There are few brands in the world with such a rich heritage like Hennessy. Its history stems from the Hennessy and Filoux families and how they collaborated, innovated and thrived. Eight generations later, the brand is what you see today. The best-selling cognac in the world uses eaux-de-vie (“water of life”) from the top four regions in Cognac, France using complex and precise processes that have been developed over the past hundreds of years.
The Cognac region will give you an exclusive glimpse into the making of this enchanting spirit. Upon arrival, you will be offered a glass of Hennessy XO in a new glass that was designed by the famed designer Thomas Bastide. Bastide has been working with Hennessy for the past 30 years and was once the creative director for Baccarat for 25 years.
Imagine this, 8th Generation Hennessy family member and brand ambassador Maurice Hennessy greeting you from our long journey!
You can start with a lunch at the Hennessy distillation plant. The room is very large with high ceilings. Barrels of Hennessy lined the walls and surrounded massive copper distilling apparatuses. The process is complicated: white grapes are gently pressed to obtain juice. Once the juice goes through a fermentation process, it is ready to be distilled to make eaux-de-vie. In the first distillation, white wine is poured into a boiler and heated so that alcohol vapors are released and then collected in the still head.
Next, the vapors go through the swan’s neck and continue into the condenser immersed in cold water. A cloudy liquid called “brouillis” (30% alcohol) is formed, the result of the first distillation. “Brouillis” goes through a second heating through the boiler resulting in “La Bonne Chauffe.” This spirit is collected and matured in French oak casks from the Limousin forests in central France for a minimum of two years. During this process, the liquid becomes a deep dark color and gets vanilla and coconut aromas from the wood.
Every morning at 11:30 AM, master blender Renaud Filloux meets with the tasting committee at the Grand Bureau of Degustation to select and blend the perfect Eaux-de-vie. They created extraordinary blends that represent the various blends and brands of Hennessy based on age, character, and power. Each year, they taste approximately 10,000 Eaux-de-vies and notate the characteristics creating a factual and emotional database.
You can always visit the countryside to see how the Hennessy Barrels are made. The barrel maker carefully places French Oak plants together in a ring and then places this over an open fire. The fire softens the wood so that it is shaped with greater ease. He places more rings around the barrel and pounds it in with a hammer, spats water around the barrel to dampen it, and must use ultimate precision to create this masterful work of art.
You can also experience an incredibly exclusive tasting experience of Hennessy Paradis Imperial. Located in the Hennessy Founder’s Cellar is a multi-sensory art installation by Marshmallow Laser Feast. There, you’ll see barrels of aging Hennessy in the rustic shack. The next room has an enchanting structure in the shape of a rough diamond surrounded by floating pieces of glass.
A bright light will begin to shine through the glass pieces projecting ethereal shadows on the walls of the simple and plain cellar. The stark contrast between this futuristic shiny art installation and the dusty rustic nature of the cellar created a truly mysterious and spellbinding experience. You could even order a glass of Hennessy Paradis Imperial to enhance your experience.
Hennessy Paradis Imperial is exquisitely refined and a blend of more than 100 Eaux-de-vie, aged for a minimum of 30 years. Its amber color reveals a nose of the freshness of the first flowers of the summer. A light smokiness echoes its distinct spices revealing a true form of expression. This blend can be compared to the precise yet delicate nature of a premier ballerina.
One of the highlights of the journey is the visit to the Hennessy bottling facility called Pont Neuf. This impressive structure is located in the countryside and features a seductive architecture facade. This 100 million Euro investment is located on 30 hectares of land with approximately 2.8 million square feature of space over two levels. With 24 million bottles being produced annually here, the facility only has about 70 employees at a time. 92% of waste is recycled and 40% less energy is consumed than a standard building. This is truly the building of the future and Hennessy takes pride in its sustainability and innovative environment work.
For more information visit Hennessy.
All images courtesy David Christopher Lee unless otherwise noted.