Indulge us for a second. Pretend you’re an artist with endless talent. Now imagine retiring just as your greatest work is about to be released. That’s what just happened at Hennessy.
Master Blender Yann Fillioux, who worked for the company for 50 years, handed the reins over to his nephew Renaud in July, but not before shepherding one of the greatest products of the modern age all the way to distribution.
Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 2 is a small batch cognac of the highest quality. Small batches are truly rare in the cognac world, where creating timeless products that are the same every time is typically the goal.
When the Master Blender’s program opened last year, it was a bit of a head-turner: bold, flavorful cognacs more reminiscent of bourbon than the French brandies we’re familiar with. This bottle does it even better—we can say with certainty this is the best cognac release of 2017. We’d argue that it will be the best for many years to come, as well.
Part of the trick was starting the young eaux de vie (unaged cognac) in young, coarse-grained French oak barrels, which led to more bourbon-like flavor extraction (and a darker color). The eaux-de-vie rest in those barrels for 18 months before being transferred to more typical barrels. The minimum age of the cognac in this bottle is 10 years, and it’s bottled at a “cask strength” 86 proof, which adds extra punch to the whole package.
We get hints of peach and fig, but the tremendous backbone of this cognac is an artfully balanced series of spice notes: nutmeg and cinnamon to welcome you in, vanilla and cinnamon to keep your attention, and licorice and white pepper to really surprise you on the finish.
Cognac doesn’t typically do that—in fact most of the cognacs you’ll drink are blended the opposite way: to be a bit bold at the front but finish so smoothly that they’ll just disintegrate on your palate. It works great in a few cocktails, but honestly it’s why cognac has been the ideal pick for drinking environments where people don’t really want to taste alcohol.
This is a cognac you’re supposed to taste, a cognac you’ll want to keep tasting over and over again.
At $92 a bottle, the price isn’t exactly entry-level. But the cognac you’re getting is easily above equally priced competition in terms of depth of flavor. And with a limited-time release, it’s a great stash-away bottle for when one of your gluten-free friends insists they can’t drink whiskey, or when you want a change of pace, or when you just want to make the best damn Sidecar ever.
Get a bottle or six now, while you can. Who knows if Hennessy will ever do this again. They say it’s never to be replicated; we say they’d be fools not to change their minds.
Well done, Yann. What a way to go out.