In today’s fast-paced world, when time seems to move faster than usual and age-old traditions are continuously being swept aside by unrelenting tidal waves of technology and innovation, it is heartening to know that sturdy, relevant bridges still exist between the past and the present. After all, as appealing as the idea of artificial intelligence, data and tech is in the quest for a modern-day utopia, it would be a tragedy indeed when the future forgets to honour the past.
It was, therefore, a great pleasure recently to embark on a journey that melded the two worlds so beautifully. Hosted by Bernard Peillon, chairman and CEO of celebrated cognac maison Hennessy, a cherry-picked coterie of guests and international media travelled to Shanghai, China, to discover two exceptional creations released in celebration of what is termed the jewel in Hennessy’s crown collection of cognacs, the Hennessy Paradis Imperial — a new crystal decanter designed by the celebrated artist and designer Arik Levy and a bespoke Hennessy travel trunk produced in collaboration with Louis Vuitton.
Cognac has always been loved by the people of the Middle Kingdom where it is perceived as a luxury beverage and status symbol. It was reported that China imported no less than 26.2 million bottles of cognac last year — which were doubtlessly exchanged as gifts (particularly among the business elite), opened and enjoyed at important occasions and even occupied choice spots in living spaces, displayed much the way a prized vase would. Hence, the choice of China’s most dynamic city as the venue for the unveiling of Hennessy Paradis Imperial’s new decanter came as no surprise.
Shanghai’s skyline may change dramatically with each passing year but the city’s openness to the world and zeal in embracing innovation have never been in question. And it also has its roots embedded in a glorious past — a past that enjoys storied links with the maison for it was in this very city, 160 years ago, that the first shipment of Hennessy cognac arrived in China. “As a young man, I lived in New York City,” said Peillon. “As a European, a Frenchman, if you had to go to only one city then, it would be New York … because of the energy levels, the feeling that anything is possible. But now, Shanghai is this city — the city of the future. It is the most dynamic, cosmopolitan city in the world and yet, there is also this idea that it represents a bridge between the past and the future. China is also a very large market for Hennessy and this is to honour and signify to our friends here that if we have to do something, China is clearly at the top of our list. Also 160 years on, I thought this occasion would be a beautiful reason to come back to Shanghai.”
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