It has been a big week for Maison Courvoisier. The 194-year old Cognac house announced that Patrice Pinet is retiring after 13 years as Chief Blender, and will be replaced by Thibaut Hontanx, who has previously served as Courvoisier’s Master Distiller.

Courvoisier has a new chief blender

Hontanx, who will become Courvisier’s seventh Chief Blender, told Food & Wine that it was a “true privilege” to move into the role. “As Master Distiller, I worked closely with Patrice Pinet to develop future innovation plans for Maison Courvoisier,” he said. “His influence on the development of Courvoisier’s expressions during nearly four decades with the Maison has been monumental. As Chief Blender, I will carry on the tradition of nurturing and developing our iconic, floral house style that’s appreciated by consumers around the world and bring out the best of each of the eaux-de-vies being blended.”

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Maison Courvoisier’s sixth chief blender, Patrice Pinet (L) and seventh chief blender, Thibaut Hontanx (R) | Image Credit: Courtesy of Courvoisier

He’s also keenly aware that each blend of Courvoisier is a representation of not only the Cognac house, but also the community that surrounds the Maison. “Blending is the heart of cognac. My job is to bring out the best of each of the eaux-de-vies being used in the blend,” he said. “In some cases, we’re blending a hundred different eaux-de-vies to create a harmonious expression. During the process, I think about the collective efforts of our close-knit group of artisans that are represented in every drop of cognac. Courvoisier is grown, distilled, and produced in the region of Jarnac, so it is essential to keep our commitment to the community in mind from start to finish.”

In addition to Hontanx’s appointment, Maison Courvoisier has also welcomed British-Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori, who will serve in the newly created role of “Ambassador of Joy.” (And anyone who’s ever seen his playful designs and brightly coloured installations will know that this is a fitting title.)

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British-Nigerian multidisciplinary artist Yinka Ilori | Image Credit: Courtesy of Courvoisier

Ilori’s first project as the Ambassador will be kicking off Courvoisier’s “We Found Joy” series of events, which the brand says “brings the beauty of summer in Courvoisier’s home of Jarnac, France to life.” The series debuts in New York on Thursday, March 3, before travelling throughout the world later this year.

And finally, Courvoisier has made some subtle — but symbolic — changes to its packaging. The new look is a throwback to the Belle Époque era and recaptures the joie de vivre of the brand’s early 19th-century incarnations.

The bottles, labels, and packaging have all been refreshed, with design elements that have connections to the brand’s history. The bottle for its VSOP Cognac, for example, was inspired by a design that was used in the late 19th century, while the teardrop-shaped bottle that holds each blend of Courvoisier XO is an elegant homage to Daniel Dumon, the Maison’s fourth Chief Blender, who originally introduced XO in 1984.

The new bottles also prominently feature some iconic aspects that reflect the brand’s heritage, including the signature of the Maison’s founder, Félix Courvoisier; the bee, which is a symbol of immortality that is the oldest symbol of the sovereign of France; and a silhouette of Napoleon Bonaparte. (The brand has long used the motto “The Brandy of Napoleon” and its iconic “Joséphine” bottle is named for Bonaparte’s wife.) Previously, Courvoisier’s packaging had varied by territory, but in another branding shift, the updated bottles will now appear the same across the globe.

“We are entering a new era for Courvoisier,” Maison Courvoisier managing director Jon Potter said. “This is an exciting time for our Maison, as we go back to our roots and embrace what Courvoisier was founded on by Félix Courvoisier. From our home in Jarnac to our portfolio of beautiful, floral cognacs, our house believes in being welcoming to all.”

This story first appeared on www.foodandwine.com

(Main and Feature Image Credit: Courtesy of Courvoisier)

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