Maintaining consistency within a product might be a challenge for any large spirits company. On the other side of the spectrum, the ability to create a one-time, limited release can prove to be just plain fun. These limited releases also mean producers don’t have to necessarily handcuff themselves to a particular recipe. They don’t have to worry about whether they have enough components to consistently make the product over and over. They have the freedom to just play around and create.
For the world’s largest cognac producer Hennessy, the end result of playing around is their Master Blender’s Selection (MBS) line. Introduced in 2016, the experimental cognacs are exclusive to the US market. Former Hennessy Master Blender Yann Fillioux created the line to feature certain eaux de vie in ways the company’s strong core lineup can’t. Each year’s release is different and won’t be replicated. One and done.
The second release in the series, MBS No. 2 is a blend of eaux de vie aged at least 10 years. The first 18 months of which were in young French oak casks before being transferred to older casks. Those young casks impart lots of spice. Hennessy Master of Distillation Olivier Paultes told me in an interview at this year’s Tales of the Cocktail that this particular blend contains a lot of Petit Champagne, giving this cognac some elegance.
This blend is very aromatic. The nose features hints of dried fruit, baking spices, vanilla and floral top notes. Brown sugar hits the tongue upon entry, followed by rich and spicy cinnamon cake, vanilla, anise, and citrus zest. Slightly drying oak tannins appear soon after leading into a fruity and rather peppery finish. Think black peppercorn. The finish lingers for a good while. I don’t remember ever tasting a Hennessy cognac as spicy as this one.
With its richness of baking spices, Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 2 is autumn in a glass. I’m glad a company as big as Hennessy isn’t resting on its laurels. Experimentation is a wonderful way of showcasing different flavors, through the use of different cru to cask management during maturation. To borrow Monsieur Paultes’ words, this blend is bold yet still retains a lovely elegance. Beautifully crafted and thoroughly enjoyable. 8/10
Thanks to Hennessy for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.