Michael McCarthy Michael McCarthy | January 11, 2021 | Food & Drink
Maison Hennessy celebrates its history of producing distinctive cognac by tapping Frank Gehry to design a decanter like no other.
Gehry in his design studio
Renowned designer Frank Gehry has never shied from boldness. From the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, to the New World Center in Miami Beach, his work continues to surprise the world for its embrace of varied architectural forms. So, it shouldn’t be shocking to see Gehry create a decanter—sculpted like a mighty royal trophy—to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Hennessy X.O cognac. A limited run of 150 decanters, each imprinted with Gehry’s signature, have been crafted.
“Hennessy took me on a trip to Cognac [in France], where I met the people [behind the spirit], went to see the barrels, and studied the history of the maison,” says Gehry. “I was impressed by the deep culture and the individuals who have dedicated their lives to crafting Hennessy X.O, like a form of art.”
Art clearly resonated with the designer when it came to envisioning the decanter. While the vessel retains the underlying shape of the emblematic Hennessy X.O bottle, Gehry says he wanted to make a statement with a “striking surface texture of crumpled, shimmering gold and a translucent glass glorifier—a combination that evokes the waters of the Charente river flowing over rocks.” He employed bronze to craft the shell of the decanter, which was dipped in gold to create a finish that reflects light. “We crafted the glorifier out of translucent glass,” he says. “I had worked with glass chunks on a building in Chicago and have been wanting to use that technique in another project. The finishing touch is the fuel, crafted out of both glass and gold, joining the decanter and glorifier as one.”
The Frank Gehry-designed 150th anniversary decanter for Hennessy X.O cognac
As for the cognac itself, Hennessy’s Master Blender Renaud Fillioux de Gironde says it’s a spirit for every occasion. “Its structure is based on eaux de vie with good character potential, which we age in new barrels for a very long time; the blend’s strength lies in a solid foundation that we reinforce,” he says. “[The cognac] is solid without being too full-bodied. It can take ice or whatever you like—it has power in the noblest sense of the term.” Fans of X.O will notice the familiar wave of palate warmth with well-rounded flavor notes of chocolate, oak and vanilla.
Whether it’s a world-class building or a decanter for the time-honored brand, Gehry says his mission, as always, is to evoke passion. “It’s heartfelt. It’s an engagement with the people I’m working with and embracing their culture, which is different from mine. When I see [the new decanter] on the shelves, when I see a smile on people’s faces, and when the people of Cognac say ‘Bravo!’ then I’ll feel good.”
Photography by: Photos courtesy of Hennessy