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DRINKS - A SPIRIT OF INNOVATION

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Bars and mixologists are battling it out to create the ultimate cocktail experience, often using classic spirits as the base with offerings such as color-changing cocktails, frozen “nitro” cocktails, solid cocktails, powdered cocktails, deconstructed cocktails, cocktails with foam, or cocktails infused with otherwise inedible flavors, like leather and campfire smoke. Three award-winning, steeped-with-heritage spirit brands have shaken — not stirred — the market to enhance customers’ experiences. With their exceptionally luxurious products, they open up the drinks cabinet with ways of satisfying the palate of even the most knowledgeable spirits connoisseur. At Hennessy, selecting the finest eaux-de-vie is more than a science, it is an art. A resolutely contemporary Cognac, Hennessy Paradis Impérial represents the craftsmanship passed down through eight generations of Master Blenders.

It is an exquisitely refined and elegant blend of more than 100 eaux-de-vie that are aged anywhere from 30 to 130 years — combining the old to create a modern, unique Cognac for today’s consumer. For Hennessy Paradis Impérial, the innovation lies in the production, the identification of the eaux-de-vie, and understanding how long to age them to result in a rare spirit. Only ten out of 10,000 eaux-devie of any given vintage are determined eligible to qualify. The golden hue is unprecedented for eaux-de-vie of this age.

Yann Fillioux, Hennessy’s former seventh generation Master Blender and creator of Hennessy Paradis Impérial, says, “My predecessors were able to foresee which eaux-de-vie would become remarkable and they understood how to age and protect them for the future. In that sense, Hennessy Paradis Impérial is their creation: it is a resolutely forward-looking blend that embodies the transmission of generations of know-how. The unprecedented alliance of age and finesse makes the Hennessy Paradis Impérial experience unlike any other.” With that, Hennessy X.O has moved away from the traditional by creating exciting new-age cocktail recipes. The original Extra Old Cognac, for example, created in 1870 by fourth-generation Master Blender Maurice Hennessy, is typically enjoyed neat. Nevertheless, Cognac lovers are encouraged to try it infused with Rooibos tea which brings out the robust notes in the blend.

Far from the heyday of seafaring pirates and their drink of choice, rum also has today taken center stage with the likes of the world’s most sophisticated, ultra-premium Akal Chai Rum. Known in the yachting spheres as “The Rum of the Oceans,” its distinguished clientele — the world’s best restaurants, such as the Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton, bartenders, mixologists and partners alike — have demonstrated that what we once knew to be conventional is today moving towards exceptional. The secret behind the five-generation distillery is the pioneering marriage between a tea master’s craft and that of the art of the “parfumier.”

“The seamless match of disciplines and ingredients born out of high-altitude, single estate teas from India have been precisely combined with aromatic, tropical botanicals along with limited reserve West Indies rum, while aged in bourbon barrels,” says Kiran Shival Akal, owner of Akal Chai Rum.

Akal Chai Rum has in this sense managed to shake up the stigma behind rum in its classic form by creating magical lifestyle events around their tea-infused offering such as “The Mariner’s Flight,” Chai Rum’s smoke service. Served either neat or on the rocks, this 95-point rum is offered over three flavors of cocktail smoker blocks — Maple, Wild Cherry and Spanish Cedar — along with their signature smoking torch. Sophisticated cocktails aside, the trend of gastronomic drinks and “molecular mixology” — a collaborative effort between the kitchen and the bar — has gone some way in tickling the taste buds of a growing following.

Pernod Ricard UK’s gastronomy spirits brand, L’Orbe, is another example where wow-factor is added to menus. This latest innovation in vodka is the first in the world to be naturally flavored with caviar; it was developed using patented micro-encapsulation technology. L’Orbe can be served neat, in a cocktail or as an ingredient in a gourmet dish. Its versatility appeals to the increasing number of consumers looking for a new and unique experience. The scientific technique protects and preserves fragile ingredients, thereby allowing the aromas of the caviar to infuse the vodka without losing any of its distinct flavors. Bridging gastronomy and mixology, the product allows chefs and bartenders to work together. “We know consumers are willing to spend more on unique experiences, so we’re proud to offer our customers an innovative and unique product that is sure to tempt them when treating themselves, family or friends,” says Mark Harris, Channel Director for On-Trade at Pernod Ricard UK.

Like Chai Rum or Hennessy Paradis Impérial, L’Orbe is the result of a fantastic collaboration between chefs, along with acclaimed mixologists, making them perfect showstoppers wherever they are served up. Perhaps the launch of new briefs to “disrupt the future” of the wider alcoholic drinks sector indicates that this experimental paradigm is set to shift to spirits in general? We raise a glass to that!

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