Iconic house Maison Hennessy have launched a new campaign for Hennessy X.O, their exclusive extra old cognac. The campaign is set to take you on a journey through the ‘tastescape of Hennessy X.O and reveal the versatility of the cognac.
Maison Hennessy want to prove there is more to their X.O than a digestif and they invited The Taste to the Moët Hennessy UK headquarters in Grosvenor Gardens in London to experience the Hennessy X.O Odyssey.
We were welcomed to the Maison by brand ambassador Max Helm who gave a presentation on the history of the iconic cognac house. Founded in 1765 by Cork officer Richard Hennessy, the Maison still holds his ethos at the heart of everything they do: quality and creativity.
The new campaign is a fusion of both of these ideals. The Hennessy Comité de Dégustation is responsible for ensuring the quality and consistency of all their products. The comité was charged with analysing Hennessy X.O for the new campaign and they identified a process through seven tasting stages. It was here that the Hennessy X.O Odyssey began.
After the presentation, Max led us into a second room for the next part of our journey. With a glass of Hennessy X.O in hand, we entered a round, mirrored room with a reflective central pillar. The tasting was a sensory overload, in the dark room we followed Max around the pillar as we were presented with smells and flavours that demonstrated the different chapters of the X.O tasting Odyssey.
The first aspect on the nose was sweet and full of dried fruits. As we nosed the cognac we passed around bowls of pot pourri and candied fruits to accentuate the tasting note. Our first sip revealed a rising heat and we watched as a panel in the central pillar revealed a mound of smoking stones.
A spicy edge gave way to flowing flames, the heat of the cognac matched by a flaming candle. This heat gave way to a chocolate lull and our group happily nibbled away on chunks of high quality chocolate. Pairing the cognac with the chocolate provided another sensory aspect to the tasting and really highlighted this chapter.
We were handed bowls of the signature French Oak that Hennessy is aged in. We were encouraged to touch the oak shavings, to break them up and release the scent of the wood crunches. Finally all the scents and tastes gave way to an infinite finish, the panel in the pillar revealing the exclusive X.O carafe.
After the Maison had identified the unique tasting profile of their X.O they invited award winning director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) to bring his creative vision to the Odyssey. He created a film that interprets the stages of the X.O Odyssey and weaves them together in a stunning visual and auditory experience.
The film played as we moved around the room, experiencing the tasting Odyssey all over again. The striking imagery and music created an intense, dramatic atmosphere and a sensory overload.
It was a shock to the system leaving the mirrored room and entering a plush bar where we experienced new tasting rituals. The guys behind the new tasting experience are award winning barman and mixologist Ryan Chetiyawardana and his operations manager Robin Honhold. Throughout the tasting we were shown the surprising versatility of Hennessy X.O.
Our first serve was chilled X.O at -12C in a chilled tulip flute, also at -12C, that was coated in a Vanilla Salt. The temperature and the vanilla really brought out the sweet aspects of the cognac with notes of caramel and maple coming through.
The next glass was a flat bottomed tumbler with a layer of ice coating the bottom. The narrow opening at the mouth of the glass trapped all the aromas inside and the room temperature cognac was closed off. This serve takes time, as the ice melts you are taken on a whole tasting journey as the Hennessy becomes diluted.
Our final taste was scientific and technical. Ryan is interested in the science behind tasting so he and Robin created a large ice block made from mineral water that they created specifically to boost certain notes in the cognac. The X.O was served over this special ice in a Hennessy tumbler that allowed the cognac to breathe and the aromas to escape.
The tasting with Ryan and Robin was really interesting. Anyone who thinks Hennessy is just a digestif for cigar smoking men should definitely experience the different ways you can enjoy X.O.
The entire experience of the Hennessy X.O Odyssey opened our eyes, ears, nose and mouth to the possibilities that are to be found inside a carafe of X.O. The lasting impression we came away with is that X.O is not just something to be merely drank but a journey to be experienced.
As the Maison says: Don’t wait to experience greatness.
Alison has been writing since she could hold a pen, which came in handy for her degree in English, Media and Cultural Studies. She has been working in media since graduating and is the latest features writer for TheTaste.
Writing for TheTaste allows her to combine her passion for the written word with her love of food and drink. Find her on Twitter @AliDalyo