Good contemporary design, says Marc Newson, can trigger multiple reactions. A considered combination of material, form, function, content and silhouette has the ability to transform a simple glass bottle into a multisensorial experience that provides visual and tactile gratification, heightens the effects of texture, light and shade, gives pleasure to the beholder and imbiber.
Newson’s latest collaboration with Hennessy finds the Australian-born designer revisiting his original concept for the cognac maison’s landmark 250th birthday back in 2015. For this new, Hennessy X.O by Marc Newson limited edition, he’s added ribbing and relief to the iconic decanter’s glass, furnishing the cloche-shaped vessel with a sensuous physicality and the clean, architectural qualities of an art deco building.
‘Glass feels like a very organic material,’ says Newson. ‘And it’s clear that the Hennessy decanter appeals to people on a sensorial level. I identified, pretty early on, the opportunity to play with the sense of touch and the sense of tactility.’ Once he had pared the bottle’s shape to its purest form, Newson chose to reprise its traditional decorative motifs – grapes and leaves – in a corrugated relief. These striations are perhaps the most daring design elements ever incorporated on the Hennessy X.O decanter. ‘Straight lines seemed to me a more modern interpretation of what already existed,’ explains Newson. ‘To me, the stripes really emphasise the strength of the decanter’s shape.’ The bitter-orange shade of the cognac provided further inspiration. ‘One of the things that you discover is how light reacts and interacts. Not just with the glass but also with the lovely tones of the contents,’ says Newson. ‘When the ribbed sections catch the light, they highlight both bottle and contents, making the whole feel warmer and more tactile. Taken together, all of these design elements are meant to convey the unique, immersive experience of Hennessy X.O. And as a designer, that’s what you really want to try and express.
‘It’s both an honour and a little daunting to approach an icon like Hennessy X.O,’ he adds. ‘Clearly, this blend has transcended time and continues to exist in a very contemporary way. It’s important to me to create things that will likewise stand the test of time. The Hennessy X.O decanter has a wonderful, fundamental shape. What I wanted to do was use design to magnify the blend – its colour and sensorial qualities – as much as possible.’ To reinforce the modern spirit of the new Hennessy X.O decanter, Newson and Hennessy also created a modern gift box. Dramatising the fusion between the blend and the glass, Newson designed a clear transparent box in injected plastic, requiring cutting-edge manufacturing. The packaging’s design perfectly conveys Hennessy X.O’s forward-looking spirit, while its apparent simplicity belies the technical challenge it presented. Its clear, ergonomic shape is moulded in a complex plastic more typically used for perfume bottles. The Hennessy X.O 2017 limited edition marks the first time it has been scaled up and transposed to the world of spirits.
The Hennessy Comité de Dégustation has parsed Hennessy X.O’s taste odyssey into seven distinct chapters that flow seamlessly into one another. While these perceptions tend to vary depending on each person’s individual palate, the chapters typically unfold as follows…
Sweet Notes: Flavours of candied fruit embrace the palate as the faint sweetness of oranges fuses with the subtle tartness of apricots. Rising Heat: Warm fruit flavours lead into a sensation of rising heat, slowly revealing the complex taste of patiently aged eau de vie.
Spicy Edge: A strong spicy note tantalises the palate with distinct peppery overtones.
Flowing Flame: A wave of warmth breaks into immense roundness. Robust and voluptuous.
Chocolate Lull: The familiar, well-rounded flavour of a rich, dark chocolate caresses the palate with silky, slightly sweet smoothness.
Wood Crunches: The striking sensation of oak notes interlaced with vanilla makes its presence felt and then subsides. Infinite Echo: Evanescent oak notes leave a long, omnipresent finish, echoing the subtleties of each flavour and the complexity of Hennessy X.O’s blending and ageing process.
The Hennessy X.O 2017 limited edition by Marc Newson is available in select retail and travel retail locations worldwide from July 2017.