H by Hine

$$ — 40% ABV — 4 years

Described effusively by New York speakeasy Death & Co as a "workhorse" cognac, Hine is a 250 year old house that has been running under the radar of the general public as of late. But that may not remain the case forever. Instead of big cloying notes of raisin or plum, there's instead a very distinct apricot flavor. It's very soft and round and mildly tart that allows it to settle into a Sidecar cocktail especially well. In whisky terms, this is perhaps the Eagle Rare of brandies.

What sets Hine apart from other brandy houses is no doubt their take on wood: they don't like a lot of it. Hine favors the tightly-grained, 150 year old (read: expensive) wood sourced from Tronçais as opposed to the younger and more popular Limousin. It allows for a slower rate of maturation that ensures the freshness of the distillate isn't drowned out. Only lightly toasting the barrels further ensures against raw or spicy notes. Some barrels are even 'landed' in the UK to mature in a colder climate, which slows the maturation process even further.

While many brandies play up their ages, Hine seems far more targeted. For one, they don't offer a VS option, but rather two VSOP's: the H, which is favored for mixing, and the Rare, which with its vanilla-forward palate is meant for sipping. Hine's youth shows through, not as brash but fresh. They even continue to put out vintages, a tradition that's become very rare among Congac houses these days, and they pack huge bouquets — like Laphroaig, only fruity instead of smoky. A bottle of this old world classic ensures a night of rediscovery.

Hine is located in Jarnac, Poitou-Chartenes in south-western France. Established in 1763, it is now owned by EDV SAS.