If you've heard of cognac, you've probably heard of Hennessy. The biggest brand in terms of sales, they're part of the luxury powerhouse Louis Vuitton-Möet-Hennessy (LVMH). They sell somewhere around 50 million bottles a year, which is roughly as much as the next three big houses put together.
I will leave the history to Cognac Expert, since all that matters to me is that this is a very popular cognac. The question is why?
Nose: very fruity - fresh grapes, berries, apples, pears, artificial caramel, a hint of oak, slightly floral and minty. After adding a few drops of water the fruitiness is enhanced, but it remains largely the same.
Taste: caramel sweetness throughout, mixed fruit in the middle, becoming more bittersweet on the back end. After dilution the fruitiness expands through the palate, but the caramel color bitterness at the back increases.
Finish: fruity notes return, bittersweet caramel with an artificial edge
It feels like there's some decent eau de vie under all of that caramel, but it's not too easy to find. It's pretty OK neat, but nothing exciting. Maybe it will do better in a cocktail?
In a Sidecar the nose is dominated by the curaçao, with vague hints of fruit (pineapple?) and caramel from the cognac, plus something floral as the drink warms up. The sip begins fairly muted with what might be some caramel and vanilla, opening up into some orange in the middle, then getting lost in a muddle of caramel from the cognac. The finish is more of the same and can only be described as extremely disappointing.
Wow, that was just... bad. There may be other drinks in which this works better, but a sour is clearly the wrong choice. All of the worst parts of the cognac are on display with none of its virtues to make up for it. Unfortunately this is so bad that I'm not sure I want to explore its uses elsewhere.
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