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Hennessy first shipped to China in 1859 and was then one of the prestigious ambassador of French culture in the Orient. In 1865, his great-grandson Maurice Hennessy decided to create a cognac classification using varying numbers of stars to designate different quality, giving rise to Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, today known as V.S. (Very Special). Soon this classification was adopted by the entire industry. In 1870, Maurice created the X.O. (Extra Old) classification of cognac. Originally for family and friends, X.O. is today a worldwide reference for cognacs.
“We are not FMCG (fast moving consumer good) company obsessed with quarterly performance. We’re obsessed with the idea of transmission; I am part of the history of Hennessy and our duty is to ensure that tomorrow we’ll be stronger than today. That’s our obsession,” he says.
In recent years, Hennessy has indeed won over younger consumers using music and has made cultural inroads particularly into the rap and hip-hop genres. American rapper Mac Dre, a big fan of this liquor, mentioned the brand in some of his songs and some other big and rising artists have done the same.
Peillon, who became Hennessy CEO in 2007, visited the Philippines for the first time late last year, recognizing potential for greater business in this market given increasing consumer affluence in Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing economy. For Hennessy, its Philippine business is—at least for now—not as big as that in Malaysia or even Vietnam (where the company, however, had an edge as Vietnam was a former French colony), but it’s bigger than in Poland and looking very promising.
“We need to focus on Philippines, put proper resources to prepare for tomorrow,” he says, citing similar expansion in other markets like the Middle East, Caribbean, Russia or Central Europe. “Philippines is part of that agenda to ensure the future.”
In Hennessy, blend average age is 50 years, which meant that when this house buys supply of cognac eaux de vie, it will have to look at the business at least 50 years ahead in mind.