Hine cellarmaster Eric Forget

Cognac future rapped up

05 April, 2023

Key partnerships

In contrast cognac brands, particularly Hennessy, have embraced the connection with pop culture and are enjoying a bridge with younger and diverse demographics that other categories are left scratching their heads for.

Partnerships have been key to this. Hennessy recently announced a collaboration with Fendi artistic director Kim Jones featuring a pair of collectable cognac-coloured trainers. The release joins a diverse portfolio that includes bottlings with painter Yan Pei-Ming, fashion brand Berluti, jeweller Lorenz Baumer, artist Refik Anadol, dancers Les Twins, and the NBA.

“For Maison Courvoisier, our focus is on inclusivity and premium expressions,” says Potter.

“Our aim is to make Courvoisier accessible to all consumers. We think we can open consumers’ minds by showcasing cognac in new occasions. Consumers, and the industry, can sometimes have a myopic view about how and when to drink cognac.”

It’s an interesting dual-citizenship that cognac holds. It’s a drink for the club, never mind if that’s a nightclub or private member, but that mobility is a luxury afforded only to the handful of mainstream brands that have managed to find a mainstream audience.

“Consumer-centric communication is also key,” says Eric Forget, cellarmaster at Hine. “Demystifying and taking cognac a bit off its pedestal by making it more accessible and easier to understand, as a product of terroir from the vineyards, certainly also helps to make ‘new’ consumers consider cognac.

“Most cognac houses have understood this and we all work together in a collegial way in making the communication around cognac more accessible for consumers.”

Given its pedigree, D’Ussé seems destined for crossover appeal, but elsewhere messaging is a more difficult line to tread.

“Prominent brands have been successful with specific demographics of consumers, while I also believe there is a new generation of spirit enthusiasts to discover cognac is relevant around the world,” says Spiribam’s Jones. “Hardy has generations of loyal Eastern European clients as well as being relevant to the Asian community. All the pieces exist for the brand to continue to flourish as we expand the distribution.”

Cognac is facing challenges, but that’s true of all spirits categories. What we do have is a category divided in two and with a sea of possibilities ahead. For the big four, this is a year to build on the success of late and take full advantage of the reopening of markets that hold limitless potential. If everything goes to plan, it could be a real statement year for the category. For the brands outside of the major players, it’s going to be interesting to see who can use the category’s momentum to reach new heights. Deals are being struck and strategies hatched, and in D’Ussé there is a high-profile disruptor poised to give cognac a good shake. It’ll be worth paying close attention to where everyone ends up.

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