Cognac State of Mind: Rare Brandies from Jay-Z and Frank Gehry Raise Funds for Charity

The hip-hop legend's 50-year-old limited-edition d'Ussé bottle and the renowned architect's 150th anniversary Hennessy gold-and-glass decanter fetched five-figure sums at Sotheby's

Cognac State of Mind: Rare Brandies from Jay-Z and Frank Gehry Raise Funds for Charity
Jay-Z and Beyoncé cheer for someone else to win for a change at the 2020 pre-Grammy Gala. (Getty / Kevin Mazur)
Mar 18, 2021

It was a weekend to remember for hip-hop star Jay-Z. Attending a socially distanced Grammys event on Sunday night, the award-winning artist was sipping his own Champagne as he racked up his 23rd Grammy, while his wife, Beyoncé, took home her 28th trophy, making her the Recording Academy's most-decorated female artist of all time. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, one of Jay-Z's limited-edition Cognac bottles raised $52,500 for charity.

In 2019, Jay-Z's Cognac brand d’Ussé (co-owned by Bacardi) surprised him with 50 bottles of 50-year-old brandy for his 50th birthday. Bottle No. 1 of the 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition Grande Champagne Cognac, which Jay-Z signed "S. Carter" (abbreviating his legal name), was sold March 13 at a Sotheby's virtual spirits auction, with proceeds going to Jay-Z's charity for students in need, the Shawn Carter Foundation.

 limited-edition diamond-chaped d'Ussé Cognac bottle for auction
Diamonds filled with Cognac are a collector's best friend. (Courtesy of Sotheby's)

"The whole process behind the 1969 Anniversaire collection reminded me why I got involved in the spirits industry in the first place—to create something that will stand the test of time," Jay-Z said in a statement.

The d'Ussé bottle wasn't the only big-ticket celebrity Cognac bottle for a cause: World-renowned architect and winery designer Frank Gehry's gold-and-glass Masterpiece Hennessy X.O Decanter, honoring the 150th anniversary of Hennessy's first X.O (or "extra old") expression, was also gaveled off (along with Gehry's original mold for the design, in case the winner wants to cast a few more of their own).

"This Masterpiece Decanter marries Frank Gehry’s celebrated unique aesthetic with Hennessy X.O’s rare exemplary Cognac—a dream combination for design and Cognac enthusiasts," Sotheby's spirits specialist Jonny Fowle told Wine Spectator via email. "The bottle’s contours not only highlight the rich color of this outstanding Cognac, but also recall the river Charente, which at one time carried Cognac barrels to maritime trading routes."

 Frank Gehry's Masterpiece Hennessy X.O Decanter
It's a Gehry! It's a Masterpiece! It's both! (Courtesy of Sotheby's)

The Gehry lot sold for $18,750, with proceeds benefiting the Asian American Business Development Center, part of Hennessy’s Unfinished Business Initiative supporting Black, Asian and Latinx small-business owners.


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