Top Shelf Cognacs for Collectors
by robert haynes-peterson
Hennessy’s limited-edition Beauté du Siècle.
At what price beauty? If we’re talking Cognac, pretty high.
The fun starts when long-aged brandies and ultra-rare barrels are used to create unique blends of Cognac that are then presented in appropriately elaborate containers. And lately, producers have been pulling out all the stops. Last year saw record sales of Cognac (more than $2.5 billion). The star: Hennessy’s Beauté du Siècle, a blend of eaux-de-vie (clear fruit brandies whose blends create specific flavor profiles) ranging between 47 and 100 years in age. It comes packaged in a glass and aluminum box created by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel, accompanied by four gold-leaf-trimmed glasses. The mere 100 produced are being offered for an astounding $200,000 each.
High rollers at Cosmopolitan’s High Limit Lounge and Encore’s XS request bottle services of Louis XIII or Hardy Perfection, whose Essential Element series produced 300 ornate bottles (retailing for a modest $6,700), each including eaux-de-vie dating back to the 1870s. Meanwhile, lounges, restaurants, and high-stakes bars stock impressive selections for drinking either neat or in cocktails. “Cognac—and brandy in general—is a popular spirit right now,” says J.R. Starkus, lead barman at RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay. “A Hennessy VS or VSOP [aged at least two years and four, respectively] is beautiful in a cocktail. And for bottle service in the top clubs, Cognac is up there with Champagne.”
At Lily Bar & Lounge in Bellagio, you’ll find Hennessy Paradis, Louis XIII, and Grand Marnier Quintessence, an elegant interpretation of the Cognacbased orange liqueur, while RM Seafood counts Paradis, Louis XIII, and Martell Cordon Bleu and Creation among its top-shelf expressions. Rémy Martin’s highly coveted Black Pearl goes for $1,000 an ounce at Cosmopolitan. At Andre’s Cigar & Cognac Lounge at Monte Carlo, which claims to have the largest collection of Cognacs in Las Vegas, you’ll find Courvoisier L’Esprit at about $800 a pour.
Hennessy Ellipse (about $4,000) is a potent, floral blend of seven specially selected eaux-de-vie in a contemporary Baccarat crystal decanter. Its competition: Courvoisier L’Essence de Courvoisier (about $3,000), a combination of eaux-de-vie dating to the early 20th century, sourced from some of the best of the six Cognac-producing districts (or crus), including Grande Champagne and Borderies. The sexy, handmade Baccarat bottle has a cut-crystal stopper that reflects light like a diamond. A fitting topper for this richest of liquors.
photography courtesy of hennessy