The Hennessy brand has been around for nearly three centuries now. Though their label reads “modern,” their recipes and production methods have been refined for ages.
The brand was first created by an Irishman named Richard Hennessy. He was born in 1724 to an aristocratic family in County Cork, a region located in the southwest of Ireland. After moving to continental Europe and fighting for Louis XV in the army, he founded Hennessy in 1765. He aimed to build an elegant spirits company targeted toward the upper class.
For about eight generations, Hennessy was primarily run by just two families. Despite their small team, Hennessy became the face of Cognac and distinguished itself as one of the top producers in the world.
Today, Hennessy is considered one of the “big four” of Cognac. The list includes Hennessy, Courvoisier, Remy Martin, and Martell. When most people think of Cognac, they think of Hennessy. In fact, this company produces nearly half of the world’s supply of Cognac.
Just like wine, the price of Cognac from Hennessy can vary greatly. The cheapest bottle of Hennessy you can purchase will run you about $35. Meanwhile, the most expensive bottles can reach up to $5,000.
Hennessy designates products with specific flavor profiles for particular markets around the world. But for the most part, this drink is bold, nutty, and a bit spicy. It has a 40% ABV, so expect some kick in your drink. This drink provides complexity and a flavor that is unique and refreshing. Continue reading below with Saucey for a brief guide on how to drink Hennessy.
What makes it cognac?
First, it is essential to gather background knowledge on Cognac and learn what this spirit entails. For a spirit to be considered Cognac, it must meet specific legal standards.
Cognac’s legal requirements
First of all, Cognac is a type of brandy made from white wine. It is made in an area near Cognac, France, and it must be made in this region to carry the Cognac name. The spirit is produced specifically in the wine-growing region that surrounds Cognac.
Cognac is distilled twice in copper pot stills and is aged in French oak casks for at least two years. However, most Cognacs are matured for a longer duration than the legal minimum. The oak of the barrel plays a huge role in developing the brandy’s nutty, toasty taste. It helps bring out those classic fruit, vanilla, and spice notes.
These are the legal requirements of how Cognac is made. But there are also some cultural rules in drinking Cognac.
Cultural norms surrounding cognac
For one, Cognac is usually enjoyed straight. Though many people serve their Cognac on the rocks or in cocktails, it is traditionally sipped plain.
There are also several different styles of Cognac, usually differentiated by how long it was aged. If you go to your local liquor store and browse through the selection of Cognacs, you’ll likely see the acronyms “VS,” “VSOP,” and “XO” on some of the bottles.
“VS” stands for “Very Special,” “VSOP” stands for “Very Superior Old Pale,” and “XO” stands for “Extra Old.” VS Cognacs are aged for at least two years, VSOP Cognacs are aged for at least four years, and XO Cognacs are aged at least six years.
The different styles of hennessy
The most popular style of Hennessy is the Hennessy VS, which, according to the brand, is “the world’s most popular Cognac.” It consists of fresh fruit notes like grape and citrus, vanilla, toasted almonds, and creme brulée. It is the most affordable style of Cognac that the brand offers, which might explain its popularity.
There’s the Black Cognac from Hennessy, a distinctively smooth, elegant spirit moving up the list. It is known for its classy presentation, sporting a shiny, black bottle covered in silver lettering.
Then, you have the brand’s VSOP Cognac. This revered drink scored 87 points out of 100 in a rating from Wine Enthusiasts. Its palate is smooth but still strong. It’s a perfect drink to sip on after a high-quality meal.
Heading into the $100 and up category, we have Hennessy’s XO Cognac. This finely crafted spirit contains a blend of over 100 Eaux-de-vie, giving it a beautiful, amber hue. Just looking at this bottle gives off a feeling of luxury. In terms of taste, the XO Cognac is rich and robust, delivering a myriad of toasty, cinnamony notes.
Picking a cognac glass
Now that you’ve got some background knowledge on Hennessy, you’re ready to start drinking. The first step is to pick a glass.
Cognac is typically served in a tumbler glass or tulip glass. If you prefer to sip your Cognac on the rocks, use a tumbler glass. If sipping neat, use a tulip glass.
If you’re fortunate enough to get your hands on some XO Hennessy, definitely use a tulip-shaped glass. It’ll allow the aromas of the drink to rise up to your nose in a streamlined fashion, ensuring that you can enjoy all the scent notes of a complex drink like XO Cognac. It also looks super fancy.
Once you get to the XO level of Hennessy, it’s best to drink it neat. Considering how long it’s been aged, you really want to appreciate the depth of its flavor. Don’t waste quality Cognac on a cheap cocktail (although, of course, you can always drink Hennessy however you’d like).
After you’ve poured up your drink, you can also add some cold water to your Cognac to help uncover its aromas. When water makes contact with alcohol, it creates a sort of explosion between the molecules, allowing the smell of the drink to become even more intense.
The Hand-warming effect
When drinking Hennessy, you want to be conscious of the temperature your glass is at. Many people enjoy sipping Hennessy on the rocks. However, there is actually a great benefit in sipping it neat.
When your glass is at room temperature, and you’re holding it in your hand, your drink begins to heat up from the warmth of your palm. In effect, this action releases very delicate notes from the Cognac that would otherwise be unnoticeable.
Pour up your Hennessy and hold the glass in the palm of your hand. After about eight to ten minutes, you’ll notice the taste and aromas begin to build.
Some people look down on using Cognac in mixed drinks, but we’re of the mindset that you can enjoy your Hennessy however you’d like to. And these days, the use of Hennessy in cocktails is becoming more common.
One very easy recipe you can make is the Hennessy Margarita, a spin on the classic tequila-based cocktail. To make it, mix Hennessy with aged tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice. Garnish it with a lime wedge and serve on the rocks.
You can also try a Sidecar. This cocktail consists of Hennessy, orange liqueur, lemon juice, and orange wedges or sugar as a garnish. To create a sugar rim garnish, coat the rim of the glass with sugar until the top of the top is fully white. Use a drop of water to make it stick.
Or how about the Old Fashioned? This recipe is slightly more complicated than the past two, but it’s still easy to make. For your base, use Hennessy. And for flavoring, use orange bitters, angostura bitters, and demerara syrup.
To make demerara syrup:
- Mix a cup of demerara sugar and water together in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir until the sugar is dissolved and remove from heat.
- Allow it to cool down before using.
Whichever Hennessy cocktail you choose, we’re sure that you’ll enjoy it immensely.
With centuries of history behind it, Hennessy has solidified itself in the spirit industry; possibly, forever. It is hard to imagine another Cognac brand competing with the giant that is Hennessy. Its depth of flavor, cultural significance, and reasonable pricing make it a go-to drink for any occasion.
Cognac from Hennessy is extremely versatile as well. It can be served in a nightclub or bar or enjoyed on a comfortable night at home with a friend or significant other. There’s no wrong time to enjoy some Hennessy.
Here’s a fun fact about the company: New York rapper and cultural icon Nas is a brand ambassador. This drink’s influence on hip-hop music has been apparent for decades. It remains a staple in the genre today.
Hennessy has also partnered with other influencers like the street artists and social activist Shepard Fairey, who designed a limited edition bottle of VS Cognac.
And when you decide you need to buy some more Hennessey, turn to Saucey to get it delivered.