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J Wray & Nephew's 'Henn-tertainers'

Thursday, October 05, 2017

The J Wray & Nephew (JWN) Academy enrolled a new set of students recently — local entertainers, that is — who participated in a relaxed, playful but informative Moët and Hennessy Training and Mixology Session. The objective of the training session, which took place on Tuesday, September 26, was to widen the entertainers' knowledge about the various cognacs and c hampagnes that the aforementioned brands provide.

The tables literally turned as a number of entertainers, instead of serving the usual lyrics on stage, were busy behind tables examining, smelling and savouring what the Academy's Senior Manager Debbian Spence-Minott described as a “sensory evaluation”. This 'evaluation', as Spence-Minott put it, required the entertainers to examine and compare the variants in shades, 'stems', and smells and decipher the different components of the liquor, and probably the most anticipated task: taste and savour each brand.

Bounty Killer, Chris Martin, Agent Sasco, Yanique 'The Curvy Diva', D Major, Kevin from Voicemail and Tifa were among those who rounded out the list of students present at the 23 Dominica Drive venue. The training session, which was divided into two modules, was led by Spence-Minott and Moët Hennessy's Market Manager for the Caribbean Geoffrey Bouilly. The first catered to the Hennessy Cognacs and the second to the Moët & Chandon Champagnes. Each included a brief history of the Moët and Hennessy brands, the various harvesting, fermentation, blending, ageing, and storage processes and characteristics of the various liquor and cocktails.

The entertainers were in full learning mode as they attentively took notes in steno pads, read handouts, watched video clips, asked and answered questions and received incentives for their participation. “I heard liquor and I love Hennessy! I was quite interested to hear that this module was geared towards artistes. I was, like, why dem waa di whola we here?” explained a laughing Tifa, when asked why she decided to participate.

Spence-Minott explained that a part of the mandate of the J Wray & Nephew Academy is to educate customers on how to consume the brand, making them confident consumers. The entertainers, for their part, were nothing short of confident after completing their session.

“I have learnt so much…and I shall be imparting my knowledge at my next social gathering,” explained Agent Sasco. Like Sasco, Tifa agreed that though it was a fun environment with her counterparts, it was nevertheless very informative. She was also surprised that the entertainers were knowledgeable about the brand.

Moët Hennessy Brand Manager Jared Samuel said he was very pleased with the turnout and was proud to extend the training sessions to members of the entertainment industry. He explained, “Hennessy loves music and music loves Hennessy”, and each identifies with the other.

“Hennessy has been a part of the landscape and the lifestyle, especially with dancehall music in particular…I now have a new appreciation for these brands and how it was intended to be consumed,” explained the very attentive Agent Sasco.

The entertainers were eager to taste and savour the different brands presented, which included the Hennessy Pure White (aged for three years); the Hennessy Very Special (VS), (aged between three to eight years); the Hennessy Very Superior Old Pale (VSOP), (aged between eight to 15 years); the Hennessy Extra Old (XO), (aged up to 30 years); Hennessy Paradis Impérial (aged between 25 to 100 years); and the Richard Hennessy, which is aged to its fullest potential, or a maximum of 230 years.

Although members of the class enjoyed each liquor presented from the Hennessy brand, it was the Richard Hennessy that was the centre of attraction. Valued at approximately US$5,000, this masterpiece is the product of over 100 eaux-de-vie and is the most expensive product available on the Hennessy global market. Fittingly, the Richard Hennessy is a tribute to the world's famous cognac house's founder, Richard Hennessy, who established the Hennessy enterprise in 1765.

“It's the first I'm having so much Hennessy at once. Even this bottle, it's the first I'm seeing this one!” exclaimed entertainer Bounty Killer, referring to the Richard Hennessy he was drinking. Bounty Killer, who is no stranger to the Hennessy family and brand — indeed, he is the brand's unofficial ambassador — was just as excited as the other entertainers were to share in the brand's legacy.

The entertainers also partook of Moët & Chandon champagnes like the Moët Impérial Brut, Nectar Impérial Rosé, the Moët Ice Impérial, Moët Ice Impérial Rosé, and the Dom Pérignon Blanc.

At the end of the training session, the entertainers received incentives and certificates of participation — an indication that they had “graduated with distinction” from the academy.

The training session was followed by an entertainer's party at which Hennessy mixes were served at the academy's bar @twentythree.

Thursday Food readers who would like to venture into mixology “must”, according to Samuel, “be open-minded, willing to try new things and taste different ingredients to improve their taste profiles in order to enjoy and express themselves through mixology”.

The J Wray & Nephew Academy is a Jamaican school for bartenders and mixologists and was launched in 2015. It is currently involved in various joint projects and programmes in Montego Bay and with the University of Technology (UTech). Its next graduation is slated for November of this year.

— Talya Henry