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Hine Rare VSOP

Review: Hine Rare VSOP    87.5/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published January 14, 2014

For those who do not know, the production of cognac is governed by strict rules designed to guarantee consistency of quality and character in the final spirit. All cognac must be produced from a specific region of France whose appellation was first set out by decree on May 1, 1909. Since 1938, this appellation has been composed of six crus: Grande Champagne, Petite Champagne, Borderies, Fins Bois, Bon Bois, and Bois a Terroir. (You can think of each of these crus as specific grape growing regions within the overall appellation.) The grape juice from which cognac is distilled must be produced solely from white grapes which have been grown within the Cognac appellation.

Cognac is distilled twice upon a copper Charentes Still. The resulting distillate must be aged in new french oak or french oak that previously contained Cognac eaux de vie. The minimum aging for Cognac is 2 years, and if Cognac carries an age statement, it must be the youngest cognac in the blend which is represented. The youngest Cognac eaux de vie in a blend which is labelled VSOP must be 4 years old.

Hine Rare VSOP is produced from a blend 25 Cognac spirits in the heart of France’s Cognac appellation on the banks of the River Charente. More than 50% of this VSOP blend is distilled from grapes grown in the Grande Champagne cru and the remaining spirit is distilled from grapes produced in the Petite Champagne cru. The Grand and Petite Champagne regions are two of the most recognizable Cognac regions of France known for consistently producing high quality grape harvests.

Note: Hine is one of the oldest Cognac Houses in the commune of Jarnac, (within the Cognac appellation in France of course), and Hine has produced their Cognac since 1763.

Pack Bouteille Rare VSOP 30 cmIn the Bottle 4.5/5

The Hine Rare VSOP arrives in the elegant (yet masculine) tear drop style bottle shown to the left. The topper for the bottle is a wooden topped cork which is sure to provide that satisfying ‘pop’ when the bottle is opened. My only niggle with the presentation is that I find the label to be rather bland and uninspiring. I live in an area of the world where little is known about the various cognac houses and their relative importance, and I am afraid that the “Hine” name means little to me and to most of the potential consumers in my local. The label makes the spirit look almost industrial rather than artisan. A little dressing up on the label would go a long way towards pushing consumers in one direction or another with respect to their cognac purchases.

In the Glass 8.5

The cognac displays itself as a nice golden copper coloured spirit, and the initial nose is somewhat heated with scents of both raw oak spice and white pepper mingled within a fruited caramel aroma. As the glass breathes I begin to notice a growing sense of fresh fruit (peaches and apricots) as well as a few raisins in the breezes above the glass. Some bits of floral perfume seem to be present as well which remind me of camphor, lilac and iris. There is also perhaps a hint of menthol and a beguiling musty spiciness, which seems to contain a mixture of cinnamon, cloves, anise, mint, and black pepper corn.

I like the aroma, and am torn between scoring this section 8.5 or 9. I chose a cautionary path which may not necessarily have been fair to the Cognac.

In the Mouth  52/60

Based upon the complexity of the nose, I was not expecting to find such an approachable spirit inside my glass. There is a mellow quality within this spirit which is very engaging. I taste obvious flavours of spicy oak and light caramel mixing with pleasing bits of vanilla, raisin and orange peel zest. Hinted at, are subtle impressions of chocolate and oolong tea with perhaps a not so subtle musty leathery flavour which lies underneath (I find myself imagining the old leather armchair my dad used to sit in as he smoked his pipe). It was when I poured my second glass that I noticed that the cognac was also lightly sweet and herbal in character, with a mixture of common and exotic spices hinted at in the flavour profile. Cinnamon, lemongrass, anise and mint come to mind, with suggestions of blue iris, and juniper suggested as well.

In the Throat  13.5/15

The medium length finish features the return of musty oak spices and dry spicy raisins. A gentle menthol like cooling of the throat follows. I like the exit which (despite the spiciness) is very smooth and very easy to sip (or gulp).

The Afterburn 9/10

Hine Rare VSOP is smooth, and easy to sip; yet it is also a pleasingly complex spirit. The Cognac features a dominant flavour profile of spicy oak and raisin flavours, but also carries subtle nuances with additional flavours and aromas of camphor, cinnamon, cloves, anise, and mint. In the finish all of these impressions are complimented by a cool menthol sensation which seemed to have the ability to lure me into pouring another glass each time it was empty. My 200 ml sample bottle (given to me by the good folks at Woodman Wines and Spirits) was unfortunately consumed during the course of this investigation. The question now arises, should I try to replace The Hine Rare VSOP, or should I try to move up the Hine ladder and look for their Hine XO Fine Champagne Premier Cru instead?

You may click this link to read some of my other Brandy and Cognac Reviews

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My Final Score is out of 100 and you may (loosely) interpret the score as follows:

0-25     A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49   Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59  You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69   Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74    Now we have a fair mixing spirit. Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79    You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84    We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89    Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94    Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+       I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 
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