In Praise of the Rich
Maurice Richard Hennessy – a representative of the eighth generation of the Hennessy family – has been coming to Russia for several years now. Unlike most foreigners he has not restricted his visit to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and has visited more cities than most Russians. The representative of Hennessy Cognac has even got used to the peculiarities of Russian business and developed a taste for vodka – he always keeps a small, well-chilled supply of Russia’s national drink at home…
Maurice, how did you feel about the cognac business as a child?
I can’t say that I was particularly attracted to it. It was not something that was prohibited, unavailable or mysterious for me: I grew up in this environment. It all seemed quite natural and ordinary to me: to have wine at home, and observe the distillation process. It was part of the daily life of our family… But surprisingly enough, my father, who was an engineer, was also not particularly interested in cognac…
In Russia Hennessy is very popular among women. Do you know why?
I would like to say that it is almost popular among men. (Laughs.) On the whole, this popularity began before Hennessy even appeared in Russia: we supported talented people, many of whom were women. Compared with men, women probably like more refined drinks, because they do not drink a lot, and prefer to enjoy the taste.
And what do you think about vodka?
I know that it is popular among Russians and that is a very worthy drink. What’s more, there are things I simply can’t imagine without vodka: caviar, for example… In this country, the temperature of vodka is not particularly important when you drink it. Vodka is drunk cold and warm. But why not? You understand more about your native drink than we do… But in France, for example, it is customary only to drink well-chilled vodka, because then you feel as if you are drinking milk. But you can drink a lot of this way! (Laughs.) From time to time I also enjoy a shot. But again, I should say that my attitude towards vodka is the same as my attitude to cognac – you should drink it in extreme moderation…
What do you think goes well with cognac?
Chocolate, without a doubt. Not white chocolate, real dark chocolate. Coffee. A glass of iced mineral water. This is a wonderful combination. It really refreshes you. Asian cuisine, for example, does not go very well with cognac, but Russian cuisine (thinks for a moment) goes very well. Why not? I’ve already tried it here in Russia.
What alcoholic drinks do you think have a great future?
All the drinks that are marketed well. The brands that have good marketing are developing and will continue to develop very successfully.
When you smoke a cigar, the aesthetic side plays an important role, and often this is the attraction of smoking. What do you think attracts connoisseurs of cognac?
Oh, there are a lot of aspects here. Connoisseurs of cigars, cognac and good wine are usually refined people who follow fashion, prefer good perfume, appreciate quality, like going to various social events and attending the Opera. Cigars, expensive cognac and wine – these are all elements of an aesthetic, of a refined life. Undoubtedly, this is attractive.
What do you associate with a high quality of life?
Peace and quiet, comfort and freedom.
Freedom from what?
That’s a good question. Yes, freedom, but from what… There are things that it is strange to measure with money, but which nevertheless only rich people can allow themselves. For example, peace and quiet, if we’re talking about life in a big city. If you’re rich, you can have double-glazed windows or buy an apartment in a good, quiet, green area. If you’re rich, it’s easier for to feel happy, you can allow yourself a high-quality life: drink expensive champagne, for example Dom Perignon, and eat caviar… Of course, what I’m saying is a little ridiculous, but there is a grain of truth in it. Wealth gives you the opportunity to be healthy, lead a rich, interesting life, have a comfortable home, and choose the people you socialize with. You must agree with me that this is better than being unhealthy, and forced to socialize with people who you can’t stand, and not being able to change the situation.
What do you think about the future of luxury brands?
I don’t know for certain, I can’t make any predictions. I think that they will become fewer in number, but they will not disappear, because people need a dream. The enormous work and talent of professionals allow luxury class brands to exist. A whole era vanished with Yves Saint Laurent, he was a great person, with diverse talents. Yes, Yves Saint Laurent has left us, but his brand is so strong that it can exist without him. Of course, there are people who try to fight against brands for certain reasons. But people need brands, especially brands that have a history and a guaranteed quality. In the sense, the United States are the leaders in this field.
But some people believe that high fashion will cease to exist soon…
It won’t happen in more than 100 years, at least. Life changed a long time ago. Prêt-a-porter lines appeared, which are also designed to fulfill the dreams of any person. A Dior boutique at the State Shopping Center in Moscow – how’s that for a dream?! Fashion shows, cars which can accelerate to 260 km/h, people who drive these beautiful, luxury cars… On the weekend I met a man who gave himself a Maserati for his birthday – he could afford to do such a crazy thing. And why not, if you’re rich and can afford it?! I’m delighted by royal gestures like this.
Event Date and Time:28.09.2008