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Hennessy Masterclass

17 April 2012 No Comment

This article is written by Gert-Jan de Ruiter of GJR’s Whisky Blog.

What ? Does Hennessy make whisky too?  No. I was in the opportunity to attend to e very exclusive master class last Friday organized by DH17 and Moët Hennessy Netherlands. Due to the tasted Cognacs this will probably a once in a life time tasting so I decided to put my notes on these cognacs.

The tasting consisted off the complete range of Cognacs as available in shops at this moment. The tasting was hosted by Malu Knippenberg, the young, but enthusiast spirit brand manager of Moët Hennessy Nederland. At first she started to explain more about the Eau-de-Vie and the blends of Eau-de-Vie (Cognac). The eldest Eau-de-Vie blended into a Cognac in the line-up this night would be around 200 years or more old. Hennessy offers us more or less two ranges, a male one and a female one. What did we taste? All of them are coming at 40% ABV although we learned that there are some Cognacs at Cask Strength.

Very Special

The starter of the range (or in fact the starter of the male line). Blended from 40 eau-de-vie aging up to about 8 years old. The nose is young, alcoholic and quite sharp. Also nutty and some fruits as pear and pineapple. Also quite a lot of vanilla. The taste/finish is quite blend, very low alcohol and somewhat watery. Same notes as on the nose accompanied with some more floral notes. Not an unpleasant Cognac priced at about 26 euros.

Fine de cognac

Displaying not the usual markings VS or VSOP, this one technically falls in the VS range but is a lot different than the above mentioned VS. It is also the starter of the female line. The taste is more rounded and beautiful soft and fruity. Also more floral tones of blossoming flowers. Fruity with grapes, hints of mango and different kinds of stone-fruits. More of my liking. Taste again much the same as on the nose, although more woody spicy tones (cinnamon, also a hint of ginger) are appearing.  Pleasant Cognac priced at about 36 euro’s.


Going up in age: blend of 70 eau-de-vie ranging from 10 to 70 years old. Very warming powerful nose. Toasted wood, even just a slight hint of smokiness. Cinnamon spiced and also stone-fruits, but more the softer ripe ones (softer, but warmer, buttery notes). The taste is much more complex and finally quite different the then the nose. More floral hints appearing. Powerful male cognac. Did revisted this one after completion and this keeps standing up, after the very old Cognacs in de last part of the tasting. Great Cognac although I am already getting problems with the price/quality ratio compared to whisky, this one is priced around 130 euro’s.


More the 100 eau-de-vie, ranging in age from 25-130 years. Female line. Very pleasant nose, developing beautiful with lots of different floral and more (oriental) spices, also slight hints of nuttiness and marzipan. Needs time, as usual these old spirits suffer a bit from a tasting line-up. Taste is very very soft and gently, but also displaying its age with more leathery and waxy or even mouldy (in a good way) tones. Superb Cognac, but getting more and more confused by the price, this one is available at around 450 euro’s.

Paradis Imperial

The latest expression combining more than 100 eau-de-vie ranging from 30-180 years old. Nose is displaying quite a lot of red fruits, but also some woodiness so forest fruits (?). Again a slight hint of smokiness appears. Most fruity, sweet and lots of floral tones, even a hint of Jasmine. Quite complex with very much different layers in nose/taste development. More powerful finish, but also with a slight sharp edge. The price of this one, well it will set you down about 1.200 euro’s !

Richard Hennessy

The stunner of the range, very exclusive, although they sell about 500 bottles each year in Nederland, and not often present in a Nosing and Tasting. Again more than 100 eau-de-vie, aged 45 to more than 200 years old. Would be expected to contain eau-de-vie which contains Folle-Blanche (after around 1875 most eau-de-vie contains Ugni-Blanc). Superb nose, very complex, lots of dark dried fruits, accompanied with tones of age : Leather and even some tobacco. Also quite woody and spicy. Taste is also very complex, with hints of wet grasses or mowed grass. Definitily the stunner of the male range. Priced at 2.750 euro a bottle !


Very happy to be able to attend this masterclass and great organization, so a warm thank you to DH17 and Malu Knippenberg! Most of the cognacs tasted where great or super Cognacs, but the prices are nuts in my humble opinion.

Comparing it to whisky, the eldest cognacs are usually more powerful than older whisky, while the young whisky is much more complex then the younger Cognacs. Would I buy one of the Hennessy’s ? Yes I might do, the Fine de Cognac displays a nice price/quality ratio, which is to my opinion way off in the rest of the line. I know the packaging isn’t helping; the last three are coming in heavy crystal decanters, with stoppers which are outlined in 18 carat of gold and very beautiful but quite expensive cases. I think I will stick to whisky, but will enjoy a cognac at certain times!


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Rating: 9.4/10 (7 votes cast)
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