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Hine Antique Cognac XO

Review: Hine Antique Cognac XO   93.5/100
A review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Published October 13, 2016

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.

As well, 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 XO must be 6 years old.

Hine Antique XO Cognac is produced from a blend 40 Cognac spirits in the heart of France’s Cognac appellation on the banks of the River Charente. Recently the brand upgraded the blend such that every drop of Hine Antique is now distilled from grapes grown in the Grande Champagne cru. The Grand Champagne cru is the most recognizable Cognac region of France known for consistently producing high quality grape harvests. In addition, all of the eau de vie for this cognac blend have been aged a minimum of ten years which is four years longer than required by French law. The spirit is bottled at 40 % alcohol by volume.

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

hine-antique-xoIn the Bottle 4.5/5

The elegant tear drop bottle pictured below houses the Hine Antique XO. A solid cork topper crowns the presentation. Although it is hard to see from the bottle shot, the decanter features hard angled corners which give the presentation a more masculine look than typical tear drop bottles. I should note that I have seen pictures online of the Camus with an accompanying elegant slim silver and caramel coloured box.

My only niggle with the presentation is that I find the label rather 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 locale. The label makes the spirit look almost industrial rather than artisan. A little dressing up and a little more information would go a long way towards pushing consumers in one direction or another with respect to their cognac purchases.

In the Glass 9.5/10

The XO cognac displays itself as a rustic copper coloured spirit similar to the colour of a well used penny. When I tilt and twirl my glencairn, I see the spirit deposits a thickish sheen on the inside of the glass, the crest of which drops somewhat plump droplets which turn into medium-sized legs ambling back down into the spirit.

The initial nose is perhaps a tad restrained as scents of  oak spice and vanilla mingle within a fruited caramel aroma. As the glass breathes, I begin to notice a growing herbaceous quality with camphor, menthol and cinnamon weaving themselves into the lightly sweet caramel. Fresh fruit, (apples, pears and apricots) as well as a bits of raisin unravel into the breezes above the glass as well. Interestingly, the oak-like smells have turned dusty reminding me of burlap and old leather. In fact, when my glass is empty and I have allowed it to sit for several minutes, this dusty oak is the dominant aroma within that empty glass.

I really like the nose which seems to me to be very well-balanced with each aspect of the cognac’s aroma serving to complement the others. The spirit promises to be complex and engaging.

In the Mouth 56/60

The first sip brings dusty oak and old leather flavours across the palate which give way slowly to herbaceous impressions of cinnamon, lemongrass and herbal mint. The restraint I noticed earlier has been replaced by a robust and complex flavour  across the palate. (Probably because I allowed d the glass to site for a full ten minutes before sipping.) There is a light butterscotch sweetness present which is just firm enough to provide a complement for the herbaceous quality of the cognac. However this sweetness is not so firm as to disrupt the dusty presence of oak and leather. The second sip brings even stronger impressions of oak spice which pucker the mouth slightly; but again, the light sweetness provides the correct counterbalance. Fresh fruit in the form of green grape and apricots have pushed their way into my consciousness as has a mild but firm impression of pipe tobacco. Underlying flavours of almonds and roasted walnuts complete the flavour profile.

I can easily sip the Hine Antique XO; it is a spirit which despite the strong oak presence and complex flavour profile remains approachable. This speaks to fine craftsmanship in the blending process.

In the Throat 14/10

The cognac has a long finish with camphour, menthol and bits of cinnamon swimming in a pool of oak spice and butterscotch sweetness.

The Afterburn 9.5/10

Hine Antique XO Cognac is a robust, complex spirit. The grape spirit features a dominant profile of dusty oak spice and caramel which are chased by additional herbaceous flavours of camphor, cinnamon and menthol. I found the flavours grew as I allowed my glass to breathe. I also noticed that as time passed the dusty oak spice and the caramel sweetness merged together bringing about a lovely nectar in the glass. There is of course much more going on, suffice it to say that if you are a connoisseur of cognac then the Hine Antique XO should be on your bucket list.

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

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Suggested Recipe:

It is quite common when mixing tiki drinks to mix two disparate rums with different flavour profiles in order to bring the best of both to the final cocktail. I like to do the same when making cocktails with brandy and cognac. Specifically, I like to mix a young vibrant VSOP spirit with a well aged brandy or XO Cognac in sour cocktails. A ribbon of strong overt oak spice (from the well aged spirit) seems to take these cocktails to a whole new level.

hummingbird-sam_2779That is the theme for the following cocktail which my wife insisted that I call the Hummingbird as it is named for the avian visitor which has been dropping by our back window this fall.

The Hummingbird

1 oz H by Hine VSOP
1/2 oz Hine Antique XO
3/4 oz Orange Juice
3/8 oz Lemon Juice
3/8 oz Lime Juice
1/2 oz Sugar Syrup
dash Angostura Bitters
Ice
Twist of Orange Peel

Add the first seven ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice
Shake until the outside of the shaker begins to frost
Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
Garnish with a Twist of Orange Peel

Please Enjoy Responsibly!

Note: If  you are interested in more of my original cocktail recipes, please click this link (Cocktails and Recipes) for more of my mixed drink recipes!

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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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