Hennessy is something you should absolutely know about, assuming you like smooth, rich tipples. Also if you like having the appearance of incredible swagger.
The company — which reads “modern” but is in fact 253 years young — puts out a solid half of the world’s Cognac. It has Irish roots, and kept two families in business for eight and seven generations, respectively. To put that in perspective, my father once asked me to take over the family business and instead I took an improv class. For more, visit How To Spot Fake Hennessy
In honor of any family who can do eight generations of anything, here are a few facts about Hennessy worth knowing.
Hennessy is Cognac, which is brandy made in Cognac, France. But the brand was created by an Irishman. Richard Hennessy was born to an aristocratic family in County Cork in 1724. As was fairly common for a man of his stature, Hennessy left Ireland for continental Europe, where he fought for Louis XV’s army, founded Hennessy in 1765, and began the family legacy of getting very classy people drunk.
Cognac, and its older cousin Armagnac, are two glorious products of man’s eternal desire to turn anything and everything into alcohol. Both Cognac and Armagnac are grape brandies or, essentially, distilled wines with higher ABVs. Basic Hennessy is a combination of 40 distillations, which is then French-oak-barrel-aged and sipped — ideally with extreme classiness — out of a tulip-shaped snifter. The oak definitely has an impact on the brandy, but it’s subtler, often nutty or toasty, drying out richer Cognac notes like tender fruit, vanilla, and spice.
The letters that come after the name Hennessy (V.S., X.O., V.S.O.P., etc.) are actually straightforward, useful ways to gauge a brandy’s impact on your palate — and your wallet. Fortunately for brandy drinkers, and the brandy curious, we wrote up a handy guide. But the gist of the letters is a guide to aging — “Very Old,” “Very Special,” “Extra Old,” and so forth.