So finally I went to vistit HENNESSY On Saturday 16th June 2012.
I was invited for a private tour a la Maison de Hennessy with Alexander my guide.
Hennessy is located on both sides of the river ’La Charente‘ that flows through the heart of Cognac. On one side you have the storage house and place where people are guided for a tour. The other side holds the shop & buisiness site, and is also used to show their new products.
Our tour started with a small boattrip on the Charente, we arrived on the other side where the storage house is located.
We first get to explained why Hennessy only uses grapes from 4 of the 6 regions ‘Grande & Petite Champagne, Borderies and Fins bois.
These 4 are only used as the soil contains the most lime. Which give the grapes the best quality. They only use the Ugni-Blanc.
We then get to see a small movie, on how grapes are grown & harvested. After you’ll see the machines where grapes are being squeezed. Now, this is put in an ‘alambic Charantais’ which is a distillation kettle, almost completely in copper. It then gets distilled 2 times which takes about 48hrs in total.
The result an ‘eau-de –vie’ 70% alcohol and it’s colourless like water.
The ‘eau-de-vie’ is then putted in limousin oak barrels where the aging process can began. Lifetime of a barrel is aprox 40 years max.
As then this has given most of its flavour. Of course some eau-de-vie’s are stored less or much longer. Depending how the quality improves.Hennessy has their own Tonnerie (place where the barrels are made). We’ve been told one person can make about 5 barrels maximum a day & 1 barrel cost about 700euro.
So what you see wroted on the barrels is next :
- its identification number
- the year of harvesting
- the name of the growing area the eau-de-vie comes from
- the name of the distillery or distiller
- the number of barrels in the batch or row
- its theoretical volume
- the number of the row in the ageing storehouse.
Grande Fine Champagne stands for 100% of eaux-de-vie from the Grande Champagne, the same thing as when it’s simply marked Grande Champagne.
The quality of an ‘eau-de-vie’ is tested each year. Why? To see if the eau-de-vie still improves in quality, or has stay the same. When it does not improve anymore they get used/blended with others to make a nice cognac.
Between all that you get to walk through all stocks Hennessy Houses, and it’s impressive to see this. And you can smell it also.As all these barrels lose about 2% each year, this is called ‘Angels share’ Some that we get to see, are dated from the 1800’s!
The old barrels get more rings around them, to reduce the lost of this evopuration.
View inside the celler on the"Demijohns". Once the maturity is reached, the Master Blender decides to end their aging process and puts them into old casks. After into large glass containers called “demijohns”, where they may rest for many decades with no air contact.
At the end of our tour we was also invited to taste a few nice Hennessy cognacs. What I really appreciated and liked.