From the UNRESERVED Cellar: Hennessy Paradis
I am a bit of a purist when it comes to drinking cognac. I like it neat. No ice. No mixer. As a digestif after dinner. With a coffee and a cigar, it is the perfect après-dinner experience.
Of course, one could also say I’m just old-fashioned. 2Pac, Jay-Z, and Busta Rhymes made sure of that with their adoration for cognac in their lyrics and music videos; and consequently, bringing this new form of bling into the club scene. The unavoidable mixers followed soon.
So where does this place Hennessy Paradis?
Although not the oldest of cognac’s Big 4 (that honour goes to Martell which was founded in 1715), Hennessy is by far the largest. Remy Martin (1724) and Courvoisier (1828) complete the quartet. Interestingly, one of the new kids on the block in cognac land, is… Jay-Z’s D’Usse. Although marketed for a new audience, it is produced by another heritage distillery.
Hennessy’s product story is quite remarkable. While the company—which belongs to luxury conglomerate LVMH—has been built since 1765 by eight generations of Hennessy men, the product has been crafted by eight generations of Master Blenders from the Fillioux family. They have been overseeing the creation of Hennessy products for over 200 years. I can’t imagine a better way to ensure product quality and more importantly, the consistency of that quality.
But the Master Blender does not rule by himself. Hennessy has a Comité de Dégustation, a Tasting Committee, with in-house experts that come together every day at 11am to sample and select the best eaux-de-vie in the region. They taste over 10,000 samples of eaux-de-vie each year, only to select the very best. Committee members join for years, and it is said that the younger team members are not allowed to speak for 10 years, but just to listen, observe and take notes. Current Master Blender Renaud Fillioux took over the reins from his uncle, Yann Fillioux in 2017. However, to tell the story of Hennessy Paradis, we must go back two generations.
Maurice Fillioux was the House’s 6th Master Blender from 1958 to 1991. He was an ardent music lover, and became one of the drivers behind Hennessy’s involvement in music. It was, however, not Jay-Z that inspired him to craft Paradis (he was just 10 when Paradis was launched in 1979) it was his love for symphonic music. He likened the selection and combination of eaux-de-vie to an orchestra conductor guiding instruments. He created the drink as an ode to symphonic music. It was his personal masterpiece. The name Paradis refers to one of the cellars at the Hennessy Maison where only the most exceptional eaux-de-vie ages.
The drink is a blend of 100 exceptional eaux-de-vie—some as old as 130 years. The eaux-de-vie have been aged only in very old barrels, giving it its amber gold colour. Hennessy Paradis has a voluptuous and harmonious aroma, notes of various fruits, spices, and flowers, and a long, warm finishing. The drink is absolutely wonderful and something to savour.
The stunning decanter was designed by Italian architect and designer Ferruccio Laviani. You will not throw the elegant and simple decanter away after you have finished enjoying its contents.
As much as cognac has made its entrance into the club scene, this is a drink for a different occasion. It’s not something you slam but something you savour, preferably in a quieter setting, where your senses can do their magic. Served in a tulip glass, it is a great drink for a celebration or special occasion. Best enjoyed in company of family and friends, with one of Beethoven’s symphonies in the background… or Jay-Z’s latest album.