Hennessy’s top dogs visit Soweto for V.S.O.P Privilege toast

Europe invade Soweto. Hennessy’s President & CEO, Bernard Peillon presented the Hennessy snapshot stories Book to Lapeng’s Maki Twala at the luncheon on Tuesday. Image JACOB MAWELA.

The spirit simply referred to after the region its distillery happens to be headquartered at viz, Cognac and founded by Irishman, Richard Hennessy way back in 1765 – brought out its top guns to the posh Soweto venue for a rendezvous touted as Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilege.

A privilege it indeed was for the select few invited to dine with Hennessy’s President & CEO, Bernard Peillon as well as International Director, Boris de Vroomen.

Others in attendance worth mentioning were Business Development Director Laurent Dominguez, Marketing Manager for Moet Hennessy in South Africa Michael Ellingworth, President Africa & Middle East Moet Hennessy Pascal Asin, Marketing & Commercial Director Moet Hennessy Africa & Middle East Patrick Madendjian and Managing Director for Really Great Brands Company in South Africa, Sean Teubes.

On a day when there wasn’t much happening, other than Wimbledon and the Tour de France on the telly, by way of excitement- owner- Maki Twala’s place was awash with metrosexuals in slim tailored suits mingling, tipple glasses in hand with finely groomed gentlemen from across Europe.

The attendees have been welcomed with generously filled glasses of Hennessy VSOP Privilege mixed with ginger and garnished with lemon wedges.  Not that long after having caught the winter sunlight on the lodge’s upper balcony, were the guests, who numbered a fair number from the members of fourth estate, summoned indoors to a long and appealingly bedecked table where at gastronomic matters were due to commence.

Everybody seated, the brand’s young Marketing & Commercial Director, Madendjian, formally welcomed the visiting executives and introduced Peillon to give a brief speech before everyone could tuck into the fare.

Peillon, for whom the occasion was part of his first trip to this country, drew on an chameleon analogy in driving the point that his entity always ensured on blending into different cultures no matter where its consumed all over the world. He also extolled the virtues of the 1870 created VSOP [Very Special Old Pale] whilst also emphasising the house’s striving for the respect of consumers.  Impressionable phrases such as that the brand’s DNA aimed to “look beyond the horizon” and “feel at ease in the world” were proudly thrown around the table decorated with fresh large proteas.

As were the exhortations that the spirit was “to be enjoyed with freedom” and that, “the way to consume it is up to you”.

Presented on flat wooden boards, the fare consisted of a meat selection of pork chops, lamb chops, chuck steak, the Lapeng homemade beef sausage – and in addition to sides of dumpling, pap, chakalaka, spinach and Greek salad. The dessert treat was malva pudding and all of the chewable were washed down with Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilege – with diners’ glasses constantly being refilled by a duo of glamorously dressed hostesses in the brand’s signature black.

The conversation flowed freely, as of course, did the cognac punctuated by exclamations and laughter amidst space with some of whose walls were adorned with images of icons, Tsietsi Mashinini and Brenda Fassie.

In 1971, Hennessy had merged with Moet et Chandon to form the latter day, Moet Hennessy brand which currently sells about 50 million bottles a year worldwide or more than 40% of the world’s cognac, which in turn translates to it being the world’s largest producer of the spirit.

African American customers make up over half of the brand’s sales with rappers such as Kanye West, Drake, 50 Cent, among others, having made references to the consumption of Hennessy in their songs.

The distillery’s commercial affair with the US even extends to a collector bottle in their portfolio, Hennessy VS “44”, named in honour of that country’s 44th president, Barack Obama.

And while recent innovations have led to the house introducing new products such as, “Hennessy Black”, as a way to broaden its appeal beyond its traditional base of older drinkers – the executives monitoring worldwide sales have a cause to be pleased with South African consumption levels, after that of the Americans and Chinese.

At the conclusion of the evidently bon a petit gathering, Peillon presented Twala with a hardcover book of snapshot stories about Hennessy, as photographers clicked away. The latter then expressed her satisfaction at having hosted a successful event.




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