Hennessy Blends Time and Spirit

Take a trip through time with Hennessy to learn about 250-plus years of making incredible Cognac

Jan. 2022Written by Seth JosephPhotos provided by Hennessy

A row of Hennessy glasses filled with eau de vie
Master Blender Yann Fillioux leads Hennessy’s tasting committee in the Grand Bureau
Eau de vie in the distillation process
Master Blender Renaud Fillioux
Eau de vie ages in barrels made from French oak
Charente copper pot stills
Sunny vineyard with rows of grape vines
A cellar filled with Hennessy barrels
Hennessy’s main headquarters on the bank of the Charante river

Hennessy’s remarkable consistency is thanks to the tasting committee and their skill for blending. Hennessy has 380,000 barrels in their cellars, which the blenders use like paints on a canvas to create the unique taste of Hennessy.

The blending committee meets here in the “Grand Bureau,” a room never open to the public, where they taste dozens of samples each day. Members of the committee taste each batch of Hennessy Cognac at least once a year and are responsible for specific parts of the Hennessy creation process.

New members are not even allowed to add their opinion to the discussion until they have been on the team for at least ten years.

Most of the 1,500 growers Hennessy works with are responsible for making the base wine used for creating Cognac. Hennessy takes over for aging and blending, ensuring the final product has the consistency and continuity Hennessy is famous for, regardless of what happens year-to-year in the fields.

For eight generations, master blenders from the Fillioux family have served as stewards of Hennessy’s tradition. Renaud Fillioux is the latest in the line, stretching back nearly two centuries.

Hennessy’s taste isn’t an accident. By purchasing eaux-de-vie from carefully selected growers and ageing the liquid in barrels of French oak from specific forests, Hennessy creates the building blocks for their beloved Cognac.

Cognac is distilled twice, with only the highest quality eaux-de-vie selected for the second distillation. The repetition of the process ensures that only the purest of liquids is created, packed with concentrated flavors and aromas. The distillation is handled by 19 distilleries employed exclusively by Hennessy, and conducted in Charente copper pot stills, as dictated by French law.

Hennessy owns and operates 200 hectares of vineyards, primarily for viticultural research and development. They disseminate the fruits of their research to their 1,500 grape growers to help improve sustainability and yield.

Hennessy’s cellars currently store approximately 380,000 barrels in 65 aging cellars, with 3,500 batches of eau-de-vie. Hennessy’s grand cellars provide a safe space for Cognac to age, and the environment itself plays a role, imparting unique flavor and terroir through the vapor exchange between barrel and cellar.

Historically, the Charante river provided an easy route for the export of Hennessy’s Cognac, from their headquarters on the riverbank. Now, the river creates the perfect backdrop for the creation of this beautiful, beloved spirit.

Hennessy. The brand is an icon, appearing in countless songs, movies, and on the lips of glitterati around the world — and for good reason.

For more than 250 years, generations of spirit artists at Hennessy have quietly and skillfully crafted incredible Cognac from some of the finest grapes in France. Their process is at once cutting-edge and timeless, constantly evolving while steeped in rich tradition.

To maintain its place in the industry and the imagination of spirits lovers, Hennessy relies on the unparalleled skill of their blenders. Not only do they provide the highest quality of Cognac, but they also preserve Hennessy’s continuity of style, the connection between a bottle opened today and those uncorked decades ago. Blenders spend each year tasting and recording notes on every eau-de-vie (“water of life”) in their collection, with anywhere from six to 10 members tasting as many as 40 to 80 samples — from over 3,500 eaux-de-vie from over 1,500 growers, collected in Hennessy’s enormous cellars.

Making sense, and beauty, from that sprawling collection of wine is a huge job and unique operation, and one which we are proud and honored to share with our customers.

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