House of Hennessy

By Alain Gayot

Alain Gayot visits the House of Hennessy

When it comes to Cognac, the House of Hennessy has long been a leading name, and its influence has extended through many centuries of history, from kings of nations to kings of hip hop. Today, Hennessy produces more than 40 percent of the world’s Cognac and is a top selling brand in the United States. Hennessy’s legacy began seven generations ago with Irishman Richard Hennessy, who started the company as a trading post for his productions of eau de vie. Since then, the company has grown to a huge brand, now owned by luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton).

The Visit

We spent a few days with seventh-generation magnate Maurice Hennessy to travel back in time through generations of the distiller’s tribe and tribulations. We visited barrel factories, vineyards and distilleries and walked through the streets of quaint Cognac like King François I did centuries ago — all to understand what the big deal is about this “liquid gold.”

The Tasting

We had the honor of catching up with Yann Fillioux, Hennessy’s master blender and general manager, and Laurent Lozano, assistant blender and member of the tasting committee, to pick their brains about Cognac as well understand their exclusive craft. Like the Hennessy family, Fillioux comes from seven generations of Cognac making; a member of the family has always been the master blender for the firm. We met Fillioux in the Grand Bureau de Degustation, where the master blender team meets daily to select the eaux de vie that go into blending. There he let us taste a few interesting eaux de vie along with some very old Cognacs.

The Ellipse

With perfect French diplomacy, the topic of the Ellipse came up. Before we could begin asking questions, more tasting glasses magically appeared and soon, our nose, mouth and nearly every other part of our bodies were seriously seduced by this elixir. This ultra-special blend is the culmination of centuries of the Fillioux family’s work. For this limited-edition Cognac, each master blender from seven generations of blenders in the Fillioux family noted the most exceptional eau de vie from his time in office. These eaux de vie were then blended to make the Ellipse. We guarantee you this is the absolute best Cognac that money can buy — and you’ll need a lot with a price of $10,000 for 750 ml.

Even if you think time travel isn’t possible, we got very near that phenomena in the good company of our hosts and the beverages they produce. One question that remains unanswered, however, is what’s next and who will take over after Yann Fillioux and attempt to top the Ellipse.