Monday December 21, 2009
Beyond the cognac
By CHOW HOW BAN
Hennessy’s limited edition leather chest is inspired by an old tradition of Venice.
WHEN Hennessy chairman and chief executive officer Bernard Peillon and famed Italian shoe designer Olga Berluti joined forces, the end product is the Hennessy Mathusalem By Berluti private collection comprising Hennessy XO and a leather chest.
“We talked about travels, memories and stories,” said Peillon. “Olga wanted to create something special that tells the story of her growing up in Venice and her family building gondolas.”
Berluti based her design for the leather chest on a 400-year-old salt box she had inherited from her parents. It is a Venetian tradition to present newly-weds with a salt box, and salt from it would be tossed over the couple’s shoulders for luck.
The designer wants the owner of the chest with its crocodile-motif clasp to keep the item as a treasure box of sorts, for a collection of watches or jewellery, even love letters, to be passed down the generations.
The Hennessy XO cognac in the leather chest comes in a specially reproduced hand-blown glass decanter, which was designed by the Marquis de Geoffre in 1947 for the cognac.
“We wanted to create something that will remain beyond the sharing of the cognac. The chest and cognac become something very personal. Once you finish the bottle, you can keep the memory of it,” said Peillon said in an interview during the launch of Hennessy Mathusalem By Berluti at a resort on the outskirt of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, China.
“You can say it’s a piece of art. We like the poetry of it and the romanticism in Berluti’s personal story.”
Only 150 pieces of this rare masterpiece would be available to selected Hennessy clients and associates, he said, declining to reveal the price, but it is safe to set an estimate of several thousand ringgit.
At Hangzhou, Hennessy also unveiled the Paradis Horus cognac which the liquor maker described as “the fruit of a noble alliance between man, land and heaven”; its name was derived from the ancient Egyptian sun god.
Hennessy master blender Yann Fillioux used the rare eaux de vie (colourless fruit brandy) that had been preserved for decades in the cellar of founder Richard Hennessy to produce the Paradis Horus.
Fillioux gave the mixture of eaux de vie and cognac an extraordinary golden hue and distinctively sensual notes. Completing the rare cognac is a gold-coloured decanter with a cap covered with a layer of 18-carat gold.
For two such majestic cognac products, China was the most appropriate venue to launch the brandy, said Moet Hennessy Asia Pacific regional managing director Mark Bedingham.
“In China you can do things on big scale. There is also an interesting market for high-end products and you will probably have a broader range in China whereas in Malaysia it is more targeted towards the VSOP and the more classic XO,” he said.
Bedingham said Hennessy had created a name for itself in China and its business in this part of the world had grown tremendously over the past 10 years.
“There is real interest in high quality products here and the Chinese consumers have a good understanding of cognac and have consumed many types and brands of brandy.
“They also look for products that can set them apart from others. So, this kind of limited edition-type product does have a strong appeal in China,” he said.
Bedingham said the 150 units of Hennessy Mathusalem By Berluti and the Paradis Horus cognac would most likely be sold only in Asia and Russia, as Europe did not really have a market for such a product.
“What we are always trying to do at Hennessy is not settle for short-term goals. It’s not so much a question of the next two to three years. It’s a question of how you build a brand that continues to be successful.”
For a brand with a legacy of about 200 years, Peillon said that “you can only strive for perfection.
“But, in a sense, you need to go beyond that, to create an emotion. We ask our creators and wine blenders to express their vision through a more emotional way to exemplify the life and philosophy of Hennessy.”