Malt Mileage interviews Hine Cognac

The house of Hine sits on the banks of the Charente river in Jarnac, France. Celebrating its 250th Anniversary this year, it is the only cognac house to hold a Royal Warrant from Queen Elizabeth II. We chat with Hine to find out more about its cognac.  

  1. In what year did Hine start producing Cognac? Do you know why the founder of Hine began producing brandy? 
Our company, founded in 1763, celebrates its 250th Anniversary this year. At that time, cognac was just starting to expand tremendously and this is why British merchants got involved in this new flourishing trade.

  1. It is a beautiful thing that the great great great great grandsons of Thomas Hine, Bernard and Jacques, created a brandy in honour Thomas Hine. Do any family traditions survive at the House of Hine? 
The most important tradition is to keep the quality at the highest level and this has been passed on from generation to generation.

  1. Do you think that Hine is distinctive? If so, what do you think makes it distinctive from other brandy and Cognac on the market? What in your opinion is the signature taste of Hine when compared to other Cognac houses of France?
Hine is small but beautiful.  It is distinctive due to its savoir-faire, in particular for single vintages, hence an international recognition amongst connoisseurs. It is also the only Cognac House to hold the Royal Warrant to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

Hine is a wine lover’s cognac with a focus on the quality of the raw material. We have a tendency to produce cognac where the wood element is kept at a minimum level, enhancing the fruit.

  1. Is there a flavour profile that Hine aims to achieve? Do you select particular grape varieties, casks and eaux-de-vie from particular appellations to achieve this flavour profile? If so, which grape varieties and casks achieve the desired characteristics in particular products? 
For most of the region, Ugni Blanc is the only grape varietal in use.  The difference comes from the terroir and where the grapes are sourced from. For Hine, they come exclusively from Grande and Petite Champagne, which is the key to the delicate elegant style of our cognacs. In order to retain all the characteristics, we tend to use as already mentioned as little wood as possible and this means fine grained, lightly toasted French oak casks (Tronçais rather than Limousin).

  1. Why did you decide to change the eaux-de-vie used in the assemblage for Hine XO from Fine Champagne to Grande Champagne? Did you notice any differences between eaux-de-vie? 
Hine Antique XO was already a Fine Champagne with a great majority of Grande Champagne.  We simply decided to upgrade to Grande Champagne which brought even more complexity and depth to this iconic blend.

  1. Can you give our readers a glimpse into what an average day at the House of Hine is like? What processes are in place to produce your Cognac?
The average day at Hine is very different between winter and summer  as right now for instance, in winter it is the distillation period whereas the rest of the year is about vine culture.  Otherwise, the quality control of all the casks happens all year round as well as the blending, bottling and shipping to the different markets around the world.  Our days are quite varied!  Starting with grape production, wine vinification, distillation, ageing after choosing the right type of cask, blending at the  end of the process before bottling.

  1. What is the oldest eau-de-vie currently at the House of Hine?
We still have some Grande Champagne from the mid 1800’s.

  1. What is the oldest Cognac offered on the market by Hine?
This would be Talent, a blend including late 1800’s cognacs.

  1. Why do you think people buy Cognac, and in particular Hine? Is it more than just a drink? 
The key of success for cognac is probably due to the nature of the product itself: it is directly linked to the vine and grapes are an important part of our culture.  Cognac is seen in many countries as being the noblest spirit with a fascinating time perspective: a single cognac bottle can contain the work of several generations of Cellar Masters.  A blend of tradition, terroir and artisanal craftsmanship – this is what people probably value in cognac in general. For all the above mentioned reasons, Hine is no exception to this.

  1. What is your biggest export market? Do you tailor your Cognac, or any particular products, to suit a specific palate? 
Historically, Great Britain is the most important market for Hine probably due to our British roots. However, for the last 10 years, the market that has been showing the highest growth rate and which represents today one of our major markets is Russia.

Hine has a tradition for producing cognac according to specific market demand – Early Landed Vintages is a good example.  However all the cognacs produced by Hine follow the same strict quality charter and bears the same distinctive style.

  1. What three words do you want people to associate with Hine?
Delicate, complex, elegant

Thank you to Hine for its time! 

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