For Hine Cognac, the focus is myopically on quality. “We are one of the smaller houses in Cognac and produce a small percentage of what the major houses do,” explains Francois Le Grelle, General Manager of Hine. “For us it’s not about growth, it’s about maintaining the highest level of quality.” For six generations Hine had been a family company and still maintains that feel today. Hine’s offices and cellars feel like they are part of a private estate. Courvoisier dazzles visitors with a 3D product reel and a “smell-o-Rama” tour of their cognac. At Hine, old bottles of barrel samples line the walls with hand written notes dating back to the late 1800’s. The cellars have a small and intimate feel to them in an environment where everything must be done by hand. Of all the cognac houses in Cognac, Hine has the most British influence. Founded by an Englishman in 1763, Hine has maintained its deep English roots, including actually aging some of their Cognac in the UK.
Tasting side by side two batches of unblended cognac from 1981, one aged in Cognac and another in England, shows off the massive impact of where something is aged. The batch aged in Cognac has more spice and complexity, especially in the finish, whereas the batch aged in England is softer, more light, and fruity.
Across the board, Hine is focused on making cognac which showcases the light and delicate qualities of the grapes from the Grande Champagne area of Cognac. “The eau-de-vie only spends the first six months in new barrels before moving to older barrels,” explains Francois Le Grelle. “We like to say that it’s just a dash of oak.” This results in cognac, even in Hine’s older products, that has a wonderful delicate quality to it with very little tannins from the oak .”We don’t want the tannins to cover up the beautiful fresh qualities of the eau-de-vie.”
In the US, Hine currently sells a Rare VSOP that is light, floral, and sweet with a very delicate nose. It has an excellent mouth feel that’s light and elegant, and then opens nicely with a floral dominated long finnish. The Hine Rare VSOP is the opposite of aggressive and the midpalate is simply beautiful. Hine Antique XO has a floral nose that leads to deep midnotes, including honey, fruit and spice. It’s thicker than the VSOP and more complex. Again, some wonderful floral notes supported by orange, chocolate, and cardamon with a nice long finish. Triumph, which is coming soon to the US, is much more strong and bold. Deeply complex but without any dominance of wood, there’s still a great light and fresh quality to it along with some nice spice on the midpalate and a very long finish. Hine also sells a mixing cognac named H by Hine, and a cognac specifically designed to be consumed while smoking cigars called Hine Cigar Reserve. Hine is a fantastic example of the focus a smaller cognac house can have, and they present their take on the grapes from Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne like a love letter to the light, delicate, floral notes which are embodied in the grape. [flagallery gid=4 name=”Gallery” skin=afflux]