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The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Monitoring -

t the Zaha Ha­did-de­signed Guangzhou Opera House — a squat or­ganic struc­ture of lat­ticed glass and dove-grey gran­ite — pre­mium co­gnac pro­ducer Hen­nessy has cho­sen to launch its 250th birth­day world tour. The show, which trav­els to Moscow, New York, Jo­han­nes­burg and Paris, is a con­stel­la­tion of con­tem­po­rary art works or­bit­ing a limited re­lease Hen­nessy col­lec­tor’s blend pro­duced from only 250 casks of the finest oak.

Hen­nessy is the world’s largest ex­porter of co­gnac, and nou­veau riche China is the world’s big­gest im­porter by value. So it made per­fect sense to kick off the 250th an­niver­sary world tour in China’s south­ern megac­ity of 14mil­lion; a thrust­ing boom­town where, as a Hen­nessy spokesman suc­cinctly ex­plains, “they buy a lot of co­gnac”.

Early in a me­dia pre­view of the art ex­hi­bi­tion un­veiled in Guangzhou — six in­stal­la­tions have been es­pe­cially cu­rated to re­flect the House of Hen­nessy’s her­itage — I’m drawn to a video in­stal­la­tion de­signed by the English-born artist Charles San­di­son. It’s a nar­ra­tion, us­ing digitised and archival sources, of Hen­nessy’s com­plex ge­neal­ogy: a braid­ing to­gether of one Ir­ish and one French fam­ily line. San­di­son starts his timeline, nat­u­rally enough, with a por­trait of founder Richard Hen­nessy. An Ir­ish­man who fought in France in the ser­vice of Louis XV, Richard Hen­nessy was re­warded with a royal land grant in Co­gnac. The com­mune that lends its name to the world’s finest brandy strad­dles the river Char­ente whose mouth, on the At­lantic, af­forded 18th-cen­tury pro­duc­ers easy ac­cess to the English mar­ket for dis­tilled spir­its. In the por­trait Hen­nessy wears his reg­i­men­tal kit, and be­side him in large type em­bossed on a raised plaque is the year — 1765 — in which he de­cided to en­ter the spirit trade.

It’s only af­ter read­ing the in­au­gu­ra­tion date of 1765 on San­di­son’s timeline that the depth of the Hen­nessy le­gacy re­ally reg­is­ters. “The Mai­son is older by 23 years than Australia,” I ex­plain to a Hen­nessy ex­ec­u­tive, who of­fers a Gal­lic pout and a re­flec­tive tilt of the head be­fore reach­ing for a note­book to take the point down. Her­itage is of supreme im­por­tance to a brand such as Hen­nessy, boasting a chain of fam­ily ties, even though the com­pany it­self is sub­sumed into the LVMH group, and this lit­tle riff on the 250th birth­day theme casts the Mai­son’s story in a fresh light.

The trav­el­ling Hen­nessy show is not only about the brand and the prod­uct — it’s also about the peo­ple and

Ae­sop chief ex­ec­u­tive Michael O’Keefe says botan­i­cal-based cos­met­ics have moved from the

hip­pie fringe to the main­stream

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