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Statement – a definite or clear expression of something in speech or writing – Oxford English Dictionary
Statements, in their many fascinating, forms, are integral to our lives. As a long-time journalist and publisher, I have been dealing with others’ statements throughout my career. As a commentator, pundit and Blogger I have been prone to making more than a few of my own.
Outside of my profession and like all human beings on the great rollercoaster of life, I have issued or witnessed many a statement down the years, both literal and otherwise.
Statements of intent (ideal for when you go camping); statements of commitment (“I do”); statements of conviction (“I love you” or perhaps “Guilty, your Honour”); financial statements (“where did all the money go?”); statements of defiance (“Je ne regrette rien”); contradictory statements (“I can resist everything but temptation” – Mark Twain); tautological statements (much favoured by travel retail PR firms, e.g. “new innovation”, “totally unique”); and statements of the blindingly obvious (“Al Pacino is not the cousin of Cappuccino”; “Your chances of dying improve when you are born” and so on…).
And then, coming to the ultimate point of this Blog, there are of course “age statements”, part and parcel of my professional life since I started covering the wines & spirits industry shortly after I was weaned (around the time of the Boer War). Just as with human beings, not every spirits producer likes to make an age statement. In fact the concept of ‘non age statement’ is so common that it even carries its own acronym (‘NAS’… but you knew that didn’t you?).
Scotch whisky producers traditionally embraced age statements (12 year old, 17 year old, 21 year old and so on); Cognac makers (largely) did not, instead favouring categorisations such as VSOP and XO.
One Cognac house, though, to believe in both statements of both age and vintage is Prunier. And so it should. The family-owned company is one of the oldest Cognac houses, founded by Jean Prunier (1665-1732) and going strong to this very day. Prunier has specialised for centuries in venerable Cognacs, helped along the way by the house’s bountiful stocks of fine eaux-de-vie laid down by successive generations of the family and left to mature in the cool, damp cellars which (apart from sharing a drop or two with the ‘angels’) optimise a Cognac’s aging potential.
Prunier has, shall we say, dabbled in the duty free and travel retail channel before, mainly in the 1970s and early 80s. Now it is returning to the sector with a vengeance, thanks to the recent appointment of Clive Carpenter (below), a good pal of mine and many, many others in travel retail.
Clive was the long-time International Duty Free Director at the world’s most powerful Cognac house, Hennessy, and later Commercial Director at Camus, a brand synonymous with duty free. Who better than to build your business, I say, but a Carpenter?
During a conversation with Prunier President Stéphane Burnez last year, Clive suggested that the extreme rarity of vintage and (especially) guaranteed age expression Cognacs in travel retail represented a huge opportunity for a small, independent house, which could offer both, with superb quality levels to boot.
The rest is history in every sense. Stéphane was suitably impressed by Clive’s VSOP (valuable sense of positioning) advice and the house will soon be rolling out a series of Cognacs that I promise you will be different to anything you ever saw, or imagined, in travel retail.
I won’t ruin the surprise(s) now but I can assure you that Prunier will be making a truly bold statement or two in the channel.
So… talking about statements. In late January I was due to visit Stéphane, his daughter Alice and Clive to get both a literal and metaphorical taste of the Maison’s outstanding Cognacs. Alas, fate intervened, and I was struck down with a heart attack just before my departure, necessitating a hastily cancelled visit and an even more hastily convened triple bypass operations (I had been planning on driving down to France but I guess sometimes you have to take the bypass rather than the motorway).
Soon afterwards, Clive came to visit me in London, figuring laughter (we share a love of atrociously bad puns), fine wine (we disagree on which is the best part of Burgundy – a long-time Beaune of contention between us) and just a strictly rationed drop of fine Cognac might be the best medicine.
During that conversation I let slip an age statement of my own. On 1 March I would be turning 60, I revealed, a thoroughly wizened old vine, regrafted like a human grape varietal onto Phylloxera-resistant rootstock, but at least still just about flourishing on (and thankfully above) this good earth. I couldn’t tell from Clive’s quizzical look whether he wondered if I was getting 60 confused with 70, or whether my revelation had sparked an idea.
[Definitive Moodie age statements]
[Things start to turn foggy at my age]
It turned out to be the latter. This week I received a video birthday message (see below) from Clive, Stéphane and Alice, announcing that they were presenting me with a bottle of 60 year old Cognac, all dressed up in the new Prunier age statement packaging.
It was – and is – too generous a gift. So I decided to accept it only on the following basis: that I could auction the bottle via my Blog to raise money for a charity close to my heart, Hand in Hand for Haiti. It costs just US$5,000 to fund a child from a poor community to attend the world-class Lycée Jean-Baptiste Point du Sable in Saint Marc (a school funded and run by the travel retail industry). Wouldn’t it be great if we could turn a combination of two age statements into a statement of solidarity with the children of Haiti?
The Prunier team loved the idea. But more than that, they decided to embellish it by also offering the highest bidder a bottle of guaranteed age statement Cognac of the age of the purchaser (anywhere between 18 and 80). What a fantastic double whammy.
So here we go then. To win a bottle of Prunier 60 year old Cognac AND a bottle whose age matches yours (now or at your next birthday) or that of a colleague or loved one, simply send your offer (in Euros) by e-mail to Martin@TheMoodieReport.com, headed ‘Prunier makes a statement’.
The auction runs until 12 May, the final day of TFWA Asia Pacific in Singapore, where Cognac Prunier is exhibiting (Basement 2, Stand A5).
We’ll keep you updated on progress. And look out for my profile of Cognac Prunier, including details of ‘La Vieille Maison’ (the old house, pictured below), the oldest residence in the town. Just as, right now, I feel like the oldest resident in the duty free industry. Now that’s what I call an age statement.
Footnote: Clive Carpenter can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org