Turning 250 is a big deal. As such, Hennessy invited journalists from around the world to France recently to help the brand kick off their anniversary celebration. Over the course of three days, I was schooled on the history of the Maison, met with the Hennessy family and others who contribute to the company’s success, and was introduced to two exciting, new developments: the Hennessy 250 Collector Blend cognac and art/culture exhibition, the Hennessy 250 Tour.
Before learning about the blend and the exhibition, we got to experience the incredible French cuisine, got a tour of Paris, and stayed at the luxurious Park Hyatt Vendome. When you share a flight with Afrika Bambaataa and pass Dave Chappelle in the hotel lobby, you know it's real.
After arriving in Cognac the next day, we drove to the Hennessy family's home, La Billarderie, then took helicopters to the Le Peu distillery to have lunch and learn about the cognac distillation process. Then we were shown the awesome ways that craftsmen and women make and repair barrels by hand, got to see the new bottle and taste the Collector Blend, learned more about the upcoming Hennessy 250 Tour, and got a rare look into Hennessy's archives.
Curated by Hervé Mikaeloff, the Hennessy 250 Tour is a global event that shares the legacy of the company through the perspective of contemporary artists. Beginning in March, the exhibition will travel to the five cities around the world that Hennessy describes as being "creative hotspots, steeping in history or shining with modernity"—Guangzhou in China, then Moscow, New York City, Johannesburg, and finally Paris.
The artists chosen by Mikaeloff to participate in the tour include Xavier Veilhan, Charles Sandison, Pierrick Sorin, Tony Oursler, Anton Corbin, and Constance Guisset, and there will also be venue-specific collaborations and live performances in and around the 360-degree panoramic stage structure and exhibition spaces, with Daniel Arsham and the Julliard School as confirmed collaborators for the New York City event.
We spoke with Mikaeloff and Xavier Veilhan about the exhibition and the many months of preparation. Each artist was individually flown to Cognac to tour Hennessy's facilities, explore the archives, and to learn about the culture and heritage of the company. They then returned to their respective homes to create with carte blanche (complete freedom) based on their interpretations and experience. "We tried to build a movie in a way, like a scenario," said Mikaeloff, "from the beginning of the Hennessy and Fillioux families to the future."
"It's a collaboration with a brand, so it's different from what I'm doing usually," said Veilhan of the rocket project that he created for the tour. "My criteria in that is to make something that is adapted to the special context, but also an object that could be self-standing and existing for itself." He explained that he wanted to link his installation to the "landscape and the nature" because "the roots are here...it can't exist without this place, but nobody gets the picture of it when they buy a bottle of Hennessy at an airport." Veilhan's rocket and the other artworks will be revealed for the first time in March at the premiere event at the Zaha Hadid Opera House in Guangzhou.
The Hennessy 250 Collector Blend:
"To mark milestone celebrations, Hennessy has always carefully created a special cognac to illustrate a sense of continuity," said Master Blender Yann Fillioux, whose family has worked with the Hennessy family for seven generations. Fillioux and the rest of the tasting committee worked for years to create the blend, meeting every morning at 11 a.m. in the "Grand Bureau" to taste as many as 60 eau de vies in a ritual nearly 100 years old. Once chosen and blended, they were aged in 250 handmade oak barrels, invented specifically for the anniversary with a capacity of 250 liters.
We can't begin to explain what the committee was looking for in their tastings, because it takes well over 10 years to be an expert in that field, but having seen the process and having been among the first to try it, we can say that the Hennessy 250 Collector's Blend is a carefully crafted masterpiece that only Hennessy, with its deep history and dedication to tradition, could create. The art exhibition will certainly expand on the legacy of the brand's exciting 250-year history.