French artist Julien Colombier chalks Cognac
“The parallel between my art and Hennessy is the relationship to nature; it’s my basic theme and the Maison’s fundamental material,” Julien Colombier explains about the importance of nature and why he’ll bid on it.
Humans are masters at absorbing the world through all their senses. When the French artist Julien Colombier visited Cognac, he stared at his surroundings in amazement. He scraped his fingers through nitty-gritty grits and leafy leaves. He coughed on a mouthful of crumbling bark from an ancient Quercus robur, then went on to explore more.
“At Hennessy, I was really impressed by the notion of time. There are so many generations represented. Hennessy writes their history with eaux-de-vie. And then, there’s one instant where the Maison decides to blend them. And suddenly all these eaux-de-vie that have been slumbering for dozens of years, or hundreds, are awoken to make a new blend. That’s really crazy. And for me, it’s the same. I reflect, I let things macerate, and then suddenly I move into action; and we have the work that takes shape. Just like cognac takes shape and comes to life.”
After Colombier’s visit, he was eager to show Cognac through his eyes. The Paris-based artist has always been drawn to nature and remote terrains, much like bees to honey. It felt only natural to invite him, and his crayons, across the country and observe as he ventured into the convenient – but still wild – sceneries around Cognac and the Bagnolet.
“When visiting Maison Hennessy, I discovered all the work that’s necessary to make cognac. So, there’s this natural aspect with the vines that grow, and which is the fundamental product that the Maison uses, but there’s also all the maceration, all the artisanal things that surround it, like the barrels, which really left an impression on me, I adored them. And all of the colours of the cognac, of the blends, really spoke to me because that’s how I work, the notion of a blend to have the product balanced just as it should be and to have the result you want, even if that takes a lot of time – all this concentration to make sure that everything that comes out is the best.”
When he entered Bagnolet – the ivory-hued parlour for devotees of sophisticated spirits – a playlist of old, tinny jazz and bossa nova conjured a cloud of times past, and he immediately – like a moth to a flame – got drawn into the legacy that is the cognac brand Hennessy.
“Collaborating with a brand like Hennessy means becoming part of its heritage, so it’s really a pleasure to be chosen to illustrate a brand like that. I also had no idea about the process for cognac; it inspired me a lot and at the same time I was really part of the process in a certain way. It also allowed me to discover new visual horizons, to try new things, so if I draw vine leaves again, I’ll definitely be thinking of Hennessy. Now I feel I have a connection with cognac. I’ve illustrated it, I’ve learned how it’s made, I’ve had it come out in drawings.”
Seated down, the bespectacled Colombier sampled a fiery cognac, distilled traditionally through one of the swan neck Charentais copper stills and extracted from the finest eaux-de-vie. “Just like cognac, nature is a blend,” he muttered as he sipped from the snifter and took a mental picture of a nearby cognac bottle for later study.
“I found it incredible when I realised that they were blending so many eaux-de-vie, and that they’ve been doing this for more than 250 years. It’s an extremely precise work of composition that really resembles the way one makes a work of art – taking a little something from this and a little something from that and blending them to create the perfect combination. The idea of blending is in fact the same when it comes to making a good cognac as it is when it comes to making a good work of art.”
His visit progressed and came to an end; seasons changed and passed in crystalline glimpses – winter snow fell mutely over the grapevines, buds sprouted – and left stood the spectators to admire the only thing constant in nature: the eternal cycle of renewal.
Hennessy V.S x Julien Colombier
The collaboration between Hennessy and Julien Colombier reveals an artistic universe – inspired by a luxuriant plant world, and showcased through Limited Edition bottles.
Since its founding, in 1765, the Maison Hennessy has upheld a tradition of supporting avant-garde artists. Today, the Maison celebrates urban culture and contemporary creation through artistic partnerships for the Hennessy Very Special Limited Edition. Hennessy V.S has a unique style, passed down through generations, that makes it a reference in the art of blending. Demanding in its creation, yet immediately satisfying in its tasting, Hennessy Very Special marks its inimitable style across time. Its audacious personality is the result of carefully selecting only the most expressive and distinctive eaux-de-vie. After several years of maturation in French oak casks, the eaux-de-vie are then blended with the mastery and consistency unique to the Maison Hennessy. Enjoyed neat, on ice, or in cocktails, V.S is a cognac appreciated by tastemakers the world over.
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