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August 06, 2021

How Maison Hennessy Became the World's Most Popular Cognac

A leader in cognac, Maison Hennessy has shined around the world with exceptional know-how for 250 years. Based in the heart of the Charente region in France, Hennessy is the crown jewel of the renowned LVMH house. Their cognacs are each a result of centuries of tradition and knowledge passed down from generation to generation.

This has made Hennessy the world’s best selling cognac. But what is it about Hennessy that sets it apart from the other cognacs of the world? The answer lies in precision and dedication, across all stages. From the moment the grapes are picked to the first sip in your glass, every detail is paid attention to. 

An Irishman in France

But before we go into how Hennessy cognac is made, let’s take a quick look at its origins. Richard Hennessy, an Irishman from an aristocratic family, travelled to France to fight for Louis XV’s army. When his service ended, he founded the House of Hennessy in 1765. What was originally an eaux-de-vie trading company, Hennessy soon began its 250 year legacy of producing high-quality cognac. 

Since then, Hennessy has continued to evolve and push the boundaries. Producing a variety of cognacs, they help people around the world achieve unique tasting moments. Whether you want to enjoy it neat, on the rocks, mixed into a cocktail, or paired with your favorite food, there’s a Hennessy for everyone. 

How is Hennessy Cognac Made

Hennessy starts production the same any winemaker would - with quality vineyards. Located in Cognac, France, Hennessy grows up to 750,000 hectares of Ugni grape vineyards. A late maturing varietal, these grapes strike the perfect balance between high acidity and a low alcohol content. Every year they are harvested at full ripeness, the grapes are pressed, and the juice is turned into wine. 

From here, the wine undergoes a double distillation process to transform it into eaux-de-vie. Precision here is key and a double distillation is vital. During the first distillation, a raw spirit called brouillis is produced but it’s in the second where a higher alcohol content spirit is created. From this, only the “heart” - a clear, colorless liquid - is saved. This is the eaux-de-vie: the basis of every Hennessy cognac. 

Each eaux-de-vie produced is then aged in oak barrels, where flavors and colors are exchanged. This stage takes years and several rotations between barrels to achieve the desired complexity of flavor. At any time, the Hennessy Reserve has 350,000 barrels of eaux-de-vie stored in 65 cellars. This makes it one of the largest collections of eaux-de-vie in the world. However, to ensure everything is up to Hennessy standards, the official Tasting Committee and the Master Blender meet everyday at 11:00 a.m. to taste each eaux-de-vie. One by one they decide which ones will remain in the barrels for aging and those that don’t meet quality standards should be removed. Those that are selected to remain will then be tasted once a year to ensure they mature well. 

The next step is blending. Each Hennessy cognac is made up of a careful blend of eaux-de-vie selected by the Master Blender to create the signature Hennessy cognac. Once blended, the liquid may once again be aged. Once it’s achieved the ideal complexity of flavors, the cognac is bottled and sent across the world for all of us to enjoy.

Different Styles of Hennessy Cognac

Producing a variety of styles with different price points, there is a bottle of Hennessy for any occasion. Whether you’re looking to wind-down after a long day, enjoy a casual drink with friends and family, or celebrate an anniversary, you can find the perfect bottle. 

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Hennessy VS

Hennessy VS is perhaps one of the most popular bottles in the world - it’s also one of Winery.ph’s best-selling Hennessy products. The VS stands for Very Special, which in the case of cognac means that the youngest cognac in the blend must be at least 2 years old. This also means that it’s the most affordable of the Hennessy collection, but that doesn’t mean it lacks any flavor (it wouldn’t be a best-seller if it did). When you pour Hennessy VS into your glass you’ll experience initial aromas of french toast and roasted almonds followed by brown sugar and vine fruit. On the palate, there’s a rich and creamy vanilla flavor with a fresh floral finish.

Hennessy VSOP

The next in the Hennessy range is Hennessy VSOP (Very Special / Superior Old Pale). Unlike in the VS, the youngest cognac in the VSOP blend must be at least 4 years old. Thanks to longer maturation in oak barrels you’ll experience more complex flavors in the Hennessy VSOP. Savor the mature notes of fresh fruit and eaux-de-vie followed by spice and deep vanilla notes with undertones of tobacco. 

Hennessy XO 

Hennessy XO was first created in 1870 by Maurice Hennessy. Originally intended to be enjoyed by his circle of friends, it quickly became a popular style of cognac across the world. The blend includes over 100 eaux-de-vie that are previously aged up to 30 years (a minimum of 10 years) and then blended together in carefully selected barrels. This produces a beautifully complex palate. At first you’ll be warmly embraced by flavors of candied fruit with a distinct peppery note, hints of chocolate, wood, and vanilla. This is the style that you should reserve for sipping neat or on the rocks. 

That being said, we think all Hennessy cognacs are enjoyable straight. For the best experience, use a snifter which will catch all of the delicate aromas in the glass, especially if you’re drinking it straight. If you’re looking to make a brand-based cocktail such as a B&B or a Sidecar, we think Hennessy VS is the perfect option. 

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Drink responsibly. In partnership with Moët Hennessy Philippines Inc.