Hennessy, while many believe it is brandy, is technically considered a cognac. Cognacs have a specific grading system and must meet certain criteria to have the designation. There are six specific grades for cognac that have been developed over the years.
The Hennessy brand was founded by Richard Hennessy in 1765. The brand was established in the Cognac region of France and is among the top 4 cognac producers in the world, with a total contribution of 85% to the world’s supply.
Hennessy has pioneered several industry-standard practices in the production of cognac. Its association with a life of luxury has made it a well-known reference in popular culture. Hennessy holds the largest collection of cognac Eaux-de-vie worldwide, with more than 470 thousand casks in its collection.
Given the extensive and impressive history, a question often asked is, “how much is Hennessy?” the Hennessy price will be discussed further later in the article, as well as a look into the history of Hennessy and the variations of the beverage that you can buy.
A Brief History of Hennessy
In 1765, Irish military officer, Richard Hennessy, retired from the army, settling in the Cognac region of Franc. He began distilling and exporting various brandies across Ireland and the United Kingdom, then the United States.
His son, James Hennessy, gave the brand its trading name, Jas Hennessy & Co in 1813. James chose Jean Fillioux to be the house’s, Master Blender. Since then, a member of Fillioux’s family has held the role of forging a relationship between the families that has lasted more than 250 years and 8 generations.
Hennessy was the first cognac house to use star ratings and the grading system (VSOP and XO) which are used today by most cognac producers.
The VSOP designation was first used in 1817 when King George IV asked Hennessy to produce a ‘very special old pale’ cognac. The designation Xo (extra old) was created in 1870 for cognacs that have had a prolonged cask maturation.
Cognac and Brandy
To be considered a cognac, the brandy must be produced in Cognac, France. The production of Cognac falls under the AOC (appellation d’orgine contrôlée) designation which means the production methods and naming must meet certain legal requirements.
The brandy must go through a double distillation process in copper pot stills, after which it must be aged for a minimum of 2 years in French oak barrels from Tronçais of Limousin.
Cognac matures in a similar method to wine and whiskies which are barrel aged. Most cognacs spend more time than the minimum legal requirement in the barrels. This is due to the flavor and color that brandies get from the aging process.
Cognacs are made from a white wine that is dry, acidic, and thin. It must be made from specific grapes, with at least 90% of the wine produced from Ugni blanc, Folle Blanche and Colombard. The grapes are pressed and left to ferment for 2-3 weeks.
The wine is then distilled in copper stills which develops the wine (with an alcohol by volume of 7% to 8%) to a clear spirit with a 70% ABV.
The spirit is aged in Limousin oak casks for a minimum of 2 years at which point it is at a 70% ABV. The color comes from the oak barrels it is aged in, with most cognacs having a deep golden color.
Hennessy Cognac Prices, Variations & Sizes
|$17,99 – $19,99
|$33,99 – $38,99
|$49,99 – $52,99
|$74,99 – $82,99
|$199,99 – $229,99
|Hennessy Pure white
|$94,99 – $139,99
|$39,99 – $46,99
|$799,99 – $999,99
|Hennessy Paradis Imperial
|$2399,99 – $2799,99
|Hennessy VSOP Privilege
|$51,99 – $58,99
|$3799,99 – $5499,99
|Hennessy Blender’s Selection No 2
|$94,99 – $99,99
|Hennessy VS Limited Edition
|$39,99 – $49,99
Hennessy uses several categorizations that explain the age of the cognacs.
The Hennessy VS indicates that the youngest cognac in the blend is at least 2 years old. VS stands for Very Special.
Hennessy XO means that the youngest cognac in the blend is at least 10 years old, with Xo standing for Extra Old.
Hennessy’s VSOP Privilege is a Very Special Old Pale with the youngest blend being at least 4 years old. These blends tend to be older than 4 years.
There are several cognacs in Hennessy’s collection that retail at much higher than most cognacs or they have an interesting background.
Hennessy Pure White is a blend of eaux-de-vie made in the Charente region of Cognac. It has an ABV of 40$ (80 proof) with tasting notes of well-rounded fruit. It has a light honey and golden straw color, with an aroma that is fruity and floral.
This cognac is ideal for cocktails or mixed drinks but can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks to enjoy the flavor of the beverage. It is generally only sold in the Caribbean or Cognac, France.
