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TORONTO — Sitting at the Home Smith Jazz Bar in Toronto’s Old Mill Inn was intimate, inviting and festive as jazz music romantically played faintly in the background. A grand piano sat handsomely on the right, while a warm fireplace to the left kept the bar toasty. A fresh scent of pine trees filled the space that even the exposed bricks appreciated its company. The smell of Christmas was undeniable. Whilst awaiting the arrival of Mr. Cyrille Gautier-Auriol, Hennessy’s Ambassadeur de la Maison, I admired the set up at the round cherry wood table and upholstered chairs to match. In front of me were three very attractive Hennessy Cognac bottles: Hennessy V.S, Hennessy V.S.O.P, and Hennessy X.O. whom were accompanied by three Riedel Vinum Cognac Hennessy glasses; one for each range. Alas, perfect timing; the man of the hour had arrived.

Gautier-Auriol is the ninth generation to uphold a title in the number one Cognac business as the official Hennessy Ambassadeur de la Maison. With that being said, we were given a thorough history lesson whilst learning the appreciation of the art of blending (and indulging) the various blends of Hennessy Cognac. With a swirl, a sniff from each nostril, a dive of the nose to glass, and a subtle taste— your five senses are awaken and your taste buds are thankful.

On the nose, the Hennessy Very Special (V.S) brings together an intense and fruity character with oaky notes. On the palate, powerful flavours suggest grilled almonds, supported by notes reminiscent of fresh grapes and vines. Upon the sniff of the nose, the immediate fragrance from the Hennessy V.S.O.P is soft with spices such as: vanilla, clove and cinnamon followed by toasted notes arising from the maturation in oak barrels. The Hennessy X.O is the most festive and appreciated of them all with flavours of candied fruit and its subtle and lightly spicy nose create a complete harmony. To taste, a smooth, velvety, full sensation gives a simultaneously powerful and soft tonality with a hint of cocoa and a warm fruity presence. The long finish expresses all the complexity of the cognac’s art of blending and its long aging process.

As part of our exclusive 1LOVETO interview with Mr. Cyrille Gautier-Auriol, we got the inside scoop of his all time favourite Hennessy cocktail that only his team knows about, and well, now we do. What is it exactly? It’s called the Hennessy Paris, which consists of either Hennessy V.S. or Hennessy V.S.O.P with triple sec and lime juice. According to Gautier-Auriol, it’s originally called “Zyka”.

In addition, to gaining a new found appreciation for the art of blending and indulging Hennessy Cognac, Gautier-Auriol gave us the approval with 1LOVETO’s concept of the art of blending through music and culture with our on-going Hennessy and Artistry events. “So, if music continues to revolve, Hennessy’s market will revolve as well. That’s why I can tell you that Hennessy Artistry is a good idea. Basically, Hennessy and the relation with the music will stay a long, long time.” According to Mr. Gautier-Auriol himself, when one gravitates toward a Hennessy Cognac, it is because one enjoys themself, one is happy with themself, and with the people which they are around. In short, this is why he says, “Hennessy blends with life.”

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Hennessy V.S is considered the “Champion of the World” when it comes to the preferred cognac. What gives it its title?
It is the “Champion of the World”— it’s the best well known and the most consumed quality cognac around the world, specifically in North America. In Ireland we are huge for a small country; we are very well known, very appreciated by the Irish people. Hennessy Cognac is an Irish name and the Hennessy family immigrated a long time ago in France and that’s when they created their company in 1765. So Hennessy V.S in Ireland is very strong, also in Eastern countries of Europe. There’s also a new image and huge market in Africa with five markets and two dominant markets which are in: Nigeria and South Africa, where the V.S is very well represented and very well consumed.

