For most people, it is that alluring bottle at the top shelf of the bar, or the centre piece in an American Hip Hop Video. Being the diligent people that we are, we sat down with Alexandre Helaine, the Market Manager for the Eastern Africa Region at Moet Hennessy, to find out about Hennessy and much more.
What took Hennessy so long to come to the region?
Hennessy entered the Kenyan market long time ago through different distributors. As a brand we have been in existence for more than 100years, with a strong presence across the world.
Why are we hearing about you now?
Given the status of the brand, we believe we are now where we want to be and our presence is consistent. Our strategy was to develop a strong footprint in the market, to increase our brand visibility through our Africa marketing strategy, with a focus on Nairobi. Currently, we are growing our reach across the country and we are doing more activations to introduce Hennessy to consumers.
Other than Hennessy, what else do you have in the market?
As the leader of Champagne in the world, we are bringing a great range of Champagne to Kenya: Moët & Chandon, Dom Pérignon, Krug, Ruinart and Veuve Clicquot. We also have a fine range of spirits, like Belvedere Vodka and Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
Who is the Hennessy drinker?
Hennessy is a premium cognac, it is known for its uniqueness of taste and embodies a world of luxury. It is a product for people who want to experience exceptional quality. In fact, all our products are an experience. They are carefully crafted for the person who is looking to feel something special and extraordinary in what they drink. We are selling an experience; we are selling 250 years of tradition in making quality cognac.
Now that Hennessy is setup, how do you plan on letting people know where to experience it?
For the last few years we have been working with our distributors to identify strategic places in Nairobi to position our brand. We partner with the best outlets in town, and activate our Hennessy campaigns there. We have also invested heavily in collaborating with influencers and brand ambassadors to help us communicate our Hennessy philosophy to our target market.
At the same time, during our activations we do sampling of our products with consumers to give them an opportunity to taste and experience the different ways of enjoying Hennessy Cognac.
And what are these different ways?
Cognac can be enjoyed best either neat, on ice, or with mixers. The best mixers for Hennessy are apple juice, ginger ale and cranberry juice. This is because the flavours in these mixers and those of Hennessy marry very well.
Let us talk Hennessy and food, what goes well with Hennessy?
Hennessy goes very well with food that is rich with spices and flavours. As the Cognac flavours are quite intense, if it is paired with something too mild and “timid” it will overpower it and ruin the pairing. The Cognac has some vanilla notes and strong woody flavours which have to match with the dish. It goes well with meats and pepper sauce, chicken curry or fish. Essentially the flavours in the food and the flavours in the Hennessy should match to give you a dining experience that is unique.
What if I am making something at home, what local food would go well with Hennessy?
If you are making it in the house, first of all put the Hennessy on ice to set the mood. Then try a little bit of Hennessy V.S.O.P in your mouth to get a sense of what you are likely to pair it with. Whatever you cook, however, has to have a strong flavour otherwise the cognac will overpower it.
We are working with an African Restaurant to find out what African dishes go best with Hennessy and so far we have found that it pairs really well with local food because the food is spicy with lots of flavour.
What sets Hennessy apart from other cognacs in the market?
Cognac making is about the perfect selection of the highest quality grapes, the art of blending “ assemblage”, and maturation. Hennessy has a long and well known tradition of making quality cognac and every cask goes through rigorous tasting tests before they are ready for market. What is very unique to Hennessy, is our Hennessy Tasting Committee. Seven experts, including the 8th generation of Fillioux family, who have been working with the Hennessy family since the very beginning. Our committee works every day by tasting and carefully choosing the right selection of wines, which will be used for making our cognac, Hennessy.
A routine drinker can be able to taste about seven flavours in Hennessy, which rises to between 50 and 100 flavours with connoisseurs.
In parting, what would you like to tell anyone reading this about your brands?
Well let’s talk about Champagne, more specifically the most loved, Moët & Chandon. It is important to keep it chilled between 11 and 13 degrees Celsius, otherwise the flavour and the taste can be ruined. Refrigerate for two hours before you drink it, at about 6 or 7 degrees Celsius. Never put it in the freezer and enjoy your Moët & Chandon with moderation of course.
With Hennessy, if you are using mixers, cranberry juice, apple juice and ginger ale are your best bet.