Food & Drinks

Hennessy XO after 150 years

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Summary

  • One hundred and fifty years ago, Maurice Hennessy created the Hennessy XO.
  • He would have just named it ‘Extra Old’ because it had extended its aging process, but what fun would that have been? The XO it was.
  • The journey of Hennessy XO has been long, his grandchild, Maurice Hennessy says.

One hundred and fifty years ago, Maurice Hennessy created the Hennessy XO. He would have just named it ‘Extra Old’ because it had extended its aging process, but what fun would that have been? The XO it was.

The journey of Hennessy XO has been long, his grandchild, Maurice Hennessy says.

HENNESSY

Mr Maurice Hennessy (right) and his nephew Mr Roch Hennessy toast during the 200th year Anniversary of Hennessy V.S.O.P held at a colorful event at Sankara Hotel on April 11, 2018. FILE PHOTO | NMG

“What’s amazing is that the XO, back in the 1940s was not noticeable in shops and bars. It blended in with other brands because it was sold in wine bottles. So my grandfather asked a designer—Gerald de Geoffrey — to create a bottle that would reflect what its true worth was,” he said over a Zoom call from Cognac, France.

The result was a decanter whose distinctive form combines gentle curves and silhouettes. On closer inspection, the bottle looks like a grape bunches that it springs from. It now had the perfect shape and a reputation of elegance.

“The XO is ideally striving for the greater quest for quality,” says Maurice.

Nigerians love Hennessy XO more than any other Africans. Ironically, the brand was first shipped to Africa in 1886 to South Africa but Nigeria has since surpassed other countries in sales. “I think because Nigerians love luxury, perhaps more than other African markets,” Maurice says.

“But we are equally popular in many other African countries, like here in Kenya which appreciates the finer things and a market that is ready to spend on it.”

The brand might represent luxury but it also embodies a particular person.

“A guy that’s very much with his feet on the soil,” says Maurice.

“A farmer, perhaps, a wine-grower who has his instincts and hopes for the soil but also with his head over to see the landscape that is beyond where he stands. To mean, a man who explores beyond his borders. This is a person who drinks with people, people who like us but also people who might not like us. We are interested in what you are, in who you are,” he adds.

Today, as the Hennessy family celebrates 150 years of the iconic brand, Maurice suggests that you drink it how you want it.

After all, drinking habits have changed over the years.

“Funny thing is that we are seeing old drinking habits coming back. In the 19 century, we saw a lot of cognac being drunk with water or on cocktails, mostly as a digestif. Now more people are back to cocktails as we saw during this Covid-19 season, after asking bartenders all over the world to show us how they consume Hennessy. No rules. The results showed a powerful passion for the drink and how different people around the world consume it,” he said.