Hennessy Black is said to be the preferred cognac for mixed beverages. Do you agree? If so, why is that?
Yes, Hennessy Black is a cognac which is a contemporary cognac. It has been created by the current master blender of Hennessy. Hennessy has a lot of culture and heritage and the master blender, Fillioux, is the seventh generation of the same family. So, we’ve noticed, especially in North America, that the Hennessy Cognac product of spirits was consumed in the nightlife with bar lounges. So Mr. Fillioux proposed a blend which is floral and fruity which means it’s not passing through a deep blend of woody structures and colour, so Hennessy Black is a pale colour but floral and fruity. The goal was to make this contemporary cognac to mix with everything: with Red Bull, with Coke, with Orange Juice, with Cranberry. And if you question me about what I love with Hennessy Black, it’s with ice cubes and the cranberry fruit. Why cranberry? Because the fruit itself is acidic and it’s paired less with the V.S tradition which is woody and spicy, so the floral and fruity note is much better and this is why I prefer to blend with Black instead of V.S. Black is very much a contemporary cognac for the nightlife; for the people who want to drink and to be seen with something that is quite different than the current options like vodka and tequila. So you make a difference in choosing something a little bit more unusual, and with a brand such as Hennessy.

Hennessy X.O is proven to be the favourite amongst the other two cognacs because it’s blended with over 100 eaux-de-vie (water of life) and aged for about 30 years. How would you justify it being the most favoured of the three?
Yes. Hennessy has a huge, huge, stock of eaux-de-vie batches and eaux-de-vie is an unblended cognac. Cognac is the result of many eaux-de-vie which has been matured more or less for a long or short amount of time— depending on its potential. The master blender and tasting committee choose the batch to make the Hennessy cognac branch quality and so with the X.O, the selection is made with 100 different batches aged at roughly 30 year’s old. The Hennessy X.O is a fantastic, high-end cognac made with 100 different batches, and when I say 100 it’s more or less what we call “the art of blending” from one year to another or from one blend to another of the same quality. The Hennessy X.O is beautiful in taste and has notes of dark chocolate, toffee, candied fruit, cinnamon, cloves and cigar leaves. This is what we call the complexity in the cognac. The palate releases from the spices and the texture is velvety. We’re close to Christmas time and it’s perfect.

The Hennessy XO was originally created for the personal use of friends and relations of the Hennessy family in 1870. When did this change and become public?
At the beginning it was very discreet and respondent to the need of the family and friends but very soon after, through the archives we discovered that from 1971, the first shipment was in the United States. XO, though it’s something exceptional, it’s a super premium brand and a high-end quality cognac. Hennessy X.O was the only cognac available on the market for more or less 100 years. Because it was apart of the Hennessy DNA, the gene of Hennessy X.O was very creative. The idea of the Hennessy X.O bottle is engraved in grapes and vines to remind the consumers that Hennessy Cognac is in fact, made with grapes and vines. It’s very much important because many, many, many consumers don’t know that we are made in Cognac located in the middle of Southwest France. They know that cognac products are consumed all around the world but they don’t know for instance that in the Cognac region there’s a city called Cognac as well. So, that’s very much important to deliver the message that we come from a small region where God decided for us. Sometimes we have good harvest, sometimes there’s very bad harvest so we need to compose all the time the decision of the sky.

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Where do you see the future of Hennessy going? Do you seeing it remaining the same or do you see some changes possibly happening?
To be honest, I’ve been travelling around the world for Hennessy and it’s a very promising brand for the future. I had dinner here last night at the Old Mill with a group of young professionals and I’ve realized that Hennessy is a great, great name and consumers love our style of cognac, which is a different style than others, and also the culture and heritage of the brand fascinates consumers who love and are enthusiastic drinkers of our cognac. So honestly, it’s not a secret, Hennessy cognac and the board of Hennessy has ambitions for the near future to become the number one players with the spirits in terms of value, not necessary in terms of volume, but in terms of value. This means we will work more and more toward the quality to enjoy the palates of millions and millions of fans of Hennessy but also to create something different in order to seduce the consumers by new ideas of how to promote and upgrade. Last night with a group of young adults was purely the best example. There is no reason why Hennessy will not be a well-known brand and more and more so in the future, I’m very much confident. Specifically in Canada, due to the system of distribution (which is not so much free), with the control of the states, the job of how our team and the brand ambassadors here today are working is totally unbelievable. I never thought they would achieve such a performance today and it’s not finished.

