With a storied past, Hennessy carves another notch in its legacy with the Hennessy Paradis Imperial. Using the art of selection—a method perfected by the Fillioux family of Master Blenders, honed over eight generations—the Hennessy Paradis Imperial is a result of what Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, Hennessy’s eighth-generation Master Blender, attributed to his predecessors’ “passion and savoir-faire”.
With Maison Hennessy’s eaux-de-vie (water of life) libraries at Renaud’s disposal and intricate blending and patient waiting, it is under the Master Blender’s purview to ascertain when the eaux-de-vie has arrived at its ‘point of elegance’. The result is a cognac with the hue of a rising sun, with a light structure that has a persistent finish. For a container befitting the content, a crystal decanter designed by Arik Levy and a Hennessy Paradis Imperial Trunk, created by Louis Vuitton.
Olivier Paultes, Hennessy’s Director of Distilleries was in town for the unveiling of the Hennessy Paradis Imperial and we talked to him about his personal history as well as the Hennessy Paradis Imperial.
ESQUIRE: You were a master blender at 25, given what you’ve known, did you wish you’d have joined the cognac business earlier rather than flirted with the Paris stock exchange?
OLIVIER PAULTES: Not really, I was born in Cognac so I was still in contact with all friends and family and we always talked about Cognac and business. I came back quickly to my passion for Cognac—as you know when I was young my dream was to become a Master Blender and become a member of Hennessy tasting committee. So, my dreams became a reality.
ESQ: Do you remember your first taste of your cognac?
OLIVIER: Of course. In Cognac, when I was young, after family’s dinners, you can smell the empty glasses. It was amazing. You discover a lot of fantastic aromas, a world of subtleties with spicy aromas like cinnamon, pepper, a lot of floral scents, all dependent on the quality and the type.
One day, my grandfather asked me to taste a very old Cognac that was created and selected by himself. It was an unforgettable moment. At first, I couldn’t say a word and then I was filled with a lot of emotions due to the complexity of this extraordinary blend.
ESQ: What is Cognac doing to keep up with an ever-changing world?
OLIVIER: Cognac is a small area. We can plant more vines in the future but we can’t have a big production compare to other spirit [manufacturers] in the world. The most important thing for us is to take care of our precious old stock selected by our eight generations of Master Blenders from the Fillioux family. We work for the future, in a world of transmission.
ESQ: What was your involvement with the Hennessy Paradis Imperial?
OLIVIER: For me, the Paradis Imperial is the finest and most elegant cognac we can find today on the market. This Paradis Imperial has a wonderful harmony and delicate aromas of jasmine and orange blossom and a very long fruity aftertaste due to the selections of cognac in the blend.
But Yann Fillioux, who is the seventh generation of master blenders, created the Paradis Imperial in 2010 and I joined Hennessy in 2011 so, unfortunately, I did not work on this project.
ESQ: As someone who works with the complexities of the eaux-de-vie, how do you keep your palate/nose sharp?
OLIVIER: Every day, at 11 o’clock, we train with the tasting committee. Tasting is like meditation: you live only for this moment when you are in the room. A lot of concentration is needed. And passion and memory. We have no notion of time; you are in another world as an artist when he writes a partition of music or a painter when he doing a masterpiece.
Of course, we don’t wear perfume or aftershave and we taste every day in the same room with a neutral and quiet atmosphere, phone and computer are prohibited to stay concentrated…
ESQ: You’re in your 50s. What sort of lesson can you impart to your 24-year-old self?
OLIVIER: First, the pleasure to follow the evolution of eaux de vie (water of life) year after year to see their evolutions and when we stop the ageing to put them in demi-john when they are at their point of elegance. This young man of 24 year will learn humility and patience and he has to know that most of his work will be used to his successor.
Also, I like to travel. I have been in many countries during my career and it’s wonderful to see cognac in around 180 countries and to speak about the mystery of cognac in a different culture.
ESQ: What is one thing about cognac that people don’t often know about?
OLIVIER: People have to know that we have to make the consistency for all qualities: the same colour, nose, and taste. We do this with hundreds of [water of life]. We have a very old stock thanks to our predecessors for the selection they made for us to make all blend today and we work now for the future some cognacs just distilled now will age for 60 or 70 years or more than a hundred years. Like I’ve mentioned, it’s a world of transmission so you need patience.
Also, creating a blend is akin to making a masterpiece. Like a conductor in an orchestra wants the perfect harmony with the musicians; the master blender wants exactly the same. I’ve met some customers who were emotional when they taste a perfect blend like when you listen to beautiful music.