by KRISTY ALPERT

Camus celebrates 150 years with a Cuvee worth five-figures.

ALTHOUGH CYRIL CAMUS’ FIRST FORAY INTO HIS FAMILY’S NOW 150-YEAR-OLD COGNAC BUSINESS INVOLVED CLEARING dishes for pocket money at the age of 11 during elaborate dinner parties in his family’s estate in Cognac, France-which was, much to his parent’s dismay, where he snuck his first sip of cognac from a guests not-quite-empty glass-this current president of Camus Cognac’s real career actually began on the islands in downtown Waikiki.

“My first job after I graduated from business school in the U.S. was actually in Hawai’i,” explains the 42-year-old president who did a three-month internship at Duty Free Shops Hawai’i in Honolulu before becoming the fifth generation to preside over the House of Camus and the legendary Camus Cognac brand.

Deeply rooted to their legacy of preservation and passion, each of the five generations of Camus men have succeeded in faithfully upholding the brand’s original values throughout the years by handing down the business from father to son to ensure the continuity and development of the family’s specific expertise.

150 YEARS OF TRADITION

Founded in 1863, this year marks the Camus family’s 150 year anniversary of exquisite cognac making, marking the house as the largest independent, family-owned cognac company in the world. The Camus family actually began as winegrowers in the mid 1800s when Jean-Baptiste Camus began selling a line of cognacs with his business partners under the label La Grande Marque. A visionary before his time, Camus’ value on quality and independence led him to buy out his associates, proudly staking his own name and reputation on each barrel sold.

Although Jean-Baptiste set the stage for the company, it was his sons who took the brand to the next level; Edmond thinking outside the barrel and pushing Camus to become the leader in the cognac industry as one of the first brands to sell cognac in labeled bottles rather than barrels and Gaston devoting his time to exporting ventures. Through Gaston’s eofforts, Camus became the official cognac to the court of the Tsar of Russia, Nicolas II.

Over the years, each generation has made his own mark on the company, never settling for stagnancy and always planning for the future even during times of great success. From Cyril’s grandfather Michel Camus bringing the brand to the Duty Free market with Baccarat crystal and Limoges porcelain decanters, to Jean-Paul Camus (Cyril’s father) launching the brand into the Asian markets and introducing the signature cognacs of Camus, the Camus men have each played a vital role in establishing Camus Cognac as one of the leading luxury spirits.

“I think it’s not just because we are 150 years old, but that it’s been passionately managed by the same family for the past 150 years that sets the company apart from other brands,” Cyril says. “It’s really that notion of passing on that certain craftsmanship more than knowing how to make a great cognac. A lot of privately-owned companies are very stable in the business and are happy with just maintaining what they have. I think we’ve always understood that as a company, to remain relevant, we always have to innovate and enter new markets. Do more, do better, and do diofferently. That’s always very much been at the core of the company.”

FIVE GENERATIONS AND GROWING

When Cyril took over the company in 2003, this elegantly passionate man realized all too well the shoes he was filling by accepting the presidency. Literally growing up among the product itself in the vineyards of Cognac, Cyril remembers falling in love with the culture of cognac from a young age as he would soak in every word his father would say while he talked about the business.

“My father started training me when I was about 16; that’s when the palate is ready for spirits,” he recalls. “It’s a product that has to be experienced, and cognac is one of the few spirits that you can enjoy as much on the nose as on the palate. It’s a lot of pleasure with just the aromas of the product.”

Cyril’s passion for the product and dedication to preserving the family’s legacy has taken the company to new heights with his increased focus on global markets and his innovative line of rare cognacs and masterpiece collection of cognacs, including the new cuvee released this year for the 150th anniversary, Cuvee 5.150.

Encased in an exquisite Baccarat crystal decanter reminiscent of a precious stone, this new cuvee is a blend of five rare eaux-de-vie that each capture the essence of the five generations in an eoffort to tell the beautiful story of the House of Camus with each sip. The cuvee-released in a limited edition of 1492 numbered decanters-offers an intensely smooth tasting experience that is all at once delicate and powerful, with supple, sun-dappled aromas of vanilla complemented by the creamy and golden taste of spicy toffee.

“It’s a symbolic product in a lot of ways; this is quite the milestone,” says Cyril. “It’s going to retail for $13,500 dollars a bottle with only 60 bottles available for the U.S. including Hawai’i, so one shouldn’t wait too long.”