Water of Life - Hine Cognac
Similar to Champagne, Cognac is a region in the South Western part of France and the specific type of brandy going under the same name is strictly regulated. Derived from white Ugni grapes, which are not fermented but distilled, the first stage of the double distilling is a derivate that after having matured for about two years in different barrels is commonly referred to as Eau de Vie. The next stage entails the marriage of different vintages to then be further aged and depending on the length, resulting in either “VS” (, i.e. “very special”, two years), “VSOP” (i.e. “very superior old pale” having aged at least four years) and the “XO”, extra old expression, of which the youngest vintage must have aged for a minimum of ten years.
Having been founded in the second half of the eighteenth century, one of the pre-eminent Cognac châteaux is Hine, with their expertise and focus firmly set on the art of blending and making its processes transparent, specifically with their Homage to Thomas Hine release, where the distinct vintages that go into the blend are meticulously listed. Another unique characteristic of Hine is that they export some of the Cognac they produce to the United Kingdom, where the local climate adds another dimension to the maturation process.
For the Homage to Thomas Hine, Hine’s cellar master extraordinaire Eric Forget channelled his alchemy in a manner to not only pay tribute to his châteaux but manages to turn flavour profiles to eleven.
I have had the fortune to sample quite a few Cognacs, most of which were very enjoyable, but Hine’s Homage plays in a league of its own and had me savour every sip.
What tickles the nostrils upon first approach are wonderfully, complex aromas with spicy, floral nuances that rest on a foundation of honeyed orange, counterpointed by cinnamon infused, nutmeggy ginger, cloves and molasses. What materializes on the palate is the flavour equivalent with the aforementioned aroma impressions being further accentuated by delicate tannins, toffee and caramel notes.
The sheer endlessly long finish brings all flavour to a crescendo and leaves one lusting for the next sip. A fantastic expression and given its quality, a comparatively affordable and near perfect entry point to ease one into the world of fine Cognacs.