True or false ? 150,000 euros for a bottle of cognac

BORDEAUX, France, Dec 19, 2007 (AFP) - Special edition high-end cognacs are common enough, but until now priced in a -- relatively speaking -- affordable bracket of anywhere from 3,000 to 33,000 euros (4,300 to 47,500 dollars) a bottle.


A glass and a bottle of Cognac
Photo : Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP

Now Hennessy has gone the extra mile -- while other companies are turning cognac into scent.

Hennesy's ultimate offer for the cognac lover who probably already has it all is a limited birthday edition in a special chest that comes at a record 150,000 euros (216,000 US dollars) a bottle.

"It is really a work of art in which there is a bottle of cognac," said Thibault Le Mailloux, communications director for the producers of the pricey bottle of Beaute du Siecle, which celebrates a company scion's 100th birthday.

A few years back, Remy Martin produced a magnum -- about 1.5 litres -- of Louis XIII cognac, which came with a 4.75-carat diamond attached, for 33,000 euros. They also produced 786 bottles of Louis XIII Black Pearl -- in a .75 litre size -- for 7,000 euros.

For the millennium, Courvoisier came up with a limited edition of 2,000 bottles of Esprit de Courvoisier, costing about 4,500 euros.

More recently, in 2004, the same company made 2,500 bottles of Succession JS, a blend of 50 to 100 year-old reserves, to celebrate the 1804 crowning of Napoleon. That came in at 3,000 euros.

Prior to the Beaute du Siecle, Hennessy produced Ellipse at 3,500 euros a bottle, while the lesser known, but more exclusive, house of Frapin has created several different versions of the Rabelais cognac in limited series of 500 to 600 bottles. The most expensive comes in a gold bottle shaped like a pocket-watch for 4,200 euros.

"We had a Lithuanian wine seller here this year, though, who came to Cognac to buy a bottle of another one of the Rabelais series at auction -- the one that comes in a Baccarat crystal bottle," said Olivier Paultes, cellar master at Frapin.

"He paid 6,000 euros for it and told me he would resell it for 15,000 euros in Vilnius," Paultes added.

So prized is cognac's image that Frapin recently decided to use it as the base for four new scents, with woody, spice and citrus accents.

Destined for men and women, these will be available sometime the end of this year or beginning of next -- and are a snip at only 92 euros (132 dollars) per bottle.

The part which takes the Hennessy Beaute du Siecle, blended by cellar master Yann Fillioux from Hennessy reserves between 100 and 47 years old, to a whole new level, however, is the packaging, or rather the chest.

Made by 10 different artists using mirrored glass and melted aluminium, it opens with a bronze key -- which hopefully never gets lost -- to trigger, by concealed switch, the rise of a tray holding the cognac in a Baccarat crystal bottle, set in a Guerlain-designed lattice work holder.

"It was created in homage to a very special man, Killian Hennessy," who is 100 years old this year, said Le Mailloux.

"The sixth generation descendant of Hennessy's founder, Killian, oversaw the merger between Hennessy and Moet et Chandon in 1971, and the creation of the LVMH group in 1987, of which he was the first honorary president," Le Mailloux said.

One chest has already been presented to Hennessy as a birthday present, and another was donated to Elizabeth Taylor's AIDS charity and auctioned for 200,000 dollars. Several of the 100 bottle series have already been sold, to buyers in Asia, Europe and America, said Le Mailloux, who declined to disclose names.

If you cannot get hold of the real thing, settle for a ticket to Japan where one is currently on display as a contemporary art work at the Galerie Nichidou in Tokyo.

by Sophie Kevany

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