Daily drinking

His job requires him to drink fermented spirits every morning. Sounds pretty good, right? The hard part is bearing part of the hefty responsibility of creating the best cognac for one of the world’s biggest producers.

Comprising eight Hennessy employees with specific functions within the company (ranging from wine production to barrel management), this committee meets every day to taste and sample at least 50 different eaux-de-vie and blends each day.

But what exactly does it take to be a member of this exclusive company? A lot of passion, and a lot of practise, according to Renaud de Gironde, Hennessy’s wine grower relations manager, who was in Kuala Lumpur recently to host a media dinner at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel held to launch the Hennessy Paradis Impérial.

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“We do the tasting before lunch because it is the optimum time when our taste buds are open and we are also not too tired after a hard day’s work. Each glass of eau-de-vie goes around the table, and after tasting it, we all say a few words about what we think of it, and the master blender writes down the final impression,” he says, adding that the samples can range from newly produced eau-de-vie to existing stock in the Hennessy cellars.

“No eau-de-vie goes into our cellars or the bottles without first being tasted by us,” de Gironde declares. “Each tasting is a different experience, and each vintage is a different challenge. However, what’s important for us is not liking a certain eau-de-vie but understanding its potential, and whether it is suitable for Hennessy. We need to make sure that each time someone opens a bottle of Hennessy, the quality will always be consistent.”

He also says that short of eating spicy food for breakfast, lunch and dinner non-stop for a week, there are no real restrictions to what they can or cannot consume. “As long as you don’t change your diet too drastically, it is okay. You just have to be as consistent as possible to keep the reference points that you’ve developed over the years.”

“You are surrounded by people who have 20 to 40 years experience, and you have to listen to them and slowly learn how to form your own opinions about the eaux-de-vie.”

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