Maison Hennessy Cognac Master Blender’s Collection

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You have to have the right legs to be a true Cognac lover. A nicely rounded belly helps too.

Different people get excited about different things. Some the sharp looks and precise movements of the latest Grand Seiko wristwatch. Some of the latest synthetic-fuelled Porsche sports car. Others the latest “Star Wars”.

Others, by the latest and long-anticipated edition to the Maison Hennessy Cognac Master Blender’s Collection.

A true single batch offering blended only once and never to be replicated, Moet Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No 4 ($89.99) is the end of a three-year wait and the work of eighth-generations. It is the latest in the series from Master Blender Renaud Fillioux de  Gironde.

As soon as a new Hennessy Cognac is about to come onto the scene, impatient aficionados begin acting strangely, searching out appropriate fireplaces and surrounds, suitably snug vintage leather chairs, and creating the right ambiance to savor the latest expression of Monsieur Renaud’s warming Amberish arts.

In readiness, amongst much trembly handling of heirloom drinks trays, outcomes the cut crystal balloons, the Riedel Vinum tulip glass, and the Schott Zwiesel Tritan, only to be seen off as always by Riedel’s mouth-blown-in Austria Sommelier’s Cognac XO glass.  Louis X111 is for Remy Martin.

Long before a launch, obsessive Hennessy drinkers begin preparing their glassware and private spaces to toast the Irish Jacobite and lord who created the Cognac house in 1765 and sample for the first time the latest edition from the Bon Bois master of the Charente.

A reinforced beech frame, antique Chesterfield wingback chair with sturdy mahogany legs and belly, hand-finished by time-served English craftsmen, is a must to enjoy the best French Cognac.

A deep chair (buttoned and in oxblood or, at the very least,  tobacco brown leather ) and natural sunlight afforded by a high window is vital to critique cask choice, appreciate the squared-off bottle and the tarnished golden robe with ruby glitters. Also having a late Georgian fascia, late Victorian cast iron or tiled open fire glowing nearby can only enhance the occasion and aid aesthetic deliberation.

Carrera marble just doesn’t go with cognac. Nor does a scruffy old chair from Dunelm.

A comfortable, classy, period armchair is absolutely imperative because a Master Blended is a Cognac that you have to spend a long time with and make the most for its notoriously very short-lived. You need to mull over the aromas and palate as well as the back story.

No 4 was inspired by returning a walk in the Cantal mountains. “When creating this blend, I was inspired by the contrast of a ‘thermal shock,’” its acclaimed creator has explained to his disciples. “Going from feeling one’s smallness in such a wide-open space to being inside, passing from daylight to the darkness of night, from solitude of the forest, being completely exposed to the elements in nature, to an environment of complete comfort and cozy abandon surrounded by friends. A warm environment.”

Crafted with Eaux-de-vie at least five years old and taken in almost equal parts from Cognac’s four original regions (Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois), Master Blender’s Selection No 4 has been aged in young French red oak barrels, using Borderies grapes. Renaud built the blend around the heart of an eau de vie.  With his tasting committee, he tastes over sixty Eaux de vie before making his final blend.

Jean Fillioux was named the Maison master blender in 1806. Eight generations later, Renaud Fillioux de Gironde holds the title. He succeeded his uncle, Yann, who was Hennessy’s master blender for 50 years. The first VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) appeared in 1817. In 1870, Maurice Hennessy, tasked cellar master Emile Fillioux to create a special cognac for his family and friends, using long-aged Eaux-de-vie. They called it ‘XO’ for ‘Extra Old. In 1947 Gérald de Geoffre – Maurice Hennessy’s great-grandson – created the classic XO bottle, inspired by a cluster of grapes.

The setting is the thing. Faux leather doesn’t go with Hennessy. It has to be the real thing.

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