Life of the Party: The Cognac King Comes to Washington

by John Arundel

The Global Ambassador for Hennessy, Maurice-Richard Hennessy, dropped into the French Embassy and gave a cognac tasting on Tuesday.
By John Arundel

A toast with French Embassy Cultural Attache Roland Celette and Maurice-Richard Hennessy (right) at the French Embassy. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Traveling the world as Global Ambassador for Hennessy, the Irish cognac house bearing his family’s name, Maurice-Richard Hennessy dropped into the French Embassy as guest of the French Ambassador on Tuesday.

Moet & Hennessy’s Michael Pelissier introduced the eighth generation heir to the company founded by Irishman Richard Hennessy in 1765, which is now part of the Paris-based LVMH conglomerate.

“Monsieur Hennessy is the incarnation of our brand and our global ambassador,” said Pelissier, a regional vice president for Moet & Hennessy, based in Washington.

Edie Emery of CNN and Carla Babb of the Voice of America at the French Embassy for the Hennessy cognac tasting. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

A direct descendant of the family that came came to France from Ireland in 1765, Maurice Hennessy said that he spent his childhood years in France’s lush Cognac region, and now lives on a farm nearby. There he owns vineyards himself, distilling and selling his eaux-de-vie to the Hennessy firm.

Hennessy professed a deep passion for South France’s Charente countryside, with its famed vine-growing and superb gastronomy.

He joined the family firm in 1975, getting a strong lesson in the Hennessy professions — everything from distillation to bottling to commercial and marketing — from Hennessy’s world-renowned experts.

“I think that I have the cognac gene firmly implanted in my DNA,” he said.

After several years of traveling for Hennessy, in 1979 he settled in London and spent the next five years promoting the brand in England, Ireland, the United States and Canada.

The event showed that Maurice Hennessy is an expert on all facets of cognac production.

Guiding his guests through a one-of-a-kind cognac tasting, Maurice Hennessy took them through its various prestige labels, Hennessy Black, Hennessy VSOP and Paradis/Richard. Each mark was paired with a food or dessert complimenting the sophisticated vine-growing and fine gastronomy taste that gives the label its renown.

Saving best for last, Hennessy opened a $2,700 bottle comprised of cognacs as old as 200 years, sending his guests happily into the night.

COGNAC LOVERS: Roxanne Dillon, Mark Freeman, Kira Bates, Edie Emery, Carla Babb, Mark Ein, Mike Moylan, Emilio and Vilma Velez, Cid Szegedy, Jennifer Haber, Charles Balladur, Nora Sommerkamp, Tijan Kaibni, Jackie Geyfman, George Concannon, Emilio and Vilma Velez, Carollee Taylor, Mike Moylan, Michael Mongelluzzo.

Mike Moylan and Michael Mongelluzo enjoy taking part in the cognac tasting. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Mark Freeman, Kira Bates and Andre McClain. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Michael Pelissier and Roxanne Dillon. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Ann and Gary Baise. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

Neeraj Agrawal and Carlyle Thommen. Photo by Alfredo Flores.

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