Zhang Enli: “Cognac left a profound impression on me"
For a certain type of person nature suggests a kind of extreme, untouchable wildness. For the artist Zhang Enli, nature is a prominent theme in everything, representing 'visages' of the world in a broader sense.
Cognac, which some people in France consider to be one of the most beautiful places in the country and others view as just another petit village, lies in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, about four hundred- and eighty-five-kilometres south-west of Paris.
“Cognac is a magnificent town,” Zhang Enli states after visiting Maison Hennessy, whose cognac estate lies there. “What moved me most about Hennessy is that it comes from nature, and its constant quest for perfection within a traditional, artisanal framework,” Enli recalls.
The trip went from Paris to Cognac. The drive curved by Orleans and Poitiers, then through a landscape so lushed that even a desert rose would blossom. Zhang Enli who’s inspired by the five elements — fire, wood, water, metal, and earth — was not left without any impressions.
“On the road to the town, when I saw the vineyards, I had a first impression of Hennessy, but I was even more surprised when I saw how the brand makes cognac artisanally,” the artist recalls. "Nature is extremely important to me, and by extension in my art: for years, gardens, water, and trees have been recurring themes."
A few kilometres shy of the main road, he found himself in the Founder’s Cellar, fumbling around in the damp surroundings, gently caressing barrels with age-old eaux-de-vie. “The sound of the barrels was as beautiful as drums; the mysterious atmosphere in the Founder’s Cellar, with all its age-old eaux-de-vie, they all left a deep impression on me,” disclosing that the main trait that he shares with Hennessy is that "all creation is rooted in tradition."
Among its visitors, Cognac has acquired an almost mythical status. It is a kind of Eden, more spectacular than the lavender fields in Provence if you ask some and, at the same time, more peaceful. It is a fairy-tale maze of side vineyards, and side vineyards with their own side vineyards, each one offering a different marvel, and a different source of life.
“The Charente River runs through Cognac, there’s a natural tranquillity there. In combining that peaceful beauty with the Year of the Tiger, I got the idea of a fairy-tale landscape, with sprays of water droplets that surge up and transform into a tiger prowling in the night,” the artist explains.
The Charente River is an almost tropical shade of green. It sparkles under the cerulean sky, even during cloudy days, if one can say that and not contradict the physics of nature. “The tastings we experienced by the Charente River in the evening left a profound impression on me – to me, a good brand is like a good work of art: whether you’re looking at art or tasting fine spirits, it’s about offering people a singular pleasure. Both draw the viewer out of everyday life to experience something extraordinary,” Enli recalls.
The river flows softly – it’s easy to understand why it would leave a profound impression on anybody that would lay eyes on it. The surface of the water gives an impression of idle. Enli declared the scene “peacefully beautiful,” making sure to highlight that what moved him the most about Hennessy “is that it comes from nature.”
A statement as certain as a curl of sunlight falling on that same nature that enables the making of the Hennessy cognac.
Hennessy V.S.O.P x Zhang Enli
The Hennessy V.S.O.P blend is the expression of eight generations of Master Blenders know-how. To perpetuate the legacy of the original Hennessy V.S.O.P, Hennessy Master Blenders have constantly sought to create a completely harmonious blend: it is the definitive expression of a perfectly balanced cognac. Based on a selection of firmly structured eaux-de-vie, aged largely in partially used barrels in order to take on subtle levels of oak tannins, this highly characterful cognac reveals balanced aromas of fresh vanilla, cinnamon and toasty notes, all coming together with a seamless perfection.
Hennessy X.O x Zhang Enli
In 1870, Maurice Hennessy, a 4th-generation member of the Hennessy family, asked the Master Blender Emile Fillioux, a descendant of the Hennessy Master Blender Jean Fillioux, to create a special cognac for his family and friends, using long-aged eaux-de-vie to perfect the blend. They called it “X.O” for “Extra Old”, the original, and a legend was born. Hennessy X.O attained international renown and contributed to the development of the category XO which is a gauge of uncompromising quality. Thanks to 150 years of meticulous know-how, Hennessy X.O remains as inspiring today as it was the day Hennessy first shared it with his inner circle. The powerful and balanced structure of Hennessy X.O carries the promise of an extremely long finish, with each drop an invitation to embark on a journey of the senses through seven tasting notes.
Hennessy Paradis x Zhang Enli
For the first time, special editions of Hennessy X.O and Hennessy V.S.O.P inspired by Zhang Enli’s “Poetry and Wine Welcome the Tiger” will be accompanied by a collector’s edition of Hennessy Paradis, also inspired by this artwork for Chinese New Year. Produced in collaboration with the French heritage house Bernardaud and hand-decorated in the porcelain maker’s atelier in Limoges, the one-liter Hennessy Paradis carafe exists in a limited, numbered edition of only 555 pieces. It is presented in a beautifully crafted wooden box that is intended to enjoy a second life as a decorative object in the home.
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