Hennessy: A Timeline of the World’s Renowned Cognac
In the 250-year life of the Hennessy’s, the liquor’s keepers have managed their phenomenal craftsmanship in the story of cognac. Today, the Maison remains undefeated as it becomes one of the world’s top-selling high-end cognac brands.
by Mobiliari Team
Hennessy is no doubt a famous choice for cognac novices and experts alike while making a global mark and taking the crown for its unrivaled spirits. From music lyrics and video clips to the tables of ladies and gentlemen, Hennessy has certainly been pleasing lovers of the spirit around the globe.
While generations may have enjoyed this finest cognac over its centuries-long existence, very few know the story behind the brand. Here are things you should know about Hennessy, and how it has become widely known ever since.
A Heritage that Has Stood the Test of Time
It all began with the ambitious man, Richard Hennessy, who hails from Ireland. Serving the officer from the reign of King Louis XV, he foresaw the extraordinary potential of cognac’s eaux-de-vie as international goods. Fueled with ambition and determination, Richard established the House on his own in 1765, which has since flourished into the unequaled and unwavering success the brand stands for today.
Passion on family business, his first son James Hennessy followed the inspiring true story of his father’s fight in establishing a thriving business, as they had seen massive success. Not only did he expand the company overseas, but James also laid the foundation for the brand’s international presence today.
The journey continued when Richard named Jean Fillioux as the first Hennessy Master Blender in 1806. A fruitful friendship developed, followed by eight generations of Fillioux who contributed to the long-term company’s success, especially in the designations of cognac aging system.
With an impeccable reputation for quality and craftsmanship, the House of Hennessy has always strived to become the most innovative cognac maker. In 1865, Maurice Hennessy, great-grandson of Richard Hennessy, invented the main aging grades of cognac by exposure – stars, age, designations – as to distinguish quality in cognac. Maurice was also the first to export cognac in labeled glass bottles namely the original X.O. in 1870, and a blend unchanged ever since.
The Craft Spirit Expert
Hennessy is the epitome of an artisan cognac house. From the vineyards to the bottle finishes, the family and all its liquor keepers are truly dedicated to both what they do and to the complexities of growing and distilling in the finest ways among its key offerings.
To ensure the excellence and variety of its aromas, each step in the production process must adhere to strict guidelines specified by French regulations. This involves the authorization of nine types of grapes used such as Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, Folignan, Jurançon Blanc, Meslier St-François, Motils, Sélect and Sémillon to the origin of the oak used for the barrels.
The House of Hennessy distills its cognac from Ugni Blanc, prevailing the dominant grape variety used in the Cognac region. Thanks to its acidic, dry and lightweight characters, this variety yields a wine that produces fine and well-balanced eaux-de-vie.
To produce the sense of eaux-de-vie, the distillation process takes place twice in traditional Charentais copper pots, better known as the alambic, thus making it traditional clear, unsweetened fruit brandy taste. As limpid as the mountain spring water, it only obtains its golden color once it has been aged in oak barrels for at least two years.
After distilling, the eaux-de-vie is stored and raised in casks made with oak wood from the Limousin forest in France. Each eau-de-vie demands years of labor, as well as rotations between different barrels, so that it can reach its full complexity. As the cognac interacts with the cask and air and loses both alcohol and water, it is now ready to be transferred to glass carboys and stored before getting into the blending process. Throughout this aging period, the casks are sampled with a glass vial by the Master Blender until reaching its optimal level and ready to be blended. In the end, the Master Blender carefully selects the matured eaux-de-vie, evaluating the character of each and every drop of it.
The Master Blender
The alternating climate and temperature of the seasons take control over the quality of Hennessy’s eaux-de-vie. To keep it consistent, the Tasting Committee led by the Master Blender is in charge of replicating the taste of Hennessy cognac year after year.
For nearly two centuries, the Hennessy has entrusted the Fillioux family with its cognacs, and Renaud Fillioux de Gironde is now on board to handle all the tasks of the Master Blender. Each year he selects the most promising eaux-de-vie to become part of the Hennessy reservoir. Together with other members of the revered Tasting Committee, they analyze the taste of every single eaux-de-vie aging in the Hennessy cellars and oversee their maturation process until all is ready for release as a cognac.
Candidates of the Hennessy Tasting Committee are required to have had a decade of observation before joining the board. They are not only learning how to taste the cognac but also mastering a wide range of different references of the Maison.
After all, it is in the Master Blender’s hand the quality and taste control remain consistent and authentic. With this constant pursuit, passion and precision, the Maison Hennessy has inevitably become the world’s largest cognac producer, making it the top-selling cognac brand worldwide that stands the test of time.