Grand Marnier’s Master Blender Patrick Raguenaud has a tremendous responsibility on his shoulders. Not only is he responsible for maintaining the quality of a brand that has been around since 1880, but he also has to find new ways to appeal to new generations of drinkers that aren’t familiar with the iconic brand. Fortunately, it seems he was born for this sort of thing.
Raguenaud was born in 1954 in Jarnac, a commune in the Charente department in southwestern France part of the Cognac region. Patrick’s life has always been interwoven with the territory – his family has been involved in the cognac industry in one form or another since 1627, so in essence his family was working with Cognac before Grand Marnier was even born.
We were fortunate to get a few minutes of his time to talk the history of the brand, his passion and how he thinks drinkers can best enjoy Grand Marnier.
Patrick, what drew you into the distilling industry?
I decided to join the Cognac industry because it is my family, my history for many generations and I love Cognac and the region. And I continue in this way, I am now in charge of the family farm, and the small distillery we have.
It’s as if I was born into the industry.
Why did you decide to join the Grand Marnier team?
I decided to join the Grand Marnier team in 2004. It was a great opportunity. Grand Marnier is a grand product. The challenge is not only to blend the cuvee, but also to blend the cognac and think of the oranges. After 14 years of work on Grand Marnier I have no regrets.
How much opportunity do you get to experiment with the brand, and what have been the results?
Every day my team and I get to experiment. In order to maintain the quality of the brand and to be consistent we are obliged to change our formulas. Every year the quality of the vintage is different, every farmer produces a different quality, So we have a large palette of different flavours. In the end the quality of the cognac we produce for making our Grand Marnier has to be the same. So, we experiment, we create continually.
I have also created new products: Quintessence and 1880. I think the results are very positive, and I think our customers have really loved these products.
What do you think is important for drawing in a new generation of drinkers to the Grand Marnier brand?
I think it’s important for us to to explain the history and educate new drinkers. New clients need to understand the product and how it is made. Once people understand how the product is made, and the passion behind it, I think we get a lifelong customer.
If you were introducing Grand Marnier to a new drinker, how would you approach it, through cocktails or straight tasting?
I think cocktails and long drinks are very interesting for our new drinkers. Long drinks are fresh and easy to drink and are very pleasant for a first interaction with Grand Marnier. We have a lot of different kinds of cocktails (Old Fashioned, Grand Collins etc.) with different flavours, aromas, and profiles to appeal to all types of drinkers.
What is your personal favourite cocktail recipe with Grand Marnier?
The grand Old Fashioned is my favourite cocktail with Grand Marnier. It’s a pleasant take on a traditional Old Fashioned and pairs very well with meat.
Grand Old Fashioned
- 1 oz Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge
- 1 oz Wild Turkey Bourbon
- 3 dashes angostura bitters
- Orange twist for garnish
Method: Combine Grand Marnier, Bourbon and bitters in a old fashioned glass and add an oversized ice cube. Stir well to combine. Twist the orange peel over the glass to express the citrus and rim the glass with the peel.