The modern-day equivalent of the original Hennessy Three Star, Hennessy V.S is the world’s most popular and globally recognised quality cognac. Over the past few years, Hennessy has collaborated with ground-breaking artists such as Kaws, Futura, Os Gemeos, Shepard Fairey and Ryan McGinness to create a new Hennessy Very Special Limited Edition bottle every year. Never one to conform to convention, Hennessy looked to the unexpected for this year’s artist collab, handpicking Scott Campbell, famed for inking up some of the most intricate tatts you’ll ever see.
Although his day job fills Campbell’s schedule, decorating the bodies of Hollywood celebrities and fashion mavericks, lofty intellectuals and outlaw bikers alike, he’s got a rather impressive side-gig. Campbell’s tattoos are held with such reverence that he’s been welcomed into the contemporary art world, exhibiting in galleries across the world, from New York to London, Los Angeles, Miami, Singapore and Tokyo.
We caught up with Campbell over a Hennessy Sour (as if we would order anything else?) atop the sky-high urban oasis at Ace Hotel, Downtown Los Angeles. Decorative swirls set against geometric shapes on a label the colour of aged paper, Campbell describes his art for the Very Special Limited Edition as “an exciting point where two very different and very old traditions overlap”. The collaborative adventure started when Scott Campbell travelled to Cognac, France, to get a feeling for the Maison’s history and creative process (we wouldn’t have minded an invitation to be honest).
Inspired by James Hennessy’s penmanship, Campbell built his label design around a pair of wings, an iconic and popular motif in tattoo culture which the likes of Cara Delevingne, Lily Collins and Solange Knowles have sparked a revival of in recent years. “Wings mean different things to different people, but I think universally they’re a symbol of freedom, travel and the ability to decide where you want to go,” Campbell explained of his Hennessy V.S label design. Indeed, freedom, the spirit of conquest and the inner drive to push one’s own limits are values dear to both Campbell and Hennessy, as the artist acknowledged himself while in Cognac. Sounds like symbolism worth permanently stamping on yourself to us.
You can tell Campbell’s been doing his homework, too. Peer closely to the bottle and you’ll see him harking back to the history of the liquor with his decision to resurrect the three stars. First shown on the Hennessy label back in 1865 when Maurice Hennessy invented the simple and fair principle of cognac classification – one star for the youngest and less elaborate cognac, three stars for the finest quality.
Coming to an end, this year’s artist collaboration for Hennessy Very Special Limited Edition could be described as “a dialogue between two people”, or as the famous tattooist puts it: “It’s a conversation between me and everything that’s gone into Hennessy for more than two centuries. It was fun to explore Hennessy’s history, take cues from the brand’s visual identity and just project my world onto it in a way that still respects its personality, and honours its traditions”. We’d enjoy Hennessy either way, but with Campbell’s contribution, we’ll be keeping that bottle on the shelf long after it’s emptied.