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?

Eden Mill to launch Scottish gin festival

Eden Mill Distillery will showcase gins from all over Scotland in a week-long more...

Police call for drink drive limit to be halved

The Police Federation of England and Wales wants to see tougher laws on drink more...

Diageo redesigns flagship Smirnoff Red bottle

Diageo is aiming to enhance the premium image of Smirnoff Vodka with a redesign more...

UK's 24-hour drinking laws a 'qualified success'

One of the UK's leading economic think tanks claims the "doom-mongers" who more...

Ryan Chetiyawardana releases first cocktail book

Revered mixologist and bar owner Ryan Chetiyawardana has launched his first more...

Cocktail demand fends off 'inevitable' gin fallout

Global cocktail culture is continuing to drive gin sales onwards and upwards, more...

Jura launches limited edition Tastival 2015 Scotch

Whyte & Mackay has launched a new limited edition bottling of Jura single malt more...

Diageo opens first World Class Bar on cruise ship

Diageo Global Travel Americas has partnered with Celebrity Cruises to launch more...

South Africa plans to raise drinking age to 21

The South African government has proposed raising the legal drinking from 18 to more...

Clooney stocks local pub with own Tequila

When he realised his local pub didn't sell his Casamigos Tequila, George more...

Middle-aged Britons riskier drinkers than teens

Middle-aged men and women are regularly drinking above the "higher risk" limits more...

The week in pictures

Celebrity sightings, boozy ice creams, eccentric cocktail expeditions, new more...

Too much alcohol can change heart structure

A new study has found even "moderate" drinking can cause "abnormal" changes in more...

Bartender convicted for patron's 56 shot death

A French bartender has been convicted of manslaughter for serving a man 56 more...

'World's first' London Dry citrus vodka

NB Distillery has branched out from the world of gin and launched the more...

'Drunk in love' concept backed by science

A recent study explored the effects of 'love hormone' oxytocin and found that more...

Millennials to drive spirits growth in the US

The future of spirits in the US is seemingly secure, as millennials take up more...

Pioneering Scotch whisky experiments

Rather than bemoaning another set of regulations, these Scotch whisky producers more...

Director of Tequila Chamber to step down

The director general of the National Chamber of the Tequila Industry (CNIT) more...

Gordon & MacPhail launches Benromach 15YO

Gordon & MacPhail has expanded its Benromach single malt Scotch whisky more...