Hine stands out among cognacs for many reasons, primarily, as a relatively small but select producer and Hine’s acknowledged expertise in the field of Grande Champagne vintage cognacs. In addition to its current first class production, Hine is also famous for its impressive collection of vintages, from the beginning of the last century, kept in locked cellars at the Quai de L’Orangerie, under the supervision of the Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac. Hine is the only cognac to hold a Royal warrant of appointment from HM the Queen, which she awarded in 1962.
At the beginning of the 19th century, a few cognac houses began to ship cognac, soon after it had been put into cask, to British based connoisseurs. Thomas Hine was one of the first to do so and the company still does to this day. Maturing in English cellars – humid and cool- these cognacs developed in a way quite different from their Jarnac cousins and were (and remain) highly prized. Each vintage year, a small parcel of casks is sent to Bristol, England, where they age for at least twenty years. They are known as Early Landed Cognacs for which Hine is still renowned.
Hine was established by an Englishman, Thomas Hine, who in 1791 left his native county of Dorset in the south of England, to seek his fortune in France. He chose the Cognac region, most likely because his family, living on the southern English coast, had indulged in the common practice of smuggling cognac. At that time the french revolution was raging throughout France, and Thomas was captured and imprisoned as a suspected British spy in the ancient chateau of Jarnac, some 70 miles north of Bordeaux.
Following a short incarceration he was freed and soon after he married a local woman, Françoise Elisabeth, whose father owned a cognac company in Jarnac. He had married into a business that was to become his career and his obsession. He became a noted connoisseur, respected for his integrity, and famous for the exacting demands he made on his suppliers. His motto was “Produce little but make it perfect.”
Over the years, he brought his art of making cognac to new levels. He continued to develop the business (although it always remained small, as it is today), and in 1821 he gave the company its final name; Thomas Hine & Co. On his death in 1822, his legacy was more than a prosperous business. He left a name already known and appreciated around the world for the quality of its cognacs.
The original Hine establishment stretches along the banks of the river Charente. The fine chateau sits beside the busy Hine offices and cellars, where six generations of Hines have worked and studied and continue to make the finest of cognacs.
The open fields of the Cognac region – called Champagne, as in the region of Reims – derive their name from the similar soil in the Campania around Rome. In England such fields are sometimes called ‘champion’. In each case this refers to a predominantly chalky soil, ideal for the perfect cultivation of white wine.
Hine initiated the concept of making such rarities commercially available (in limited quantities, of course) throughout the world. Another Hine speciality is their concentration on the maturing of so-called ‘early-landed’ cognacs. This custom dates back to the 19th century, when they first shipped selected vintage Grande Champagne Cognacs in cask to Bristol, in England, to mature in the unique conditions of the Bristol cellars.
Hine also forms part of the small circle of Houses who select their cognacs exclusively from the two well-known crus of the Cognac region. These, the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne, lie at the very heart of the Cognac region, and produce cognacs that are especially suitable for long ageing.
Hine cognacs are aged far longer than the minimum time required by the French Law, preferring to set their own, higher standards. Hine’s Antique is always aged considerably longer, in line with the traditions of the house for almost 250 years. Hine’s strict control of quality is regularly rewarded in international competitions, winning more than 18 medals and trophies in the past few years alone.
A cognac cannot be sold until it has been aged for at least two years, dating from the 1st of April following the harvest. The age of the youngest cognac in each blend determines the description, so that a VS will contain cognac no less than 2 years old, a VSOP no less than 4 years old, while in an XO, the youngest cognac must be a minimum of 6 years of age. Hine only produces VSOP cognac and above, their most famous being ‘Triomphe'; a blend of over 50 old Grande Champagne cognacs.
The Hine family of cognacs currently includes: Hine Rare VSOP, Hine Antique XO, Hine Jarnac-matured Vintage Cognacs and Hine Early-Landed Vintage Cognacs.