1LOVETO is a proud supporter and brand ambassador of Hennessy Cognac and we hold multiple Hennessy and Artistry events, which are fitting because Hennessy is said to “blend with life,” and we hold such events to focus on blending music and culture as an outlet for talents in the community. Do you see Hennessy providing more support and sponsorships for collaborative events such as this?
For sure, Hennessy and Artistry is a good concept and we need to always improve, of course, because the World changes. This comes back to Hennessy’s creativity which is apart of our I.D. and of course we will make an evolution of this program which is absolutely fantastic. It makes pure sense between the blend of pure creation with the music, the DJs and the singers. We can’t speak only of the modern music which is the rap today, the hip-hop and the RnB, because Hennessy since a long time ago, especially in North America, Hennessy started with the classical music and after it moved to jazz and after that we served to the trendy music like hip-hop and RnB. So, if music continues to revolve, Hennessy’s market will revolve as well. That’s why I can tell you that Hennessy Artistry is a good idea. Basically, Hennessy and the relation with the music will stay a long, long time.

If you had to explain Hennessy in one word, or one phrase, what would it be?
In terms of quality from Hennessy V.S, V.S.O.P, and X.O, I would qualify them to be very well balanced and very well harmonious with one another. My motto today is the more you appreciate, the more you know how to appreciate and that’s very much what my job is. To educate people and to drive people to discover something that’s an experience for them. Also I would say, Hennessy is a pleasure and an enjoyment with indulgence.

Posted by Christina Cheng

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Games Night With Robert Mondavi

If there’s one thing that everybody loves, it’s ‘games night’!

Earlier this fall @1LOVETO partnered with @iYellowWineClub & @RobertMondaviPS to host a good old fashioned ‘games night’, in the exclusive iYellow Wine Cave. We invited a few of our closest friends for a night of wine tasting, hors d’oeuvres, music, and good company. The Jenga games were hilarious, while Connect 4, Chinese Checkers, Monopoly and Domino’s were fiercely competitive. Watch the video to see what went down!

Who’s ready for Games Night Round 2??!!

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Follow @1LOVETO #GamesNight

CONTEST: Win A Whistler Getaway For 2!

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We’re super excited to announce the launch of the Adventure Series campaign with Bench. Canada! Bench. Canada is challenging YOU to an adventure! We Dare YOU to #Adventurewithus on a #BenchAdventure photo challenge for a chance to win a Whistler getaway for 2!

ENTER CONTEST

STEP 1:
Enter by following @BenchCanada on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and re-post the image below to accept the challenge!

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STEP 2:
Participate by posting your interpretation of each photo challenge by using #BenchAdventure and #AdventureWithUs.

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PHOTO CHALLENGE DATES:
NOVEMBER 3rd – Today’s #AdventureWithUs photo challenge is #NoComfortZones

NOVEMBER 6th – Photo challenge is #LiveFree

*Contest ends November 9th, 2014.

Previously: Joe Rockhead’s Indoor Rock Climbing Adventure With Bench. Canada

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As we get older our natural inclination towards fun activities and adventure doesn’t diminish, instead, what diminishes is the time and energy we can put towards unadulterated fun. Who doesn’t pass by a mini putt course and have strong urges to play a quick 18? Who doesn’t come across a wave pool and wish they had packed trunks in their briefcase? Fact is, as we transition into adulthood it is important to remember to make time to be a kid, or at least act like one as often as possible. Put down your phone and don’t answer that text because including fun in your life is as important or more important than work.

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Bench Canada invited us out to Joe Rockhead’s as a reintroduction to the importance of adventure. We got a chance to experience something completely new for us – rock climbing. For those who have never tried rock climbing, we can promise you this; the challenge is real. No matter your fitness level there is a wall for you. From beginner walls to advanced walls you will find yourself using muscles that have probably been in hibernation since the day of your birth. Also, for those of us with a competitive side, getting to the top of a wall is as satisfying as it gets. Do yourself a favour. Watch Cliff Hanger with Sylvester Stallone then head over to Joe Rockhead’s for some fun!

We look forward to more opportunities for adventure with @BenchCanada in the #MyBenchAdventure series. In the meantime, we’ll be making time for new adventures everyday. Stepping away from the daily grind for at least a couple hours and just having fun. We suggest you do the same!

