Son of Thomas and Martha Martell Héraud, Jean Martell was born in 1694 in the parish of St Brelade, on the Island of Jersey where the family of merchants had settled in the 11th century. After working in Guernsey, he founded his trading house of spirits in 1715 at Gatebourse in Cognac, France, where he joined forces with a merchant from Bordeaux, Jean Hot. Originally they bought casks of cognac and wine for export to the Channel Islands and Europe. The company went bankrupt and then was revived. From 1721 Martell was exporting more than 200,000 litres of cognac to England, with the Duke of Orléans his most prestigious client, soon followed by George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
In 1726, he married Jeanne Brunet, daughter of a Cognac merchant, then in 1737, married his second wife, Rachel Lallemand, who was from a family of traders in Charente. At this time, he bought land along the Charente river where he developed his company. Martell sold wines and spirits to the countries of northern Europe (England, the Netherlands, Germany) and to the colonies of North America. In 1869, his descendants, who took over and expanded the Martell business, established branches in the English factories of Hong Kong and Canton.
- Les Traces de la Nouvelle-France : au Québec et en Poitou-Charentes, by Marc St-Hilaire, Presses de l'Université Laval, 2008
- La Naissance d'une dynastie du cognac Richard Hennessy 1727 - 1800, by Monique Le Tac
- Le Choix de Cognac: l'établissement des négociants irlandais en eau-de-vie au XVIIIe siècle, by Louis Cullen