Hennessy, the world’s best-selling cognac, is proud to unveil an immersive masterpiece for the 2021 V.S.O.P Privilège Limited Edition that boldly recasts its savior-faire in an unexpected new dimension.
In a groundbreaking collaboration, Hennessy welcomed acclaimed media artist and director Refik Anadol to its historic seat in Cognac, France to observe the Tasting Committee at work. It marked the first time in the Maison’s history that an artist was allowed to capture this time-honored ritual real-time via neuroscientific research methods – then use the collected data in collaboration with machine intelligence to create an unprecedented work of art.
In keeping with Hennessy tradition, the Los Angeles-based artist received carte blanche to create a contemporary masterpiece celebrating the iconic V.S.O.P Privilège blend. Upon touring the Hennessy estate and Founder’s Cellar, he became fascinated by the contrast between Hennessy’s tradition of transmitting savoir-faire, generation after generation, as compared to the new frontiers of artificial intelligence.
Enduring mastery and new modes of expression came together in an extraordinary convergence. In an experiment borrowed from another realm, the Hennessy Tasting Committee agreed to “open up their minds” to a completely unconventional experiment. Outfitted in high-tech equipment, Master Blender Renaud Fillioux de Gironde and his colleagues allowed Refik Anadol to track their emotions in real time, capturing their experience, sensations, and appreciations of eaux-de-vie.
“In our craft, we are constantly classifying, describing, and trying to find exactly the right words to convey our impressions and experiences,” said Renaud Fillioux de Gironde, Hennessy’s eighth generation Master Blender. “We were all very intrigued to see what elements technology might bring to light.”
During the traditional 11am meeting, a rare and specialized electroencephalogram (EEG) typically reserved for laboratory research was used to capture sensorial data as each participating Tasting Committee member evaluated a selection of eaux-de-vie destined for Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège. Freshly equipped with sensors, the committee followed a ritual that has remained unchanged for generations. Past and present merged in what Refik Anadol describes as “a near-future experience, in real time.”
“Emotion lives in the senses, on the skin, in the heart, and in the mind — and with this hyper- sensitive equipment, we are able to trace everything, down to the movement of the glass,” Refik Anadol explains. “You can see heritage and savoir-faire become visible and observe how the material actually becomes the wisdom.”
Back in his California studio, Refik Anadol and his team filtered the true data — two centuries’ worth of living memory — through sophisticated analytics, transforming the data set into pigments and light. What emerged, the artist says, was a completely harmonious dialogue, an “architecture of memory” that was remarkably consistent across subjects at a specific point in time.
“With help from machine intelligence, we embarked on a journey through gene memories and dreams. Neuro-scientifically, the Tasting Committee is the source of memory, dreaming about the future,” he says.
The result is a masterpiece three-dimensional data sculpture: Sense of Heritage, an immersive audio-visual installation, which inspired the 2021 V.S.O.P Privilège Limited Edition.
Using 3D data mapping, Refik Anadol interpreted and transcribed the Tasting Committee’s emotions into the color, shapes, reliefs and textures that appear on the Limited Edition carafe. What was once an invisible sensory experience has suddenly become tangible: the power of balance appears in a harmonious and poetic surface design. Data becomes art in a visual metaphor for a blend; like the cognac itself, Sense of Heritage is designed to be appreciated on an individual, sensorial level.
To augment this journey, Refik Anadol designed an “Infinity Room” for projecting images of the data he collected in Cognac, which will be showcased in select locations worldwide. The immersive art experience is also brought to life as a sharable digital platform accessed via a QR code on the 2021 V.S.O.P Privilège Limited Edition bottle.