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Posted by Jesse Ingalls

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Monday Nights just got a whole lot more interesting! The 6th Man Collective and The Theatre Centre present “Monday Nights”, an interactive theatrical performance focused on basketball. The idea comes from creators/performers Byron Abalos, Colin Doyle, Darrel Gamotin, Richard Lee and Jeff Yung. The story line is based on the summer of 2008, when five guys came together on Toronto’s famous ball court at Queen’s Quay and Bathurst. Religiously, every Monday night, they stayed until the lights turned off. They didn’t come to watch. They didn’t come to pray. They came to play!

The show runs Thursday-Monday, from Sept 5-20th at The Theatre Centre located at 1115 Queen St. West. For tickets call the box office at 416-538-0988 or BUY ONLINE (Limited seating available)

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Photos by Dahlia Katz

For more info: 6thmancollective.wordpress.com

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Discover Your City!

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Earlier this summer we selected five of our ‘potentialist places’ that highlight areas in the city where we find inspiration through healthy living, fashion and style, music, reading and food/cooking. We also asked YOU our readers to give us some of your ‘potentialist places’ and your suggestions didn’t go unnoticed… Discover your city with American Express Canada!

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MAP #INSPIREDBY

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Research, commissioned by American Express, reveals we have a strong desire to discover the places we live in and almost everyone (98%) believes exploring our home towns or cities helps us live our lives to the fullest.

Here’s a shortlist of some of YOUR favourite spots in Toronto to be #InspiredBy:

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1. Allan Gardens
2. West Don Lands
3. Toronto Island
4. Casa Loma
5. Kensington Market

The journey doesn’t stop here! There will always be new and undiscovered places in the city to be #InspiredBy.

Previously: 5 Places In Toronto That We’re Inspired By

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Toronto Frosh Festival 2014

It’s that time of year again… Back To School… and that can only mean one thing… Toronto Frosh Festival!!!

For a second year in a row, on Sunday, September 7th, Toronto’s Echo Beach will be transformed into one massive outdoor festival, with over 15,000 people ready to party. This year’s line-up features A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Mob, Carnage, Dzeko & Torres, Joe Ghost and many more. Don’t miss out on your chance to be a part of Toronto Frosh Festival history!

TICKETS AVAILABLE HERE

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EVENT DETAILS
When: Sunday, September 7th, 2014
Where: Echo Beach
Time: 3 – 11 PM
Ages: 16+ (with a 19+ licensed area)

Follow @1LOVETO #TorontoFroshFestival

Sail-In Cinema

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Sail-In Cinema kicks off tonight with another outdoor movie experience at Sugar Beach. You can stick to dry land or watch from the water with Sail-In Cinema’s double-sided screen floating in the water. The event is entirely free, but we suggest you get there early to get a good seat! Tonight’s movie is none other than the classic JAWS (how fitting, lol). The following night is Jurassic Park followed with E.T. on the 16th. Enjoy!

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We hope you got the chance to enjoy the inaugural 4-day Taste of Toronto festival, sponsored by American Express Canada! From Thursday July 24 to Sunday July 27th, Fort York was transformed into a foodie heaven, with specialty menus from some of Toronto’s best restaurants, top local chefs, Q&As, interactive cooking classes, tasting sessions, and more.

If you’re an Amex Cardmember there’s a good chance you got to experience a few of the perks that Taste of Toronto had to offer. For example, with a flash of our Amex Card we were escorted past the main line up to the VIP priority entrance. The time we saved by not waiting in line allowed us to start taste testing before anyone else!

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After checking out a few of our favourite spots like Momofuku, Shocka Coconut Hub, Barque Smokehouse, and Splendido, we decided to take a break at the exclusive Amex VIP Lounge. The lounge offered comfortable seating under a giant tent (which provided some much needed shade on Saturday) with a variety of snacks and complimentary water for each guest.

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After a quick recharge in the Amex Lounge we made our way to our reserved seats (courtesy of Amex) at the Taste Theatre, to watch Christina Tosi, chef and owner of Toronto’s Momofuku Milk Bar. Let’s just say we learned a thing or two about cooking, lol.

