABV and containing no additives (aka no boisé, a controversial but oft-used oak extract), Martingale is crafted from a blend of four crus. It has no age statement but could be roughly considered 5- to 7-years-old. Overall, very bright, floral and yet rounded, full of vanilla, red fruit, some oak spice and pear notes. Could work in anything from an Old Fashioned to a Sidecar, but it’s wonderful as a sipper. 

Fun fact: The rules around Cognac — many of which Thomas’s grandfather played a hand in crafting — are a bit odd. For example, you can technically age the brandy in any oak (even from other countries) or in barrels that formerly held any grape-based wine or spirit …but you can’t call it Cognac if you age it, in say, ex-bourbon barrels.

Where to buy: A 700ml bottle of Martingale is available at ReserveBar for $120.


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