* Hennessy Black going on sale nationwide
* 1st big US launch in 50 yrs; meant for use in cocktails
By Martinne Geller
NEW YORK, June 1 Cognac, a drink once
associated with the upper crust of the Old World, has been
embraced by a new generation of hip-hop loving Americans. Now
Hennessy is trying to expand its appeal even further.
The world's top-selling cognac brand, owned by French
conglomerate LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA (LVMH.PA), is
launching a new product called Hennessy Black, a lighter cognac
meant to be mixed in cocktails rather than sipped on its own.
Hennessy is launching the product nationwide after testing
it in select markets earlier this spring. It said this is its
first major product launch in the United States in 50 years.
The suggested retail price for Hennessy Black is $39.99 per
bottle, putting it at a premium to the Hennessy VS (very
special), which often sells for around $30, but still less
expensive than the higher-end VSOP (very special old pale) and
XO (extra old) versions.
Cognac is a type of brandy named for the Cognac region of
France where it is made. It has a long, rich history of being
associated with French notables such as Napoleon Bonaparte. Yet
since the early 1990s it has been favored by young, urban
drinkers, and has been celebrated in numerous hip-hop songs,
including "Pass the Courvoisier" by rapper Busta Rhymes.
Hennessy is the No. 1 cognac in the world, according to
Impact Databank, outselling Remy Cointreau SA's (RCOP.PA) Remy
Martin, Pernod Ricard's (PERP.PA) Martell and Fortune Brands
Inc's FO.N Courvoisier. It is the world's 17th-biggest
branded spirits brand.
In the latest quarter, revenue in LVMH's alcoholic beverage
business jumped 18 percent to 635 million euros, or 14 percent
of the group's total revenue of 4.47 billion euros. The company
also makes Moet & Chandon and Dom Perignon champagnes, 10 Cane
rum and Belvedere vodka.
(Reporting by Martinne Geller, editing by Dave Zimmerman)