May 16th, 2011 by Boisdale
Once relegated to the hushed drawing rooms of gentle folk who dutifully sipped their imported cognac from heated snifters over polite conversation, Hennessy’s has escaped the confines of respectability and become embedded in some of the most unlikely corners of the counter-culture . When the entire cognac industry was facing financial catastrophe in the late 1990’s, it was the Hennessy family — originally from Ireland — who realized that without a new approach to producing and marketing fine French spirits, the industry was in danger of becoming a relic.
Referred to as “Henny” in the 2001 Busta Rhymes/P. Diddy duet inappropriately titled “Pass the Courvoisier,” the spokesman for the pair was quick to announce that Busta actually preferred Hennessy, but for the sake of poetic context had decided to use the more rhythmically appropriate brand name of the competition.”He’s actually a Hennessy man,” the press release stated, and the immediate boost in the sales of all cognacs among the African-American community certainly left no room for complaint from any of the cognac producers. In fact, it is estimated that currently 60-80% of the US sales of Hennessy’s stem from this direct association to rap music, where it has now made numerous appearances by other hip hop artists who understand the appeal like Tupac, Kayne West and Snoop Dog.
Exclusive blends like the Hennessy Fine de Cognac are packaged in gift boxes with crystal-stoppered decanters and offered for reasonable prices, bringing the luxury of a fine sipping liquor into everyday celebrations. Unwilling to limit themselves to the mundane, the Hennessy family has successfully launched an exclusive limited edition vintage — the Beauté du Siècle — with only 100 bottles (made of Baccarat crystal, no less) released, housed in a mirrored chest to create the perfect illusion of elegance for the ultimate cognac experience.
Another unexpected surge in cognac sales came from the Russian and Chinese markets. Moving from relative obscurity to high demand in the an astonishingly short time, consumption of all cognacs in these countries has shot up 20-30% since the turn of the century — their enthusiasm even eclipsing the European thirst for fine spirits. With US imports claiming 2 out of every 3 bottles produced, the cognac houses have found themselves flush in no time and struggling to keep up with demand.