This past Saturday was World Cognac Day. Over its 400-year history, cognac has inspired everything from cocktails to art and music, cementing itself as one of the world’s premier spirits. Prized for its complexity, this versatile spirit complements every mood.
Khomotso Ledwaba, Marketing Manager of Hennessy SA says, “As one of the first cognac Maisons, Hennessy has played an integral part in the history of cognac. For over 255 years, Hennessy has consistently been perfecting its savoir-faire. World Cognac Day is the ideal occasion to savour that tradition.”
The process of making cognac is a long and sophisticated one but necessary in making exceptional cognac. From harvesting Ugni Blanc grapes to a delicate, double distillation process which results in eau-de-vie. Once produced, the eau-de-vie is artfully selected to join the Hennessy inventory (one of the world’s largest) and to mature in French oak barrels until they have reached their apogee. These are then blended – an artform which the Hennessy Tasting Committee has perfected over the years.
Presided by 8th generation Master Blender, Renaud Filioux de Gironde is joined by an august group of experts who are responsible for the last three key steps in the cognac-making process, and which set Hennessy apart from the rest. Meeting at 11am each morning, the Tasting Committee samples over 50 eaux-de-vie and selects the best ones for their cognac. This elegant ritual has been performed for over two centuries and members of the committee need a full decade to train their noses and palettes for the task. They choose 11am to convene in the Grand Bureau of Cognac because that is when their tastebuds are at their most alert. This tradition is unique to Hennessy, and explains the excellence found in all the Hennessy blends, celebrating savoir-faire at every turn.
To celebrate this significant day with local cognac enthusiasts, Hennessy’s Global Brand Ambassador, Jordan Bushell, visited South Africa to host a series of exclusive events. Select dinners were held in Durban and Johannesburg, providing guests with a truly sensorial Odyssey and immersing them in the seven tasting notes of Hennessy X.O. On World Cognac Day in particular, Johannesburg saw esteemed guests take part in the unique Hennessy Tasting Committee sitting at 11am. This was a one-of-a-kind opportunity for guests to experience the same quest for excellence which the Tasting Committee embarks on each morning.
THE VERSATILITY OF COGNAC
Cognac’s origins reach back to the 16th century when the Dutch arrived in France. They bought plenty of French wine but struggled to keep it drinkable during its journey home. So, they began distilling it into eau-de-vie. Over time this process would be taken over by intrepid entrepreneurs like Richard Hennessy. Now cognac is a staple in world cocktail culture.
Adds Bushell, “During the American prohibition in the 1920s, Hennessy’s success spread internationally, as many of the best American bartenders left the USA and took cognac cocktails offshore. Now ‘modified’ classic cocktails are famed and favoured all over the world.”
Ledwaba concludes, “Hennessy V.S and V.S.O.P Privilège, for example, are perfect for cocktails while the Hennessy X.O, Paradis and Hennessy Richard are hallowed bottles that can serve as accoutrements to major milestones. Whichever form of consumption you choose, Hennessy can be enjoyed anywhere. From the comfort of your own home to a night out at some of our top local establishments in South Africa.
Even though World Cognac Day has passed, there’s always an opportunity to celebrate. Below are some of Jordan Bushell’s favourite cocktail recipes:
Between The Sheets:
- 30 ml Hennessy V.S.
- 30 ml Rum
- 30 ml Orange Curacao
- 15 ml Fresh lemon juice
- 1 Lemon twist
- Step 1: Add all liquids to a cocktail shaker with ice.
- Step 2: Shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe or martini glass.
- Step 3: Garnish with a lemon twist
The Jumpshot Ginger:
- 45 ml Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège,
- 60 ml Cranberry juice
- 60 ml Ginger beer
- 5 ml Lemon juice or a squeeze of one lemon wedge
- 1 Lime wheel
- Step 1: Pour Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège, cranberry juice, ginger beer, and lemon juice into a rocks glass with ice.
- Step 2: Stir once to combine.
- Step 3: Garnish with a lime
Alternatively, mix a Hennessy of your choice with tonic or ginger ale for a relaxing night in.