Eight generations after its original creation, Hennessy still remains a family affair.
By Maurice Hennessy
Cognac is unlike any spirit in the world and Hennessy leads and distinguishes itself within this category through its rich quality and heritage. Hennessy got its start when Irishman Richard Hennessy arrived in Cognac, France, in 1765, and the brand has grown to become a cornerstone of LVMH, the largest luxury goods maker in the world. Eight generations later, our family is very much a part of the business.
My experience with cognac began at age 13 when I tasted it for the first time with a cube of sugar. It wasn’t until my twenties that I decided the brand was more than just my family name but the career path I would choose. I was not under direction to become a part of the family business. In fact, my scientist father only first became involved in the cognac business in 1965 after the death of his paternal uncle.
Growing up, I wanted to be a rancher. But I knew that to become a rancher I’d need to learn all there was to know not just about cattle and farming but how to sell and market as well. With this in mind, I began an internship offered to me by the Hennessy brand distributor in Paris. After two years in Africa with a French NGO similar to the Peace Corps, I moved back to Cognac in 1975 and took a job at Hennessy.
I began to learn more about the making and history of cognac, one that extends beyond my family history. Hennessy cognac is more than a spirit and a family name; it tells the deep-rooted story of a city, a people and craftsmanship in Cognac, France.
Unlike most spirits, which are created through an industrial process, cognac is created through craftsmanship and artistic mastery. It begins with the vine – grapes that are grown specifically for the cognac-making process. These grapes are grown and nurtured under strict French laws and careful supervision of the farmers whose livelihood depends on the perfect crop.
Hennessy purchases grapes from 1,700 suppliers in the Cognac region, and I happen to be one of them. All the growers in the region know that if we don’t do our jobs well, there will not be a final product.
Creating the perfect and exact blend is where Hennessy separates itself from other cognac brands. Hennessy prides itself not just on generations of Hennessy family members but on seven generations of master blenders – the Fillioux family.
In 1786, Richard Hennessy hired Jean Fillioux as the brand’s first master blender. Jean Fillioux double-distilled each batch of wine in the world’s best copper stills and aged them in the finest wood barrels to achieve the most flavorful, smooth and elegant eaux-de-vies. Through seven generations, the Fillioux blenders have passed down this art and lineage that gives Hennessy cognac unequalled consistency of style and quality.
Over time, this family of blenders has created a vast portfolio for the Hennessy brand with some cognacs containing vintages more than 200 years old (from the early 1800s) – such as Richard Hennessy cognac – to some younger blends like Hennessy V.S and Hennessy Black. When drinking Hennessy, consumers can rest assured knowing that they are drinking a pure, finely crafted spirit that has been nurtured and perfected by generations of families in Cognac, France.