The motto of Hennessy says it all about the brand—”Never Stop, Never Settle.” But the symbol of the brand says it all about its creator. The symbol of the ‘Bras Armée’ depicts a fist clutching a hatchet and represents the army career of Hennessy Cognac creator Richard Hennessy. Few cognac connoisseurs know that the iconic brand was founded in 1765 by an Irish Officer serving in the army of Louis XV. Not to fear, though not of French origin, Hennessy was awarded French citizenship following his 12-year army service in France.
Fewer still realize that Hennessy created V.S.O.P.—Very Superior Old Pale—at the request of King George IV of Great Britain who saw himself as a connoisseur of cognac to the extent that he requested a batch of superior quality for his own consumption. Now, V.S.O.P. is an industry standard. Similarly, it was the great-grandson of Richard Hennessy who first classified cognac of different quality according to how many stars were allotted. This gave rise to Hennessy’s Three Star Cognac, today known as V.S.—Very Special. If a cognac is labelled V.S. that means it has been aged in a cask for at least two years. The highest grade, X.O., has been aged for at least six years, but many bottles with this label are much older.
Cognac was first shipped to China in 1859 where it was regarded as a symbol of luxury and French culture. Today, Forbes Magazine confirms that cognac is still highly regarded as a status symbol in China. In fact, it’s so popular In China and in the US, where it is frequently mentioned in rap songs, that suppliers have to allocate their stock because global demand is so high.
There is little difference between cognac and brandy. The blended spirit is made when wine is distilled and then aged in wooden barrels. The main difference between cognac and a basic brandy is only the name itself. Much like champagne comes from the region of France that bears the same name, cognac comes from the Cognac region of western France—a couple hundred miles southwest of Paris and north of Bordeaux. Ironically, cognac is not so popular in France, only about 3% of cognac is consumed there and the rest is exported.
Experts says that those interested in building a cognac or brandy collection should start right away. The high demand for these spirits in Asia and the thirst for X.O. bottlings means that many large cognac producers are running low on aged stock.