Born in 1950 in Neuilly, a leafy Parisian suburb, Maurice Hennessy spent all his youth in Cognac. He then read agriculture at university in Paris before spending a number of years in West Africa. In 1975, he returned home to Cognac and the family firm. We recently asked him our famous 13 Opulent Living questions.
Hennessy is proud of its long history. Its Irish founder, Richard Hennessy, was so delighted with the region that he established a trading firm in Cognac in 1765. Under his son James, the company expanded rapidly and took the name it still has today: Jas Hennessy and Co. Eight generations of Hennessys have run this outstanding company, travelling all over world to build up the brand’s universal reputation. Maurice Hennessy belongs to the latest vintage of this “grand cru”.
After focussing on communications, Maurice left for London, where he played an active role in the development of the British market before returning to Cognac in 1984.
Since then, he has been an extensive traveller, flying the Hennessy flag in many parts of the world, visiting customers, entertaining VIPs, briefing the press, and rallying the sales teams. He teaches staff members all over the world about Hennessy’s values and savoir faire, cultivates brand development, and conducts exclusive tastings of Hennessy cognacs. One of the firm’s most tireless ambassadors, he is also often seen at events sponsored by Jas. Hennessy & Co.
Maurice speaks English, Spanish, and Italian fluently. His hobbies include cooking and gardening. He is passionate about music and organises concerts in the town of Cognac. He often uses terms of harmonies and orchestration to explain the blending processes of cognac.
Faithful to his training and to a long family tradition, Maurice Hennessy is the owner of a vineyard, which involves him personally in the main activity of the region. He lives near Cognac in a beautiful house with his wife Catherine.
What is your life motto?
Maurice Hennessy: I don’t really have a life motto. I lead a life I can.
Who inspires or inspired you most?
Maurice Hennessy: Some members of my family like my father and my grandfather because they were at the same time efficient, intelligent of course and very humane. Humanity for them was a very important thing.
What do you consider as your greatest achievement?
Maurice Hennessy: To be where I am today. It was written on this rapid skin when I joined Hennessy that I would be representing the firm in the beautiful Johannesburg. Through my time I have gone through lots of change, administratively, from Hennessy to LVMH. For me it has been a success and I am very happy with it.
What is your idea of the perfect day off?
Maurice Hennessy: We, if you have a day off being a global ambassador, you can stay in your room and rest, do a bit of paper work, go out, meet a friend or visit the city where you are. A day off at home is different. I cook, we have members of the family come to visit, a friend for lunch. I love the garden, go for walks with my wife, a movie – it really depends where I am. It’s not watching soccer on TV or any sport for that matter.
If you could decorate your house with the work of one artist, who would it be?
Maurice Hennessy: My grandfather, from my mother’s side, was a painter and my house is decorated with his paintings. I’m not really a professional decorator. My wife is the decorator in our home.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Maurice Hennessy: Take it easy. It will come. I’ve had a wonderful career which I never thought would turn that way. It can happen to many people.
The best souvenir you’ve brought home?
Maurice Hennessy: I go often to Asia, especially China. They know over there my passion for tea and so, very often, my Chinese friends gift me with teas which you can’t find outside. So, back home, I have a whole collection of teas and I have to drink the ones that don’t last too long. So this, for me, is the best mementos which I bring and keep at home. There’s a lot in common with the making of cognac and I like to be associated hence my passion for tea.
Which four people from history would you like to have around a dinner table for one evening?
Maurice Hennessy: Definitely former members of my family. My grandfather, my father and even the older ones like Richard Hennessy and James. People who were very important in the making of the company. To have them telling me ‘we did this because of that’. My grandfather died early and I was too young to understand and we were probably too shy to communicate. There is so much I would have liked to learn from him.
Which is your favourite city in the world and why is this so?
Maurice Hennessy: This varies. It’s a question of people – who you meet, who you know. There was a time when there were only two answers for that, Manhattan and San Francisco. But nowadays, I find San Francisco has changed a lot lately and Manhattan is so much more Disneyland than the Manhattan I used to know. I love Hong Kong too. But it’s a question of who you meet, who you know and who you work with.
Please name a book all of us should read in your opinion.
Maurice Hennessy: I don’t know and I don’t have the potential to say. What I can tell you is that right now I am reading a Moby Dick book, beautifully written in the 19th century. Providing you have the patience to read these words rarely used, these long sentences. It’s very important to read books, whatever they are. Nowadays, people are losing the pleasure of reading.
What keeps you busy apart from work – do you have a hobby?
Maurice Hennessy: I like cooking classical French dishes, my garden, reading, crosswords, music and I like educating myself.
An object you would never part with?
Maurice Hennessy: Music. I couldn’t live without music – anything between 15th-20th centuries.
What does luxury mean for you?
Maurice Hennessy: Luxury has not to be expensive. Luxury for me would be a quite room in my hotel… having fresh vegetables… a comfortable thing, but not an expensive comfortable thing.