HENNESY: A Lifestyle Of Excellence
Discover how the most recognized cognac became the leading spirit in the world and understand the Master, Process, History through Monarch.
Lessons From the Master: Master Blender
There are many who believe they understand the word mastery, some believe it’s dedication; other’s rely solely on mentorship. Few have a resume that embodies all elements and lesser understand how to master that alchemy, harness it, and execute it to create the perfect harmony it takes to be considered a Master Blender of the world’s premium spirit, Hennessy.
I had the pleasure of receiving firsthand insight from one the world’s Master Blender and Taster himself, Yann Fillioux.
Mr. Fillioux and I took a moment to express what distinguishes Hennessy Cognac from all others, how that plays a role in the spirit being such a premium drink, and how the unique approach enhances the lifestyles of all that choose to partake in the rich experience.
MONARCH magazine: Hello Mr. Yann, how were you introduced into this position, is it appointed/passed down through generations, or does the chosen one show some form of interest?
YANN FILLIOUX: Hello, it is very nice to meet you, and thank you for the opportunity to share some of my insight that I have learned throughout the years.
At the age of 19 I began my training at Hennessy, at that time I was under the tutelage of my uncle Maurice Hennessy. This training exerted for 10 years.
MONARCH magazine: What would you say are the most important skills of a Master Blender?
YANN FILLIOUX: To be a Master Blender one must be a perfectionist in all they do. Possess a gifted palette as well as strong interest in quality.
MONARCH magazine: What are some lessons learned?
YANN FILLIOUX: Learn from previous generations, improve on what they’ve done, leave the bad, and pass along the good to the next generation. Cognac’s unique spirit extends back in the 1800s and within that time so many have come and gone. This is not a trendy brand.
MONARCH magazine: What is the most valuable lesson learned?
YANN FILLIOUX: The most valuable lesson is to be completely removed, do not think of yourself or your image, think about the generations to come!
Crafting Cognac: The Art of the Process
The name “cognac” was not affixed to the distilled wine until about 1783. At about that time, the French government developed rules for labeling, classifying the cognac by it smoothness. V.S. (Very Superior) is aged at least two and one-half years. V.S.O.P. (Very Superior Old Pale), or Reserve, is aged in wood at least four years. X.O. (Extra Old, Napoleon, or Extra) is that which has been aged at least five years. These are bare minimums. Most houses age their cognacs for twice the minimum required.
The wooden barrels, or casks, in which the cognac ages are an essential element in the process. Tannin and vanillin present in the wood lend their properties to the cognac. One-hundred-year-old trees from the forests of Limousin and Tron, are the primary types used. Limousin wood is extremely rich in tannin and accelerates maturation. Tron wood releases its tannin at a much slower rate. A side effect of this process is the blackening of the walls and roofs of the warehouses caused by the growth of fungus.
Most of the major cognac producers control the manufacture of their casks. After the wood is split, it is stacked and seasoned in the open air for a minimum of three years. In the cooperage room of the distillery, the cooper shapes the wood into barrels. Metal bands hold the planks of wood together so that glue and nails, which would affect the flavor of the cognac, are not necessary.
It takes nearly half a century for alcohol content of the distilled brandy to decrease to a drinkable 40 percent. To facilitate the maturation process, distilled water and other varieties of brandy are blended in to the cognac.
Caramelmay be added to even out color variations. Sugar syrup may be added to sweeten and enrich less mature brandies.
Experiencing History and Tradition
A trip across the pond takes us on a journey back in time.
Through the evocation of trades viticulture, winemaking, distillation, cooperage, trading, the glass industry today and design packaging, thousands of objects testify to the changes in technology, business strategies, and ingenuity that have always been people of cognac.
Espace Découverte en Pays du Cognac
An interpretation center about the history of the cognac countryside, this center is an excellent starting point for any journeys or visits of the region or the town of Cognac itself. Through many interactive displays, visitors will be invited to discover the Romanesque heritage, the history of the Charente River, the fauna and flora, and even the history of the birthplace of King Francis I. This interpretation center also suggests strolls and routes through the “charentais” countryside.