Origin: Cognac, France (aged in the UK)
Hine Homage is a blend of “early landing cognacs” from three vintages – 1984, 1986 and 1987 – that were distilled from fermented grapes grown in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac, known as the best place to grow grapes for cognac due to its chalky soil. In an interesting twist, these vintages were matured in the United Kingdom together with some extra old cognacs that had already been aged in Hine’s warehouse in Jarnac, France.
An “early landed cognac” is a cognac that reaches British shores before it is two years old and is then aged. They have an interesting character that is different to their cousins that are aged in Cognac, France. The cold temperature in England means that the cognac absorbs the oak flavours differently than in France. The cold of England may tighten the oak pores and cause the alcohol to drop without much evapouration, which in turn means that cognac aged in England may not soak up the colours and flavours of oak barrels (and the cellars) as much as cognac aged in France. “Early landed cognac” tends to offer more crisp fresh fruit and grape but less wood influence than cognac of similar age matured in France. This one, for instance, offers crisp clean fruit but without the cheesy truffle notes commonly associated with “rancio” (a characteristic often seen in Cognac aged for at least 10 years). That pronounced fruitiness means that the aromas and flavours of the grape and particular vintage years can be explored.
The vintages – 1984, 1986 and 1987 – are important. Cognac is basically distilled wine, so the character of the wine is concentrated. If a year is particularly hot, then the grapes will be too ripe and this will result with cognac that is flat and lazy. The bad news is that 1984 and 1987 are recognised as poor years for brandy, so it is believed that grapes grown in 1984 and 1987 tend to produce cognacs lacking in depth and complexity.* That leaves 1986, and this may explain why Hine decided to make this a blend – the vintages may work better that way.
The bouquet offers orange, lemon peel, saffron, acidic white grape and hints of licorice. It is essentially what you would expect of an “early landed cognac” – lots of fruit, citrus, grape and some waves of oak but nothing compared to cognacs of the same age matured in France. This cognac is fresh and crisp, but somewhat lazy with only occasional surges of sprightly citrus. On the palate the entry is unspectacular, but then at mid-palate some magic happens – denser orange extract, licorice, burnt peel, chocolate and fruit emerge, fading into a finish that retains orange slices dusted with cocoa but introduces Sambuca and earthy undertones of mushroom.
Overall, Hine Homage is a crisp, fresh and fruity cognac with – as expected from cognac aged in the UK – less oak influence than most cognac aged in France and of a similar age. It is somewhat of a slothful cognac on the nose and the entry, but then at mid-palate it tries its darnedest to redeem itself – a slow starter that gets there in the end. Hine Homage is a great example of an “early landed cognac” that is sure to please people who enjoy soft, fruity cognacs with some bite at mid-palate. I sure did, whatever they might say about vintages!
Buy up big, “early landed cognacs” will be illegal from 2020!