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?

Rémy Cointreau hails ‘impressive’ third quarter

Rémy Cointreau has posted sales of €836.7 million for the first nine months more...

Żubrówka maker’s bankruptcy plans approved

A New York judge has approved Roust’s application for bankruptcy in the US as more...

Dubai Duty Free 2016 sales reach US$1.85bn

Dubai Duty Free saw annual sales of US$1.85 billion in 2016, with liquor more...

Patrón TR chief: 'every brand is a competitor'

John Kilmartin, travel retail chief at Patrón Spirits International, talks more...

A drink with... Ian Harris, WSET

The CEO of the Wine & Spirit Education Trust tells The Spirits Business about more...

Copper & Kings launches barrel-aged absinthe

Kentucky-based Copper & Kings American Brandy is to launch Zmaj, a limited more...

Wemyss Malts appoints Asia sales manager

Independent spirits bottler Wemyss Malts has named Jason Pan as Asia Pacific more...

Majestic sees gin sales soar over Christmas

Majestic Wine has reported a 55% increase in gin sales over the Christmas more...

Swizzle Masters 2016 winner reveals key to competition success

After a thrilling year of creative cocktails and mind-boggling mixology, Joe more...

Absolut unveils lime flavour after portfolio cull

Pernod Ricard has released a new lime variant for Absolut Vodka, after last more...

Cannabis-based booze to be 'biggest disruptor ever'

In November 2016 a fresh wave of cannabis legalisation spread throughout the more...

Ole Smoky partners with Outsiders

East Tennessee-based Ole Smoky Distillery has released a limited edition more...

Ray Lewis gifts Bourbon to Trump and Pence

Retired American footballer Ray Lewis is to launch a limited edition Bourbon more...

Plans for Donegal distillery approved

The town of Donegal in Ireland is set to welcome its first distillery in 175 more...

Entries open for Wenneker Swizzle Masters 2017

Entries are now open for the revamped 2017 Wenneker Swizzle Masters – in more...

Experts predict top spirits trends in 2017

If you're curious about what the coming year has in store for the global more...

42Below recycles cocktail waste into soap

In an effort to curb waste, Bacardi-owned vodka 42Below has launched a free more...

SMWS releases 'first' ex-gin cask whisky

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) has released what’s thought to be the more...

Cognac exports rebound to pre-crisis levels

Global Cognac exports reached their “highest level” in both volume and more...

California welcomes 'first urban distillery'

Distiller and blogger Laura Johnson is readying to open California's "first more...