Alexandre Helaine, the Eastern Africa market manager for Moet-Hennessy, spoke with Nairobi News and discussed a number of issues, including why Hennessy is the spirit of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and why the product is popular in Kenya.
1. Hennessy announced a partnership that makes Hennessy the spirit of the NBA. Tell us more.
We have partnered with the NBA for almost a year now. We are the first alcohol brand to sponsor the
NBA. We are especially proud to have been part of the inaugural Basketball League of Africa that took
place in Rwanda at the end of the month of May 2021.
We, as Hennessy, love basketballers as they embody the never stop, never settle mantra that is Hennessy’s brand DNA.
2. There are other numerous sports that Hennessy would have picked to partner with. Why basketball?
Basketball is first of all an electrifying sport that keeps one at the edge of their seats throughout.
Secondly, most basketball players have an admirable and inspirational lifestyle where they keep working
on themselves and trying to be better. Think of LeBron James and Micheal Jordan, basketballers never stop working on themselves. They never settle on just being good, they keep striving to be more.
3. There is a very strong fan club of the NBA in Kenya who wakes up in the middle of the night to follow games. What can you tell them?
I understand the commitment to the sport and completely applaud the decision to wake up and follow your favorite sport even in the middle of the night. I do that too. I will share my little secret of making that midnight basketball watch a more enjoyable and invigorating experience, I watch with a glass of
Hennessy at hand.
4. Basketball is a small movement in Kenya. What does Hennessy think about this?
Hennessy is a premium cognac that loves creative people and people from all walks of life who are doing
the best they can with what they have. We are therefore proud to be associated with not just the growing
basketball movement in Kenya but across all Africa and the world. We hope that the spirit of Hennessy
inspires everyone to keep working on themselves and keep working on bettering even their personal
best. Great people, just like Hennessy, never settle.
5. What makes Hennessy such a well-loved cognac in Kenya?
Kenyans know and love great things, and Hennessy is a great brand with a great legacy. Hennessy is
made from the best grapes grown in the cognac region in France, with the highest quality of products
being observed from when the grapes are picked to the first exquisite sip you take of your cognac glass.
Every morning, a committee of 7 masters meets at 10am and tastes casks of aged Hennessy
to see how the Cognacs are aging and ensure that they are bottled to the highest quality possible. They
are seven in order to minimize the margin of error, so you can rest assured that only the best cognac
makes it to the bottle.
6. How many Hennessy expressions are there and how are they different from each other?
There are different Hennessy expressions, ranging from a 5-year-old to a 200-year-old expression. Right
now in the Kenyan market, we have 5 expressions ranging from a 5-year-old to a 200-year-old.
7. What food does Hennessy pair well with?
Hennessy has a smooth texture and strong oak, vanilla, and woody notes depending on the expression.
One, therefore, needs to pair it with a dish of equally great character and flavours in order to create a
balance. Nyama Choma has great taste and the charred taste in the meat beautifully balances out the
bold notes in the Hennessy. Spicy red meat, steak with pepper sauce, and chicken curry are great
pairings for Hennessy as well. Bland meats and barely spiced meat such as fish fillet and salmon, should
be taken alone in order to savour their individual taste better and the Hennessy taken later.
8. You have worked in many international markets. What is unique about the Kenyan cognac market and lifestyle.
The Kenyan market makes my work very easy. They have a vibrant party scene and are very discerning
in taste. They are also very experimental, which means that any new expressions of Hennessy are greatly
received. Right now, the demand for Hennessy is greater than the offer we have. We understand that but
we have to age our cognacs just so, so they are the right balance of flavours and textures. We always
stick to the highest quality production standards. We are working tirelessly to keep serving the Kenyan
market and are thankful for the great demand for Hennessy and will do our best to produce more but as
you can imagine, it will take time.
9. Do you have a different Hennessy expression for a different occasion or do you have a
favorite expression that you prefer and why?
I do not think I have a single favourite. It is so hard to pick just one out of all the different expressions. But yes, I do take a different Hennessy expression at different times of day mainly because temperature and climate play a huge role in how the different textures and flavours in the cognac open up. At midday, VS with apple juice is perfect as it’s very refreshing. The VSOP on ice goes perfectly with the lovely balmy
weather at the Coast. In fact, if you are going to the Coast, carry all the expressions there. There will be
numerous ocassions to enjoy them with, such as beautiful sunsets with XO neat at hand.
10. What is your favorite way of taking Hennessy while watching basketball or unwinding?
It largely depends on my mood as I can take Hennessy in a variety of ways and still enjoy it. Right now, I
am really enjoying taking my VS neat on ice or with apple juice and ice.
11. Please share with us 2 easy and fun recipes that Hennessy lovers can try at home?
Hennessy has great taste and character. One can take it neat or with ice. One can make a refreshing drink to take at any time of day with one part Hennessy and two parts apple juice, garnished with a fresh slice of apple. You can add a chaser, either ginger ale or tonic to your Hennessy, and customize the cocktail to your liking by playing around with the amount of chaser used. You can enjoy Hennessy at any time of day and in any way you like