Hennessy Paradis was created in 1979 and consists of Eaux-de-vie. It has a deep amber-gold color and is only produced with the best grapes from each harvest. It is a rare and hand-made cognac with a rich and subtle taste and aroma.
The Hennessy Richard is the most expensive offering from Hennessy. It is made from the rarest Eaux-de-vie in Hennessy’s cognac reserves and is carefully selected and preserved in the family’s Founder’s cellar. The resulting cognac is a nod at the founder’s influence on the Hennessy brand and the deep history of Hennessy production.
4 Alternatives and Comparisons to Hennessy cognac
The Marancheville VSOP Cognac has a clean and fresh taste that is comparable to Hennessy Pure White. It has fruity and honeysuckle aromas with notes of sweet pastries. the cognac is produced in the Grande Champagne area of Cognac.
The price of this cognac is half the price of a Hennessy Pure white, meaning you can buy two bottles of this beverage for the same price.
Bache Gabrielsen has a tasting set, the Pure & Rustic set, that consists of four bottles. Each of the products is an easy, sophisticated drink that is comparable to Hennessy in its own way.
There are four cognacs in the collection with names such as Secret Garden, Golden Wood, Spicy Trip, and Fruity Harvest. The names suggest the taste you will experience from each of the beverages.
For a mixed drink alternative, another VS cognac is a good option. Martell VS cognac is a lesser-known brand that has a brighter taste than Hennessy, making it ideal for summary cocktails and mixed alcoholic beverages. Martell has a similar price to Hennessy making it a good substitute.
A cognac with a similar taste to Hennessy is Frapin Domaine Château de Fintpinot Grande Champagne XO. It is one of the smoothest cognacs on the market, with tasting notes of caramel and chocolate. It has a deep copper color meaning it will look and taste like Hennessy for an inexperienced cognac drinker.
How to Drink Hennessy Cognac
Cognac is best-drunk neat with a drop of water to open the flavors of the beverage. Adding two ice cubes to the beverage will dilute the beverage and lower the alcohol percentage. It will bring the flavors out further and make the drink easier to consume.
Cognac can also be consumed with ginger ale or tonic for a simple but refreshing beverage. Cognac can also be included in cocktails.
A Manhattan is made with 60 milliliters of cognac, 30 milliliters of sweet vermouth, and a dash of bitters. Combine the ingredients in a mixing glass, stir and strain into a martini glass and garnish with a cherry.
The Old-Fashioned is a classic beverage made with cognac. Place one sugar cube at the bottom of an old-fashioned glass and splash it with 5 shakes of bitters and a splash of soda water. Crush the sugar cube and add in 2 cubes of ice.
Pour 20ml of Hennessy cognac into the glass and stir the mixture. Add one ice cube and another 20ml of cognac and stir. Finally, add the final ice cube and 20ml of cognac and stir the finished drink. Garnish with a twist of orange peel and enjoy.
Is Hennessy available worldwide?
Hennessy is available in most parts of the world. Just look around at local bottle stores, and if that is not possible, look online for some options.
Is Hennessy a cheap drink?
Hennessy is an expensive cognac with a rich history. It is considered a premium spirit and as such, the price tag is higher than more common cognacs on the market.
Is Hennessy stronger than vodka?
Vodka has typical alcohol by volume of 45 – 50%. Hennessy has an ANB of 70%, making it stronger than vodka.
Does Hennessy get you drunk?
Hennessy is not a typical choice for someone who is trying to get drunk due to its price tag. However, drinking a large amount of Hennessy in a short period will get you drunk quickly.
Interesting Facts & Myths
Hennessy has an interesting history. With that, here are several interesting facts about Hennessy.
- Hennessy’s founder, Richard Hennessy, was not French. He was, in fact, an Irishman. He moved to France in the mid-eighteenth century. His last name, Hennessy, originated from an old Irish clan Ó hAonghusa which means ‘descendant of Angus’.
- Hennessy was originally sold as medication. During the prohibition of 1920 to 1933, Hennessy was sold in William Schieffin’s drugstore.
- Hennessy was the first company to have an African American as its Vice President. Herbert Douglas was promoted to VP in 1968. To further this fun fact, Douglas was an Olympian and the mentee of Jesse Owens.
- It takes 10 years to become a professional taster at Hennessy. According to the 7th generation Master Blender, Yann Fillioux, you cannot become a professional taster at Hennessy until you have completed a ten-year apprenticeship at the Comité de Dégustation which is the Hennessy Tasting Room.