Drinking Hennessy is an experience. You get a rich, fragrant cognac taste with hints of earthy spices and florals. The detail that goes into creating Hennessy deserves to be savored.
It’s an elegant liquor that is enjoyed amongst plenty of celebrities and those of elite status, but it is still approachable enough that anyone can enjoy it. Coming straight from the French region of Cognac, it's one of the most famous authentic cognacs in the world.
How I Would Describe the Taste of Hennessy
Some Hennessy will have a similar taste to wine, often described as a woody wine-like flavor or a burnt wine flavor. You can also taste some spices and herbs. There is a ton of care and attention to detail that goes into ensuring every single bottle of Hennessy is the best quality it can be.
Considering cognac can be aged over a period of time, one bottle of Hennessy might slightly differ from another.
Hennessy comes from the Ugni White grape that is grown in Cognac, France. This is what makes it true cognac. These grapes grow and are harvested and fermented similar to how wine is processed, and then it’s distilled twice and aged in a wood cask for anywhere from two to 30 years. The casks might be stored in different climatized environments, like dry or humid, which will either enhance or mute the flavor.
Hennessy is categorized into four different grades that describe how long the cognac has aged, and this will also help determine its flavor and featured aromas:
Hennessy V.S. is usually aged for at least two years, and is the more affordable and accessible Hennessy on the market. It tends to be quite spicy, with hints of almond, brown sugar, and vanilla. It’s best enjoyed as a sipping cognac.
Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège
This variety of Hennessy is usually aged 15 years, and has been around for over two hundred years. It was originally created for King George IV. There are touches of honey and spice within this intriguing blend of cognac, which can be enjoyed either sipped or in a cocktail.
This is the higher end Hennessy, with an incredible blend of about 100 eau-de-vie (what cognac is before it becomes cognac) aged for up to 30 years. They come together in special barrels and end up with a luxurious blend of spicy and fruity notes. This cognac is best enjoyed sipped—don't waste it by pouring it into cocktails.
Hennessy Black is the newer variety of Hennessy that combines pale and dark eau-de-vie that get aged in oak casks. This creates an interesting blend of fruit and honey forward flavors with hints of florals. This variety of Hennessy was made to be enjoyed in a variety of cognac cocktails.
Regardless of what type of Hennessy you choose, it’s important to note that the alcohol content is high; usually around 40% or higher. Therefore, taking shots of Hennessy or throwing back cocktails quickly may get you too drunk to appreciate the craftsmanship that has gone into each bottle.
Hennessy is a drink to be savored: a bottle can run you anywhere between $50 and $5000, so you want to taste it for as long as you can.
Why Do People Like Hennessy?
Hennessy has a strong and memorable flavor, no matter the variety chosen, so those who enjoy rich and fragrant red wine or strong dark liquors will most likely enjoy Hennessy.
Hennessy also has a reputation for being popular amongst rappers. While it continues to be featured in various hip hop and R&B songs, the enjoyment of Hennessy for the music industry pioneered by the Black community is much deeper than its name in lyrics.
Hennessy has also been a drink of choice throughout the African American community for generations. Brandy in and of itself has been a popular choice for family gatherings, celebrations, and holidays within the Black community, with Hennessy winning out as one of the preferred brands.
What's more, Hennessy decided to cater a lot of their advertising to Black publications, considering that it was the Black community that helped foster the growth of cognac when traveling through Europe after World War II. The brand has partnered with rappers in campaigns, and has been featured in hundreds of songs.
As well as the longstanding tradition of enjoying Hennessy as part of one’s heritage, Hennessy can be appreciated by anyone who likes the experience of drinking a liquor that is intricate in flavor, and enjoys the flavor of cognac as it’s sipped and once it coats the tongue.
Who Might Not Like Hennessy?
If you're not a fan of liquor with a bit of spice, you might find the flavor of Hennessy a little too strong for your liking. It is not a very sweet liquor, and isn’t one that can or should be chugged or taken in shots.
For some, cognac can be a little bit of an acquired taste. It’s one of those liquors that you either like a lot, or you don’t like at all. Those who prefer white wine over red wine may not be fans of cognac either, as the drinks are similar in some ways.
If you like the idea of drinking Hennessy but don't want that pure liquor taste, try it in a cocktail. There are plenty of options so you can experiment until you find one that suits your tastes.
How Is Hennessy Usually Served?
Hennessy tends to be best experienced straight from the glass—at least for the higher end varieties. The brandy should be sipped so you can really take in the flavor. As I previously mentioned, there is an established grading system for Hennessy, all with different notes and flavor profiles.
If you are going to sip on some Hennessy, you can either pour it straight into a brandy or cognac glass or serve it on the rocks.
Hennessy Black or Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilège can be incorporated into any classic cocktail featuring brandy as the spirit of choice. These varieties pair especially well with cocktails that are citrus-forward. Hennessy can also add a sophisticated and rich touch to a dessert inspired cocktail.
When it’s cold outside, a splash of Hennessy in your coffee, eggnog, or cocoa can also make for an excellent after-dinner indulgence that warms up the bones.