For the right person, alcohol is the perfect present — especially for that fan of brandy or cognac.
The holiday stars are value-added packs (VAPs), those classy gift sets of a bottle and logoed glasses, mixing kits, flasks or other paraphernalia, along with limited-release brandies in fancy bottles in wooden boxes, metal tins or other ornate cases. The festive packaging stands out on shelves, in stacks and on floor displays, and calls out to customers at the checkout counter.
For harried holiday shoppers, VAPs are an easy gift decision. No wonder then that many brandy producers have one or more entrants.
Holiday packs from Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. include the Butchertown Bloody “Meatpack,” which includes a bottle of brandy along with a pint glass to make a brandy Bloody Mary. “We also have a ‘Hitchhiker’ program, where a 50ml bottle will sidecar with a 750ml bottle,” says owner Joe Heron.
American Craft Brandy will come with a small bottle of Absinthe Banche and the absinthe will include a craft brandy ‘hitchhiker.’ Copper & Kings is supporting the VAPs with display racks and sampling in key stores. Also, the distiller just launched an American Apple Brandy aged in Bourbon barrels and sherry casks at 100 proof. For the holidays, the company will also launch a reserve cask Butchertown Brandy at 124 proof.
Martell Cognac has released a VSOP gift set packaged with two snifters for the October-December period. But it’s not holiday specific, says Brian K. Smith, senior brand manager, Cognac at Pernod Ricard. Also launching now to run through next June is The Vanguard Series, a partnership with legendary band The Roots. Taking place in key cities nationally, the six-part series includes live concerts, DJ shows, culinary events and, of course, samplings of Martell Cognac.
“Gift packages are a way to get extra visibility during the very busy holiday period,” notes Voin. Camus offers gift sets that include two glasses for its VS, VSOP and XO Cognacs. Each year the designs are different; this year they jibe with a new advertising campaign, called the Perfect Cognac Moment. The ads are fashion illustrations of party scenes at the Camus chateau in Cognac. Support for the gift sets includes in-store posters, case cards and ceiling hangers. The three facings when stacked together in the store create a complete image of the chateau in Cognac.
In addition to magazine and online ads, in the Atlanta market, a bus wrapped with the campaign illustrations is a roving billboard. Camus also boasts a limited-edition VSOP Borderies, released on an annual basis. “That’s a flagship product we will continue pushing into 2016 in the U.S.,” says Voin.
For its part, Hennessy has many items created especially for the year-end, unveiling new offerings for its X.O, V.S.O.P Privilège, and V.S expressions, according to executive vice president Rodney William. The Hennessy X.O gift box features elegant metallic printing and embossing on the box and a unique black label on the bottle. In partnership with British art director Peter Saville, Hennessy launched the limited-edition V.S.O.P Privilège collection called “Chroma;” the copper coloring and vibrant bottle design refers to an alembic still, and the gift box features a metallic red-copper design. The Hennessy V.S comes in a gold and black gift box with a festive quilted pattern.
“We will be offering gift sets this holiday season that include our Courvoisier VSOP cognac along with luxurious glassware, and recipe suggestions,” says Shah at Beam Suntory. “A new marketing campaign brings to life collaborations between French and American artists, celebrating their stories and the immense passion that goes into their crafts,” he adds. Details on the campaign were not available at press time.
Thomas Henry Strenk is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with over 20 years experience covering the beverage and restaurant industries. In his small apartment-turned-alchemist-den, he homebrews beer kombucha, and concocts his own bitters and infusions.