When you think of cognac, Hennessy is likely one of the first brands that come to mind. As the largest cognac house in the world, Hennessy has been producing quality cognac since it was founded by Irish immigrant Richard Hennessy in 1865. Today, the brand commands approximately 40% of the world cognac market and produces a full range of quality products, from its VS to Paradise cognacs. Hennessy is now owned by French luxury goods conglomerate Moet-Hennessy Louis Vuitton.
According to the Bureau National Interprofessionnel du Cognac (BNIC), VS cognacs (aged at least two years in French oak barrels) account for nearly half of all cognac sales, and Hennessy VS is the clear market leader in the category. However, Hennessy VS is not the sales leader because of lower prices, but rather due to quality, marketing, and name recognition. In fact, Hennessy VS is priced at the high end of the VS range and often costs more than many cognac houses’ VSOP offerings.
We tasted Hennessy VS neat in a cognac snifter and here are our notes. The price of Hennessy VS is the highest of the big four cognac houses’ VS offerings, priced about 20% higher than Courvoisier and Martell VS cognacs and about 5% more than Rémy Martin’s Petit Champagne VS cognac. Hennessy VS is a blend of about 40 different eaux-de-vie from the Bois ordinaire, Bon Bois, Borderies, Fins Bois, Grande Champagne, and Petite Champagne appellations that are aged 2 and a half and five years in French Limousin oak barrels.
Hennessy VS is packaged in an attractive bell-shaped bottle with the Hennessy coat-of-arms surrounded by a wreath of grapevines featured on the label. A medallion reading “Maison Fondee 1765” is embossed at the base of the neck. The color of Hennessy VS is amber, reddish gold, and the nose has notes of oak and nuts with no spice. On the palate, you’ll taste grape juice, unaged eaux-de-vie, similar to Rémy Martin’s V, grilled almonds, and soft vanilla. The finish is medium length, with a slight black pepper spice.
While Hennessy VS has the finer attributes of cognac, it lacks complexity or dominating distinguishing flavors and aromas. As such, VS is fine for casual sipping and makes for a versatile cocktail mixer. Hennessy promotes the use of its VS and V.S.O.P cognacs to be used as cocktail mixers. In fact, Hennessy’s website contains dozens of recommended cognac cocktail recipes with Hennessy Very Special as the key ingredient. Hennessy recommends its VS as an ingredient in its “punch royal.” We tried Hennessy Very Special in a Between the Sheets cocktail (Cognac, triple sec, rum, and lemon juice, a Side Car with rum) as recommended by Hennessy and found it suitable as a mixer.
In addition to Hennessy VS, the brand has also created a cognac specifically crafted for mixing, Hennessy Black. Overall, Hennessy remains a top contender in the cognac world, with its high-quality products and strong brand recognition.