Interview: Luxury Cognac Brand Camus Makes U.S. PushOctober 31, 2016
With Cognac on fire in the U.S. market, the category leaders aren’t the only brands contributing to the upswing. Among the rising smaller players is Camus, an upscale, family-owned brand that sells 450,000 cases worldwide but has had a limited U.S. presence. That’s now changing, according to president Cyril Camus, who tells SND’s Daniel Marsteller that increased investment, the cocktail craze and the trend toward luxury spirits has created a favorable environment for expansion.
SND: While Camus is well-known globally, it’s been less visible in the U.S. How are you addressing the market here?
Camus: We’ve had our ups and downs in the U.S., finding our footing, but things are now going well. We have a great team, including people on the ground in New York, New Jersey, Georgia, California and Florida, where we’re based. We’re seeing growth and now approaching 10,000 cases and $10 million in retail sales in the U.S. There’s a lot of activity on our VS Elegance ($30)—so much, in fact, that it’s changing our mix worldwide, though we’re still selling more XO Elegance ($160) than VS in terms of global volume. We’re a high-end brand, but finding our spot at the VS level is important. It means exposure, and rotation for the retailers. We’re also putting more focus on our Borderies expressions, VSOP ($55) and XO ($180). A few years back we expanded our vineyard holdings in the Borderies area and we’re now able to launch our VSOP Borderies as an ongoing SKU (it was previously very limited). Together with the XO, which already has a bit of a following, we see the Borderies VSOP as our focus product in the U.S., especially on-premise. It fits current trends perfectly.
SND: Are you advocating more cocktail consumption of Camus?
Camus: The cocktail trend is a huge asset for Cognac. Whereas there was a wave of growth in Cognac generated by the urban culture’s enthusiasm, a large part of the growth is now coming from mixology. In the years before Prohibition, around one-third of cocktail recipes were made with Cognac. Now Cognac is reclaiming place at the bar.
SND: What about the innovation piece for Camus?
Camus: We’re planning to launch an additional expression of our Elegance Extra ($400) next year, called Dark & Intense. When our Extra Cognac is ready for bottling, we empty the barrel and heat it over a fire so that some of the trapped liquid migrates out of the wood. It’s very dark, almost black. Once the wood is layered with it, we refill the barrel with Extra Cognac and let it sit for a few weeks. The resulting product—Dark & Intense—gains a lot in aromatic intensity. What we’re really doing is taking back some of the angels’ share.Subscribe to Shanken News Daily’s Email Newsletter, delivered to your inbox each morning.