[Review] Hine - Rare VSOP 40%

I know this is meant to be a blog about whisky, but I decided to branch out tonight with a bottle of Cognac which I think is really worth reviewing. I have never really drunk much Cognac, but having got into aged spirit with whisky, I thought I should give it a go. And what's more, I grew up about an hour away from the Cognac region so now feel I should try to support my "home terroir". 
My first bottle of Cognac was an XO from an independent producer who actually distilled the grapes and aged the spirit to turn it into Cognac. Why do I mention that? Simply because most Cognac brands do not actually distill the spirit themselves, they buy it from small local producers to blend it ultimately.
Unlike whisky, Cognac bottles do not tend to have an age statement of their labels but a few letters instead, so you need to be able to know what they mean to be able to understand how old your spirit is:

V.S. = Very Special, the youngest spirit used in the blend has been aged for a minimum of 2 years (it can also be called Sélection, De Luxe or Millésime)

Supérieur = the youngest spirit used in the blend has been aged for a minimum of 3 years (it can also be called Cuvée Supérieure or Qualité Supérieure)

V.S.O.P. = Very Superior Old Pale, the youngest spirit used in the blend has been aged for a minimum of 4 years (it can also be called Réserve, Vieux or Royal)

Vieille Réserve = the youngest spirit used in the blend has been aged for a minimum of 5 years (it can also be called Réserve Rare or Réserve Royale)

Napoléon = the youngest spirit used in the blend has been aged for a minimum of 6 years (it can also be called Très Vieille Réserve, Très Vieux, Héritage, Très Rare, Excellence or Suprême)

X.O. = Extra Old, the youngest spirit used in the blend has been aged for a minimum of 6 years currently and being upped to 10 years from the 01/04/2018 (it can also be called Hors d’âge, Extra, Ancestral, Ancêtre, Or, Gold or Impérial)

You can also come across some vintage Cognac, all drawn from a single year.

Now back to Hine. Before buying my bottle of VSOP a couple of months ago, I actually went to visit the House of Hine in Jarnac last summer. And I absolutely loved it. You have to book in advance, like most Cognac houses, but people working there are very accommodating. I went with my parents one afternoon and the visit was just the 3 of us. Unlike with others like Courvoisier, Rémi Martin, Martell or Hennessy, the visit is totally free. You get a tour of their cellar, a full history of the House and the original owners, a look at their Paradis (small gated room where they have decanted very old Cognacs in glass containers which are used evry now and then to create some of their very limited and exclusive bottles), their vintage room and sample room, before you end the tour in their tasting room full of wonderful bottles. The staff friendliness and the size of the property really make you feel at home, even more so after tasting their two 1975 vintages (standard one aged in Jarnac and Early landed aged in Bristol before being taken back to Jarnac) and XO, past their closure time. We wanted to purchase a bottle of their VSOP, but a previous British group of tourists seemed to have emptied the cupboard so we had to leave without purchasing anything. That is why I decided to buy a bottle back in the UK. And trust me, I have not been disappointed in the slightest about it.


Like pretty much all Cognac, the Hine Rare VSOP is bottled at 40%. It is a lovely amber colour. It also comes in a nice glass decanter and a presentation box. Definitely looks like a quality product. It is a "Fine Champagne" blend , which means that they have mixed some Cognac from both Grande (considered the best region) and Petite Champagne.

Nose: Floral and fruity, sweet, hints of oak, floral too with notes of violets (particularly the violet hard boiled sweets you can get in France), cooked fruit as well as fresh, rich and sweet fruit, sugary plums. Very enticing nose...

Palate: Fruity sweetness, vanilla, plums, some spice (towards the end leading into the finish), prunes, very smooth and moreish, perfumed with more violet.

Finish: More oaky spice of the finish, still a nice fruity sweetness, prunes vanilla, hints of oloroso sherry, still some sweet floral notes too. Quite a long finish with raisins and prunes notes remaining for a while. Delicious!

With water: the nose is fresher, the palate has lost of its interest in my mind (and I only added a couple of drops...), the finish is rather sweet. Overall, you lose a lot of the flavour experience by adding water, that's why I never do with this one.

Overall, I think it is an outstanding drink! I am no Cognac expert but having read a few reviews about it, I agree with those who say it is a VSOP positioned half way between a standard VSOP and an XO. I am always happy to replace a dram of single malt by this and will certainly be purchasing another bottle in the future (unless I can afford to stretch to their XO with is wonderful too!) and if you like a sweet, fruity and floral dram, I would seriously consider this bottle.

Finally, I would like to thank the people at Hine who made our visit an absolute treat!

the House of Hine in Jarnac



the "Paradis"



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