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Hennessy. From Cork to become the beating heart of Cognac.
Hennessy, the giant of Cognac with 40-45% of market share worldwide, were in Ballymaloe last evening. They were represented by Marc Boissonnet, “in an area very dear to Hennessy”, who guided us through three of their brandies: Fine de Cognac, VS (Very Special) and the XO (Extra Old).
Richard Hennessy, the founder of the company, left nearby Killavullen (they still have the house there) with a vibrant entrepreneurial will and spirit and went on to create Hennessy in 1765. Now, some 1700 growers supply grapes to Hennessy and they also partner with 22 local distilleries. It is sold all over the world with USA the number one and China in second spot.
The Fine, first made in 2002 and fine-tuned since, is now in its “final version”. “This is what we wanted for an new generation of consumers, an introduction, though not easy to make.” Last evening it was matched, perfectly, with apricot and goat cheese. Marc also recommended using it in cocktails, with apple, maybe with apple and cranberry.
The VS must, by law, have a minimum of two years aging. “But we do more than respect the law, might be much older in there,” said Marc of the brandy that is very familiar to Irish consumers. “This is a classic”. He advised using it “as a strong beating heart in a cocktail” and said it is “amazing having an oyster with it!”. Last night we had a prune wrapped in Parma Ham and that was very nice indeed.
Ballymaloe's Colm McCann (left) introduces Marc
Marc (right) and yours truly.
The evening, part of the ongoing Wine Geese series, continued with a tasting of the XO, a classic that shows the benefit of time passing, “an exception..when the character settles”. It is still sold in the original bottle, the first decanter type bottle to be produced industrially.
From the Grand and Petit Champagne areas and using new barrels, it gets richer and more intense and increases in smoothness as the years go by. “It is a classic digestif, not just with chocolate but with many puddings, deep, powerful, rich, well balanced,” said Marc and many heads were nodding in agreement as we sipped it along with Ballymaloe Candied Orange Peel dipped in Dark Chocolate. Marc said it is long lasting on the palate, a little bit heavy (deliberately so) and you may enjoy it on the rocks with sparkling water.
A very informative and enjoyable evening, thanks to Marc, to the crew at Ballymaloe and to the Wine Geese troika (Colm McCann, Beverly Matthews and Maurice O’Mahony) and to the team from Edward Dillon.
Pineau de Charentes is a traditional regional drink, made from Cognac eau de vie and grape juice. It is usually about 17 per cent.
There are two types of Pineau des Charentes produced today, white and rosé (looks like a red). To be able to call the produce Pineau des Charentes, the cognac eau de vie and grape juice must come from the same property, and be aged in oak casks for a minimum period of 18 months.
The colour is amber with golden tints; it has a powerful aromatic palate, with subtle hints of ripe yellow fruits like apricot, honey and raisins. It is pleasantly sweet and refreshing.
Always served chilled, the Pineau is a wonderful aperitif, and you will see it in restaurants in the area, listed alongside the Kir and Campari. It is also excellent with meals and desserts and very good with cheese too.