Interview with Pablo, manager of “COGNAC ONLY”, a Cognac store in Bordeaux. Cognac Only La Rochelle exists since 2006. Now the young man opened a new boutique in Bordeaux on August 1st 2010. The opening was on September 11th 2010.
Cognac Expert: So what about your new boutique?
Pablo Ferrand: Everything in place and already opened. We just decided to do the opening in September because during the summer the Bordelais people are on holidays.
CE: So the boutique exists since 2005 and it is your company?
PF: Yes, it’s a family business: My father opened the first shop in la Rochelle 5 years ago. It works pretty well. So we told ourselves we should open another one. It took us 4 years to prepare the opening of this new one in Bordeaux.
CE: We understand you yourself are a rather young manager – and Cognac in France is not always seen as a „young“ drink. How come that a young man like you gets involved in the Cognac business?
PF: I am actually born in Paris, I lived there my whole life – and now I left everything to come to Bordeaux, 3 months ago. Actually, before I worked for the wine retailer NICOLAS. And I come from a family that produces cognac since 1702 – the Ferrand family.
CE: Now… this can be confusing regarding the Ferrand issue.
PF: … exactly. Pierre Ferrand is my grand father – not to confuse with the Ferrand brand because he got stolen of his name as a brand 25 years ago. Today, my grand father still works, just under a different brand : Pierre de Segonzac. Segonzac because it’s named after the village where he comes from, in the heart of Grande Champagne.
So Ferrand is not Ferrand, one should not confuse this.
No more cognac in french supermarkets
CE: How many bottles do you offer in your boutique in La Rochelle?
PF: Around 400 different bottles and 70 brands. All the big producers, but of course also the smaller ones. Hennessy or Remy-Martin, and Frapin or Polignac etc. but also plenty of small producers like Guillon, Painturaud, Desse, Leonard or Roussille some of them hardly known. Once tasted and appreciated, most customers have problems with finding those bottles, as one do not find those smaller brands in super markets or similar shops. Anyway there is no more cognac in french supermarkets !
CE: How did you manage to develope relationships with all those small producers?
PF: Thanks to my grandfather, my father and I know most of the small producers personally. So I buy everythig directly from the producers. This is why our prices are very competitive.
CE: Do consumers look for smaller cognac brands?
PF: Some of our best customers come from far away, China, Russia and the US, and those demand sometimes very specific products from smaller producers they have heard about. Some smaller producers are known in some countries and often we are surprised that clients from Asia ask for smaller brands. That makes us proud.
CE: Regarding your stock and organization, how do you work?
PF: Well, we do have now two stores – and one cellar close to Segonzac. The bigger brands send their bottles directly to us, either La Rochelle or Bordeaux; the smaller brands can deliver their bottles to our bonded cellar, near Segonzac. That’s easier for them and means lower costs. We then transport those bottles once a week to our stores. We have up to 12 bottles of each product in our stores.
CE: Your clients, are they more or less french?
PF: During the summer, it’s mostly tourists from Europe and lots of people from Quebec who come to visit our boutique in La Rochelle. In Bordeaux it’s different : during summer the locals go to Arcachon and this year we were not known enough yet to attract the tourists who come to visit Bordeaux.
CE: Which role does the online sales play? Is it an important piece of business?
PF: Yes, that’s a way to offer an additionnal service to our customers who can order on our website the bottles they can’t find at home.
CE: So in which countries to you ship and export Cognac?
PF: Worldwide. But there are some problems with certain countries such as the US or Canada. Canada or Scandinavians countries because of state restrictions. US because of customs regulations and security procedures which cost time and money. In fact all these procedures are another way to protect a market. Everywhere else, we can ship up to 4 to 5 bottles :
Most of the time we ship via Colissimo, a efficient service from La Poste. Shipping in Europe is rather easy and unexpensive . To the US we use Chronopost which is more expensive but safe.
CE: We heard a lot about the rumour of a big Cognac flagship store in Paris, for the tourists, for representing the brand and category in the capital. Why didn’t you choose Paris?
PF: Good question. We would have loved to – but it wasn’t possible. Too expensive to open such a shop in the center of Paris. Even the BNIC did not dare it. They choose instead to launch a partnership with la Maison du whisky ! Cognac is seen as the best spirit in the world, but not by the French who are world champion for whisky drinking !
CE: Sometimes we have the impression that cocktails are the only way to educate the French to drink cognac . Perhaps the only way to access a new, younger target group. What do you do about it?
PF: Glad that you ask. At our opening, on the 11th of September, cocktail mixing was exactly part of our launch event. We a bigger cognac house, some smaller producers and a mixologist from the BNIC, who created certain mixdrinks like the Summit, some with Champagne etc. By the way: I used to work at Nicolas before, and they weren’t wrong.. they emphasize their cocktail activities.
Basically the entire Cognac industry tries to target the younger drinkers, the cocktail drinkers between 20 and 30 years old…
CE: …the American trend. What do you think about Rémy Martin’s new product V? It’s not a Cognac and made for cocktails…
PF: … Well. Basicaly, I’m open to new products. I did not have the chance yet to taste it but why not ? We sell Hpnotiq for example, one of the latest cognac success story products. The problem is that Rémy capitalizes on the cognac reputation to sell brandy. Cognac producers are very angry about that and I certainly understand them. But didn’t Grey Goose did the same when they claimed being the only vodka to be produced in Cognac ?
CE: The Cognatheque store in Cognac. What’s the difference between Cognac Only store and La Cognatheque?
Being the best in offering the widest range
PF: The main difference is that Cognac Only sells Cognac “only” and not in Cognac city.
CE: … and Pineau …
PF: …that is correct. But Pineau is made out of Cognac and grape juice. Our Cognac Only are known as the uncontested specialist downtown. We sell a spirit made by passionate people – this is the fundamental activity which enriched the Charentes and influenced an important part of its culture. Still the most important economy of the region, exported at 98 %, the cognac activity is now endangered like everywhere else by concentration of the economy. Offering a sales plattform for the smaller producers, to make their products visible, is a way to protect the region’s heritage.
CE: The Cognac Only philosophy in one sentence?
PF: Being the best in offering the widest range either for small and big Cognacs to create a maximum of choice.
CE: Thank you for the interview
Visit the new store in Bordeaux
COGNAC ONLY BOUTIQUE
18, rue JJ. Rousseau 33000 Bordeaux
Tel : 05 56 48 56 10 / GSM : 06 63 85 87 55