A Day in the Life of Charles Braastad, Managing Director of Delamain Cognac
12 August 2021
Founded in 1762, Delamain was the very first Cognac House to release vintage Cognac. They are a family run establishment and one of the oldest Cognac producers in the world. We sat down with Charles Braastad, the 9th generation of the family to run the House and discussed his typical day.
My alarm goes off at…
I must admit I do check my emails pretty early in the morning… although I try not to answer before a decent hour. Before I start the day I spend 10 minutes taking deep calming breaths, in a kind of meditative way, before the rush with my young daughters and the rest of my life.
My commute is….
My “commute” is a commuter’s dream! I have 5 miles to drive every day, in all seasons, in… 10 minutes, no traffic lights, no speed cameras, barely another car. There are sometime one to two tractors during the harvest, but that “traffic” won’t change my average speed. The scenery is wonderful with all the vineyards and the typical hilly landscape of the Grande Champagne area, which is by far the finest “cru” followed by Petite Champagne, Borderies. There is a part of my journey to work that I call the “wild zone” because there is always something to watch: a buzzard standing on a vine pole, a black kite gliding in the sky or a couple of deer standing still in a frozen field. Often, I think about the real commuters, my friends in London, L.A. or Shanghai… and I wish that they could enjoy this too.
I’m responsible for ….
We are a small team, so we work together every day, it is really like a family. Being a direct descendant of the founder James Delamain, I am also one of the guardians of the spirit of Delamain, I have to make sure the work is done as well as before my time, that the quality is consistent and then there are so many things we can improve, like sharing our craftsmanship and know-how through new media, demystifying these extraordinary old cognacs which are really easy to enjoy and do not require expertise, just a nose, a palate and few minutes of your time.
My typical day…
What is normal since Covid, is that I am not travelling any more. I start my day by dropping by the cellar or the bottling workshop to say hello and to check the mood. Then I go into our newly renovated 18th century offices. You can imagine the French postcard: our street is next to the local church and the boulangerie, it is just how you might imagine a typical French town to be. At 11am, we usually meet with Dominique Touteau, the cellar master. We have our tasting session or should I say our nosing session. Dominique Touteau pours 2cl of cognac in tulip-shaped glasses then we nose, compare, discuss a little bit and because we have been doing this together for the last 25 years, we have our own way of communicating. It is a great privilege to share these moments, Dominique has 40 years of experience and great wisdom. The rest of the day will be spent communicating with different parts of the world, I usually follow the sun, talk to Asians in the morning, then Europeans and Americans in the afternoon as we export our time-honoured cognacs to about 60 countries.
My most memorable moment…
Meeting customers from around the world can be hugely rewarding, I also remember some fantastic foods, wines and cigars, this job also brings the opportunity to travel and discover the world. These have been some of my greatest moments, but also the 4 years I worked with my father before he retired in 2000 and the tasting session I had with him, were great times and very enriching for the young man and son that I was.
What I am most proud of….
I am grateful to be able to run a nearly 200-year-old business, one that is so deeply personal to me. There is a pride and a conviction that comes from the responsibility of continuing what others have begun, a reservoir of power from which you derive enormous strength, and these voices of history help to guide us as to the paths to take and not to take. Recently I was extremely proud of Delamain’s election to membership of the fabled non-profit institution, the Comité Colbert. The Comité Colbert is effectively the champion of France’s luxury goods sector and ambassador to the global luxury brands market, and membership is above all an affirmation of our “Excellence: Only and Always” approach to crafting the finest cognacs possible.
What would your Plan B have been?
I stopped dreaming about being a jet pilot or an astronaut very early on, as my eyesight wasn’t good enough, but I have a decent nose. I wanted to follow in the footsteps of my father and his ancestors who have all been cognac negociants since the 17th century… I could not escape my fate, it was both wonderfully challenging and intriguing.