7 Things We Bet You Didn’t Know About Hennessy, The Undisputed King of Cognacs

Up your boozy IQ.

Photo: Hennessy

Hennessy, like Jack Daniel’s or Bacardi, is a brand name of distilled spirit that’s managed to work its way from the vernacular of spirit sippers into the lexicon of American pop culture. But while generations of drinkers have enjoyed the cognac over its centuries-long existence, very few know the story behind one of the the world’s most popular brandy brands. 

Hennessy: A Toast to the World’s Preeminent Spirit by Maxim editor-at-large Glenn O’Brien is a brand-new book that offers readers unprecedented detail into the Hennessy brand’s 250-plus year legacy.

Image: Hennessy

Complete with interviews from the distillery’s master blender Yann Fillioux and cultural icons who have helped ingrain the Hennessy name in American society, O’Brien’s humorous writing style pairs perfectly with Jean-Phillipe Delhomme’s evocative illustrations to give cognac enthusiasts a read that’s as rich as it is refreshing. 

Get a gist of what to expect from from Hennessy: A Toast to the World’s Preeminent Spirit with these seven surprising facts about the beloved brandy. 

1. Hennessy’s founder was Irish.  
The founder of Hennessy, Richard Hennessy, is actually an Irishman who moved to France in the mid-eighteenth century. The name “Hennessy” refers to an ancient Irish clan. It comes from the Gaelic Ó hAonghusa, which means ‘descendant of Angus’.

2. Ever noticed the name “Jas Hennessy” on a bottle of Hennessy?
Jacques Hennessy, son of founder Richard, was the one who made Hennessy a truly successful firm by starting “James Hennessy and Company” brandy merchants in 1813 and that is why is says “Jas. Hennessy” on the label. Fun fact, the names Jacques is French for James and Jas is a shorter name for James.

Photo: Hennessy

3. Hennessy was sold as a medicine. 
From 1920 to 1933, Prohibition took hold of America and it was a dark time—Hennessy’s success during this moment in American culture owes a considerable debt to William Schiefflin, who sold Hennessy through his family’s drugstores. Schiefflin & Co. eventually became a major liquor distributor, and it was so crucial to Hennessy’s success that Moët Hennessy bought the company in 1981. Hennessy will cure what ails you.

4. Hennessy once made Olympian Jesse Owen’s mentee its vice president.  
In 1968, Hennessy made waves by promoting Olympian & Jesse Owens mentee, Herbert Douglas to vice president, making him one of the first African-American VPs in corporate America. A chapter on Herbert, who is known as “The Godfather of Hennessy’s African American Community”, is in Hennessy: A Toast to the World’s Preeminent Spirit. In keeping alive the spirit, heart and qualities of his friend and mentor, Jesse Owens, Herb Douglas & The International Athletic Association (IAA) will honor another important sports luminary – Serena Williams – at the Jesse Owens International Athlete Trophy Gala in New York City on April 27th. (Table purchase now available at www.JesseOwensGala.com)

5. Nas is Hennessy’s official brand ambassador. 
Hennessy Wild Rabbit Icon & Brand Ambassador, Nas, likes to drink Hennessy straight and chase it with Sprite. He also recommends pairing Hennessy with cigars.

Photo: Hennessy

6. Hennessy has been praised as being years ahead of its competitors. 
What got Author Glenn O’Brien interested in working with Hennessy was a trip to Cognac, France. He thought, “Wow, this company thinks one hundred years ahead. If lots of other companies thought one hundred years ahead then world would be very different.”

7. It takes ten years to become a professional Hennessy taster.  
According to Hennessy’s 7th Generation Master Blender, Yann Fillioux, you cannot become a professional taster at Hennessy’s level before you’ve completed ten years of apprenticeship on the Comité de Dégustation (Tasting Committee), a select group of tasting experts who evaluate each eau-de-vie that goes into Hennessy Cognac. And you thought getting into college was hard…

Image: Hennessy

Pick up a copy of Hennessy: A Toast to the World’s Preeminent Spirit wherever fine books are sold now.