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Cognac’s also for the young

Don’t let age stop you (unless you’re below legal).

When you think about cognac, almost immediately, it conjures the image of people with cigars, sipping from snifters in some lavishly decorated lounge, waiting for their duck confits to get served. And sure, it may be a luxury drink now, though that wasn’t always the case. So we’re going to need a bit of a history lesson here.

Cognac can trace its roots back to the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Dutch came to Western France. These Dutch travelers decided to bring the region’s renowned wines with them on their journeys. However, the wines would deteriorate for long periods at sea, so the Dutch decided to distill them—essentially removing a large part of the water to create a more concentrated form of wine. This allowed the wines to be preserved, but also created a new kind of drink: brandy. This would later give rise to the beverage known as cognac. 

Cognac is a specific type of brandy that can only be produced in the Cognac region of France.
Photo: Hennessy

Cognac is a type of brandy that is made from white wine, which is double-distilled in copper stills and aged in oak barrels for at least two years. The spirit is heavily regulated and to earn the name cognac, the grapes must come from (and be processed in) the Cognac region in Western France. In this way, it’s much like the other proprietary French beverages: champagne and armagnac. Over the years it has developed a reputation for being a luxury drink, with King George IV of England and Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia being some of its famous patrons. 

But while there’s a lot of tradition behind it, cognac isn’t just for the more mature drinkers. In recent years, it’s been reaching out to a younger market, to the next generation of cognac enthusiasts. And in this regard, Hennessy—one of France’s most prominent cognac houses—is shaking things up a little.

The latest campaign for Hennessy VS, called the Vanguard Society, is meant to be a platform for artists to display their work, and it’s drawn the attention of some names that have been coming up in the creative world.

DJ and record label founder Bradley Zero Phillip (above), and streetwear designer Quang Minh (header) join Hennessy’s Vanguard Society, a new platform for creatives. Photo: Hennessy

The Vanguard Society plans to increasingly engage a younger audience: wherever they’re from, whatever they do, whichever way their passions take them. So far it’s already teamed up with UK-based Bradley Zero Phillip (DJ and founder of the multi-genre music label Rhythm Section International) and Vietnamese designer Quang Minh (founder of the street fashion label Headless).  But it’s only the start of 2021, and Hennessy says we can expect more to come out of the campaign.

Still, it seems like the cognac scene will see a few new faces as the year goes along. So whether you’re part of the cigar-smoking, snifter-in-hand set or the streetwear-sporting, record-slinging crowd, there’s going to be a twice-distilled, oak-aged drink with your name on it.