When most people think cognac, their minds may conjure images of a fine liquor that radiates class and history, but may not be accessible to all. It is a quality alcohol for the discerning, but the cost, and even the taste (which is meant to be enjoyed neat, excluding those who prefer mixed drinks) make it prohibitive to many, keeping it off the shelves and out of some bars and clubs. Moet Hennessy aims to bridge the gap between the connoisseur and the club-goer with the release of Hennessy Black, the company’s first major release since 1961.
Selling for around $39.95 for 750ml, Hennessy Black will offer a wider audience a cognac that is ideal for blending in cocktails and mixed drinks. Black debuted around two months ago, but it could be awhile before it reaches the saturation level where it becomes common. While more expensive than the more common Hennessy VS, Black offers a smoother taste and a more mature liquor — you can taste the difference immediately. Give it time, and you should begin to see it everywhere, partly because of Moet Hennessy’s advertising campaign, but more due to the new market of potential cognac drinkers that Black is aimed at. With specialty and mixed drinks in vogue, and the increasing popularity of bars that feature “mixologists” and highly trained bartenders, expect cognac drinks to become more accessible and affordable.
Black goes through a similar process to most cognacs, but with a few key differences. Taking its name from the grapes grown in and around Cognac, France, cognac is the most famous variety of brandy and has been grown and distilled for over 300-years. To be considered as true cognac, it must be made from at least 90-percent Ugni Blanc, Folle Blanche or Colombard grapes, then distilled in copper pot stills before aging in barrels– preferably oak — for at least two years, and usually much longer.
One of the main differences between Black and some of Hennessy’s other cognacs is that it ages for around two and a half years, a relatively short time compared to other cognacs that can take decades to mature. The shorter time frame allows for faster production, which in turn lowers the price. The shorter aging also gives Black a light floral smell. Perhaps most importantly though, it means that Black is arguably the best cognac to use with blended drinks, which could create new generation of cognac drinkers.
A light and accessible cognac that combines the best traditions of the centuries old liquor, and offers it in a way that could introduce it to a new market, Hennessy Black may soon become a common sight at bars and clubs everywhere.
Other Selections From Moet Hennessy
Although Black may be a gateway cognac, Moet Hennessy has one of the largest selections of fine liquors of any company in the world. If you are looking for a few other drinks to try, check out these liquors form Moet Hennessy.
V.S.O.P., or very special old pale, takes its color from the oak barrels that it ages in. Considered an entry level to the higher echelon cognacs, Hennessy’s Privilege V.S.O.P. is made to be served straight or on the rocks, although many do use it in blended drinks.
For those looking to truly expand their palates, Hennessy X.O. (Extra Old), might be the choice for you, as it has become a staple of true cognac connoisseurs that have a little extra cash to spend. Taking its dark color from a lengthy aging process, the X.O. is meant to be served neat or on ice- the ice can actually can help some of the more subtle flavors emerge. Not for the novice cognac drinker, Hennessy X.O. is for the collector, the connoisseur and the discerning.
While Hennessy’s name may be synonymous with cognac, the larger company of Moet Hennessy is a worldwide corporation that has several offshoots, including Glenmorangie, the largest Scotch maker in the world. This 12-year old scotch takes its name and rich color from the Spanish Olosoro sherry casks that it spends two years aging in following a ten year cycle in bourbon casks.
Matured in bourbon casks before being transferred to port pipes from the Quintas wine estates in Portugal, this 12-year old scotch (like all the Glenmorangie products) hails from Tain, in the highlands of Scotland, and is crafted by the 16 residents of Tain as a liquor to be served neat. Fans of scotch will enjoy the smooth rich taste that offers a hint of sweetness from the port pipes.
The Nectar d’Or, or “golden juice”, is a 12-year old scotch that after maturing in bourbon casks, is finished in Sauternes wine barrels, a French desert wine. A lighter tasting scotch than many, it may also be one of the more accessible for those still training their palates to single malt scotch whisky.
Glenmorangie 18 Year Extremely Rare Highland Single Malt Scotch ($99.99 750ml)
One of the oldest scotch whiskies offered from the 167-year old Highlands distiller, the 18 Year Extremely Rare is just that, extremely rare. As scotch ages, the taste softens, but this bottle is recommended for the mature pallet that can appreciate the subtlety. Scotch connoisseurs should already know all about this liquor. For those new and looking to expand their taste buds, you should work your way up to this single malt. You’ll be glad you did.