It’s about all the things you’ve always wondered about making cognac, and the Hennessy V.S.O.P in particular
Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège, first and foremost, is a balanced, universal cognac delivering absolute consistency for 200 years. The emotion awakened by the pleasure of tasting it continually reveals new facets of its personality, as this unique blend has embody the original concept of cognac. From the selection of eaux-de-vie, aging and assemblage, it’s safe to say that the savoir-faire of the House Hennessy is fully expressed in this balanced cognac.
How Is It Made?
To be precise, cognac is a particular variety of brandy—a class of spirits that is distilled from grape wine or the fermented juice of other fruits (e.g. apples or pears)—and is named after the region where the grapes are grown in France. Yes, you read that right, there’s only one place to where cognac is made and that’s Cognac.
It all starts with the grapes that must come from this small region in France. On top of that, it must be one of these nine varieties of grapes, namely Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Folle Blanche, Folignan, Jurançon Blanc, Meslier St-François, Motils, Sélect and Sémillon. On that note, the soil in Cognac is a perfect match for the aforementioned Ugni Blanc, the main variety Hennessy makes cognac with. It is acidic, dry and thin and, when distilled, makes for fine and well-balanced eaux-de-vie. In short, it produces wine perfect for distillation.
The distillation process takes place in traditional Charantais copper pots. In order to produce eaux-de-vie —a colorless alcohol and French for “water of life”—two distillations must be carried out. At this stage, the eaux-de-vie is completely transparent and, to the naked eye, resembles water. It only obtains its golden color once it’s kept in oak barrels for at least two years. Hence, each eaux-de-vie has its own unique character when distilled.
The next part is arguably the most important. Why? Because selecting the finest eaux-de-vie is the secret to crafting the best cognac. See, cognac is a blend of many different eaux-de-vie. This means that it can be composed of over a hundred eaux-de-vie of different ages and crus that are made by a variety of distillers. In short, this ensures that cognac has ample aromatic diversity.
This is the part where the artisans come in. Currently, Master Blender Renaud Fillioux de Gironde is the showrunner of Hennessy’s cognac. Each year, the Master Blender selects the most promising eaux-de-vie to become part of the Hennessy reserve. He then patiently oversees their maturation until they are ready to be blended into exceptional cognacs.
Interestingly, unlike with other spirits, aging is not the only factor that matters in the quality of cognac, because at the end of the day, only a meticulously selected blend of fine eaux-de-vie makes for a distinct, superior cognac. After that, the Master Blender and the Tasting Committee determine its potential, how long it needs to age and which blends it will eventually become part of. However, it should be noted that the Master Blender is the only person who knows when an eaux-de-vie has reached its tipping point, which is basically the moment when an eaux-de-vie reaches its optimal aging and is ready to be blended.
Furthermore, in order to be included in cognac, each eaux-de-vie must be aged and matured in oak barrels for a certain amount of time. This is because cognacs are distinguished from one another by their aging designations, which refer to the youngest component in the blend. For instance, the eaux-de-vie in X.O, or “Extra-Old,” have aged for at least ten years. On the other hand, V.S stands for “very special,” aged for two years minimum and also V.S.O.P, which stands for “very superior old pale,” aged for four years minimum.
Taste of the Very Superior
Hennessy V.S.O.P exemplifies the Hennessy style of cognac making as well as one of the most favorite cognac ever from the House. So, what does this cognac taste like? The flamboyant mahogany hue with light tones evokes the aroma of fresh fruit after it is opened. There is an unmistakable mix flavors from juicy fruits, vanilla and spices, followed by mild tobacco. Such a beautiful aroma makes for enticing foreplay preceding a rich oral experience which, on the palate, translates to airy and fresh. It takes more than one or two sips to completely appreciate the complexity of the Hennessy V.S.O.P.
To top it all off, Hennessy V.S.O.P can also be made to different cocktails, as well as a versatile accompaniment for a wide range of delectable culinary delicacies. All in all, with its consistency and vitality, this cognac transposes all of the savoir faire of the Master Blenders at the House of Hennessy who have ensured the continued success of this balanced and harmonious assemblage for 200 years.
All images are ©Hennessy-Alain Benoit; Antoine Bagot; Gabriel de la Chapelle
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