If you like attending events such as Taste of Toronto, Amex Cardmembers get access to presale tickets, plus exclusive VIP perks that help to make an unforgettable experience. As proud Amex Ambassadors, we can tell you firsthand how exciting it is to get the VIP experience at every event!
We can’t wait for next year!

Tweet us your favourite photos from the festival using @1LOVETO @Amexcanada @TasteOfToronto #DinewithAmex #TasteofToronto

CONTEST: The Hundred Foot Journey

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Inspired by the film, “The Hundred Foot Journey” the Me.n.u food truck is giving away free poutine, daily, at various locations around the city. To find out where the truck is stationed each day follow @meNuFoodTruck. When you get there, tell them that @1LOVETO sent you to grab your FREE tickets to the advance screening of the film this Wednesday, August the 6th. We only have 10 sets of tickets to give away!

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Recently I got the chance to attend another exclusive Amex experience at the BMW Summer Advanced Driver Training event. As an Amex Ambassador and Platinum Cardmember , I was 1 of 14 lucky individuals who spent the day test driving the new 2014 BMW 435i and 435xDrive as part of Amex’s Business Platinum Cardmember Experience.

The day started at 8 am at The Toronto Congress Centre with breakfast snacks and an introduction from race car driver Philippe Letourneau. We spent the first half of the morning getting expert in-class training before we hit the road. In the words of Drake… “I go 0-100 real quick”, 4.8 seconds to be exact. Speed wasn’t the focus of this driver training event, instead we learned the fundamentals of confident, safe driving, while still exploring the limits of vehicle control.

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I did everything from emergency braking, intense understeering and oversteering techniques, drifting, and I even managed to get competitive in the driver team challenge. I ended up with the fastest lap time, but I hit 1 pylon which knocked me out of first place. No matter how you did in the challenge everyone was a winner, as we all successfully earned our BMW Advanced Driver Training certificate.

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If you love cars, and want an unforgettable experience or you just want to learn how to be a better driver, I’d encourage you to become a Platinum Cardmember and register for the next session. You won’t regret it!

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InspiredBy-Amex

In a city as big as Toronto we sometimes get stuck in our comfort zone and forget to explore what the rest of the city has to offer. A recent study commissioned by American Express, reveals more than half (53%) of Canadians feel stuck in their comfort zone, and almost everyone (98% of respondents) believe exploring our home towns or cities helps us live a more enriched life.

Toronto is filled with so much potential, not only the people, but the places. At 1 LOVE T.O. we constantly get the chance to explore and be #InspiredBy the different places throughout our city.

We’ve selected 5 of our ‘potentials places’ that highlight areas in the city where we get inspired through healthy living, fashion and style, music, reading and food/cooking.

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1. Healthy Living: When it comes to clearing our minds and taking a break from the daily grind, while staying healthy and active, we head over to High Park to hike the trails. You can’t help but be inspired when you’re surrounded by mother nature.

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2. Fashion: If you’re anything like us, we love to people watch! On any given day you can pull up a chair, or find a spot on the giant rock in Yorkville Park and you’ll see all different types of style. Summertime is the best time to get inspired by this place.

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3. Music: There’s something special about watching a concert outdoors! We’ve always been inspired by live music at the Molson Amphitheatre, especially in recent years with the now iconic OVO Fest. Seeing artists from Toronto like Drake, Kardinal and The Weeknd share the same stage as Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Eminem, TLC, Stevie Wonder, (the list goes) is nothing but inspirational.

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4. Reading: Believe it or not, we love to read on the Subway and/or Streetcar. Passing the time on your daily commute gets a whole lot better when you’re reading an incredible book.

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5. Food: Shopping for food is almost as much fun as eating! Wandering around St. Lawrence Market has always been something we enjoy. Seeing the different types of food, people and the history of that building is all inspiring to us.

We want you to help us ‘realize the potential’ of Toronto by telling us your favourite places and hidden gems that provide you with inspiration?! Tweet your suggestions to @1LOVETO & @AmexCanada using the hash-tag #InspiredBy or leave a comment below.