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The Story of Spirits

PeterWhieldon - The history of SpiritsWho would have thought that one of the world’s most prestigious Cognacs was first created by an Englishman from Beaminster in Dorset, England!

A man called Thomas Hine.

Thomas Hine was a linen merchant in the 1550`s and he decided to send his son to France to learn the French language and at the same time to learn the art of making cognac.  Thomas the son arrived in Jarnac, France in around 1791, having first visited Bordeaux. He was successful in gaining employment at local merchants (Negociants) as a personal assistant and continued his learning and love of the area which resulted in him marrying a daughter of a local well known negociant in 1796.

It appears that Thomas Hine had an excellent business brain, and with his bi-lingual language skills continued to evolve and expand the existing business base to incorporate bespoke cognac production for English wine merchants.

The company Thomas Hine & Co emerged in 1817. Today his direct descendants through six generations own and manage the company with each past generation leaving a special mark or celebration bottling of a particular fine cognac  to celebrate that snapshot in time or to react to any emerging market which required a taste difference.

The House of Hine stands on the bank of the River Charente, and has stood there for over 260 years, should you have the opportunity to visit the house and the cellars, then do so as  the house offers a glimpse of English eccentricity like you may have not seen before (especially in France) .

Unlike some other Cognac houses Hine is fortunate to own just less than 300 acres of prime vineyard. The “Domain Hine” is at the centre of this growing area known as Grande Champagne, and is centred on the delightful village called “Bonneuil “in the Colinaud valley.

So what of the range of Hine, well since 1763 its reputation has steadily grown, its style is enchanting to say the least and above all its quality is superb. In all, it is the essence of what Hine is all about!

The introductory Cognac from Hine is “H”(VSOP) This cognac is velvet smooth to taste and has a particularly floral nose of acacia, iris, apricot and vanilla, sometimes a jasmine flower drifts by…wonderful !   Made from grapes of the Grande Champagne and Petite Champagne it has been matured for no less than 4 years and is a blend of 20 aged cognacs.

The next Cognac is the “Classic Rare VSOP” This has been blended from over 25 aged Cognacs, with over 50% of the grapes having been grown in the Grande Champagne. The taste is more mellow and smoother than the previous and has more of a fruity overtone to it, with hints of oak and perhaps a little vanilla.

Hine “Cigar Reserve” is without doubt the perfect accompaniment to a cigar…well in 1996 this was created by Bernard Hine in collaboration with the then chairman of a Cigar importer Mr Nicholas Freeman.  A very powerful and spicy cognac with fruit and honey, slightly woody and YES a hint of Tobacco leaf!

How on earth do you get a hint of Tobacco leaf in a cognac…well somebody knows ,but to taste it is an exceptionally well balanced , long lasting on the palate with a hint of liquorice and soft spice.

The last one I will feature is the renowned “Triomphe”.   This is Grande Champagne  cognac, it was created in 1888 by Thomas Edouard Hine to celebrate the triumph over the recent “Phylloxera Crisis” that devastated the European wine industry at that time . Triomphe is a blend of over 50 aged Cognacs, which gives a unique mellowness and roundness with a long, long aftertaste.

Well on this whistle stop tour we now turn our attention finally on how to drink Cognac…you serious I hear you say ….well there are lots of ways of course but from the plain straight forward in a cognac or brandy balloon glass, either room temp or even slightly warmed  ( as in the glass is warmed !)

To the more obscure of consuming at -18 degrees C  …to just with ice, the choice is yours, but all of the above will deliver taste in its various forms, BUT I would advise that to fully appreciate the finer styles in Cognac especially at first… Just savour it in a suitable glass simply at room temperature with no additives (ice) and take your time… enjoy.


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