A Drink With… Bernard Hine, Hine Cognac

8th February, 2013 by Richard Woodard

It’s nearly 50 years since Bernard Hine joined the family business – 50 years of tasting, blending and living Cognac, not to mention hunting, gardening – and DIY. He spoke to Richard Woodard.

Bernard Hine Cognac

In between tastings, Bernard Hine still finds time to shoot a wild boar or two

We’re in the chair, Bernard, so what’ll you have?
For me, Cognac and ginger ale – dry ginger ale, because ginger is a great complement to aged Cognac. And using H by Hine: the best elements are the floral and fruity elements, and the ginger on top will give it age and balance, and that’s exactly what you need. Sometimes maybe a sprig of mint and a couple of ice cubes.

Perish the thought, but what if there’s no Hine?
What I like is a variety of malt whiskies. I was educated in English at Edinburgh University and went around many distilleries with my Scottish friends. I love the differences between all of them – the same as we have in Cognac with different vintages. We don’t talk about different distilleries in Cognac; we talk about vintages.

Hine’s famous for its vintage Cognacs, and you’re about to bring out two 1983s and a 1953. Do you have a favourite year?
No, I’ve got two or three which have a lot behind them. There’s 1914 which we call “the ladies’ vintage”, and 1948, which was a fantastic year, and the balance is there. That’s a great thing.

And 2012?
It’s been awful! Disease everywhere, mildew. We’ve had very big difficulties, so the quantity of the crop is very variable. Now we want to wait for the quality of the first distilled batches. But with Cognac, we never say good or no good – we say is it appreciated by the drinker or not? Some prefer something a little big and rounded, some like them lean and charming – a bit like pretty girls! Each drinker should be left free with their own feelings.

I hear you like hunting wild boar. Any tips for a novice?
Oh, it’s aggressive and there’s just one rule: shoot and don’t miss. If it’s not him, it’s you! I’ve had a few interesting experiences… I was shooting in Chambord once, and a big one got out of the beat a couple of yards away from me. I was very proud of myself – it was one of the first big ones I got, about 120kg. But this shooting thing is always the same: you remember the good ones and you forget about the others. It’s like that with shooting – and it’s like that with your friends!

You also find time for a little gardening and DIY?
With gardening, I’ve got to do the hard work – I’m under the thumb! Turning the soil over with a little rotovator, but normally I’m under command: I’m definitely the under-gardener! I like working with wood, mending things and all the decoration with woodwork. If you need a plumber, you’ve got to wait ages and pay a fortune for a couple of minutes. There are plenty of things you can do yourself.

These are great times for Cognac in China, but do you worry that sales could collapse as they did in Japan?
We are used to this – after all, Cognac exports 97% of its production. So the sales of Cognac are very much subject to the political situation of the markets. We’ve had difficulties with the Russians in the past, we’ve had problems in the 1950s with the Venezuelan government and taxes. We are used to that – we have overcome these problems and we are ready to overcome some more, but the less we have to overcome, the better we sell!

And, after so long in the industry, what’s your favourite Cognac memory?
The most emotional thing I have ever done was one evening in Sydney in a restaurant overlooking the harbour, opening a bottle of Hine and saying to the friends I was with: “I prepared the blend, I made this.” At the far end of the world!

Leave a Reply

If that's interesting, how about these?

Beam Suntory targets Kenya with distribution partnership

Edrington Fix Middle East (EFME) and King Beverage have formed a "strategic more...

First Craft Bartender Summit set to launch

Bar and mixology training firm A Bar Above will host the inaugural online Craft more...

Wenneker Swizzle Masters Smoky Mezcal winner revealed

With a focus on the fiery flavours of mezcal, Ms. Rosemary’s Smokin’ by Joe more...

The week in pictures

What a week it's been with Justin Timberlake shaking things up behind the bar, more...

Southern Wine & Spirits exec to retire

Southern Wine and Spirits of America has announced the retirement of Will more...

LVMH bolstered by China 'normalisation'

Reported sales for LVMH's Wine & Spirits division grew 16% in 2015 to more...

Watch contains drops of 'world's oldest Cognac'

A Swiss watchmaker and corporate collector have teamed up to create a timepiece more...

The Whiskey Affair all set for first Brighton show

Following the inaugural launch in London last year, whisky show The Whiskey more...

William Grant ups peated presence with Ailsa Bay

William Grant & Sons has launched the first single malt whisky from its Ailsa more...

Oblix inspired by America for new cocktails

Oblix, the sky-high London bar that sits on the 32nd floor of the Shard, has more...

Douglas Laing appoints new US distributor

Douglas Laing has announced a new US distribution partnership with Vision Wine more...

Consumption of domestic UK spirits declines

UK drinkers are switching from local to international spirits brands as new more...

The Tequila Masters 2016 results

Producers of Mexico’s iconic liquid remain determined to shake off the more...

The fastest growing spirits in the US

For both established and fledgling brands, the US is the Holy Grail of all more...

Teeling raises €5m for Great Northern Distillery

John Teeling's Irish Whiskey Company has ditched equity sale plans after more...

Top 10 spirits marketing campaigns in January 2016

In this latest batch of spirits industry marketing campaigns, Hollywood actress more...

Diageo predicts 'strong growth' in North America

Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo, is “pleased” with the group’s 2% organic net more...

Influential spirits industry couples

We pinned down some of the most celebrated couples in the spirits industry to more...

Lethal bootleg booze kills at least 26 in Indonesia

Police have made three arrests after at least 26 people were confirmed dead as more...

American whiskey boosts US spirits once again

Spirits experienced another year of “steady growth” in the US last year, more...