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“We’ve had 150 years to plan this,” joked Cyril Camus as he welcomed around 200 guests to an extraordinary celebration in Cognac on Friday evening.
The occasion was the 150th anniversary of Camus, founded in 1863 by Jean-Baptiste Camus. Cyril represents the fifth generation of the family, following the proud traditions of Jean-Baptiste, Edmond & Gaston, Michel and (Cyril’s father) Jean-Paul Camus, respectively.
The venue was the magnificent Château du Plessis (above), the home to both family and Cognac over the past century and a half. “It defines who we are as a brand, who we are as a company and who we are as a family,” said Cyril, speaking without notes in a poignant and powerful tribute to both lineage and label.
Noting that Camus was that rarest of breeds, a Cognac house that remained in original family hands, he noted: “We are who we are – we believe that our product has grown over five generations to be something beautiful.”
Something beautiful indeed. It was a privilege to be among an audience drawn from far and wide to celebrate such a momentous landmark. Each of five courses served honoured a generation – the last three of which have been closely associated with the duty free channel since the late Michel Camus’ instinctive, perhaps inspired, decision in the 1960s to supply Cognac on credit to Chuck Feeney and Bob Miller, a pair of unheralded young entrepreneurs who had started two small duty free concessions at Hong Kong and Honolulu airports, respectively.
That faith would be returned with immense interest in the ensuing years as Camus became the favoured Cognac of the burgeoning DFS empire, becoming famous in its own right with Japanese travellers.
Camus pioneered the porcelain gift decanters that at one time were all the rage with the Japanese. Beginning with Cognac Josephine pour Femme, the company also later drove the temporary phenomenon of so-called ‘new generation’ Cognacs, presented in smaller, olive oil-type bottles that proved hugely popular with young Japanese ‘office ladies’ in the early 1990s.
Cyril’s often emotional tribute to his forbears was just right, finding perfect expression in the final Cognac (Réserve du Château du Plessis) to be tasted on the evening. “This,” he said, his voice trembling with emotion, ” was the last Cognac crafted together by my grandfather, my father, and my uncle (Michel).”
It was a blend and a spirit of finesse, flavour but most of all, of family.
FOOTNOTE: We’ll present more on the Camus celebrations in this week’s edition of The Moodie Report e-Zine.
[The icing on the cake: The candles are lit to celebrate a great family spirit]
[Cyril Camus and Martin Moodie]
[From left: Martin Moodie; Kenji Kubo, Japan Airport Terminal Co; Richard Ferne, Camus; Fred Kiang, Sunrise Duty Free; Patricia Wang, Ever Rich Duty Free; Simon Chiang, Ever Rich Duty Free]
[Simon Chiang, Ever Rich Duty Free and Alan Lee, General Manager ST. Doras Enterprises Co]
[Two true vintages: Camus executive Richard Ferne, who will retire next month after many years of great service to the travel retail industry]
[From left: Jean-Paul Camus; Cyril Camus; Simon and Christine Chiang and Patricia Wang of Ever Rich Duty Free; Photo credit: R Ferne]