The House of HINE is located deep in cognac country on the banks of the River Charente and very little has changed over the last 250 years. The ancient cellars which are kept locked protect some of the very best luxury vintages while one of the oldest houses in Jarnac remain the headquarters of the company.
For more than two centuries the Hine family has remained unchanged until English designer Russel Sage came to the place to freshen it up. Sage was well known for his taste in antique textiles along with the finest in luxury and ancient buildings. The mingled British traditions such as the likes of Savile Row which its bespoke hand tailoring with British eccentricity. This approach was in line with that of HINE and made way for an original interior design style of the house which produces some of the very best cognac in the world.
The cognac region lies in the south west of France. In 1909 the appellation was defined and divided into six regions which were in accordance with the style of the cognac produced. The finest and very best if these was the Grande Champagne and the Petite Champagne which were elegant and very delicate cognac that came with flowery rich aromas and the superb potential to age. The House of HINE specializes in cognac from both of these areas.
In the region the soil which is chalky is one of the key factors to producing some of the very best luxury cognac as it acts as a sponge that takes in water and retains it before gradually releasing it during dry weather. One of the main varieties of grapes used is the Ugni Blanc which produces a white wine with suitable strength and a fine bouquet. The grapes are picked by hand and put gently into a press which extracts the juice pneumatically. This is a natural process which generally takes place over a week. Following fermentation the vat is filled and very tightly sealed. The wine is translucent, fruity and dry with little alcohol and is perfect for distilling.
Only the very best luxury wines are chosen for distillation and this process ensures that only the finest and highest quality is used to produce cognac. The distillation is carried out in two stages using a process from the 16th century of a naked flame. cognac is carefully blended from two of the finest of crus in large vats made of oak. They are then out into casks and aged from between six to nine months until perfect. HINE cognac has been acknowledged around the world and awarded with some of the most prestigious of awards including being in the first place in China in their 2009 top 100.
For over two centuries, the Hine family home remained largely unchanged. But then experimental English designer Russell Sage, known for his love of antique textiles, ancient buildings and the finer things in life, was brought in to give the place fresh new appeal. He combined the ‘best of British’ traditions (the likes of Savile Row bespoke tailoring, hand-made shoes and city shirts) with out-and-out British eccentricity. His unorthodox approach — much in line with HINE’s — gave rise to a delightfully original interior design style.
Generation to generation
Thomas Hine earned a reputation for being a serious, hard worker, but not lacking in a good sense of humour. His in-depth knowledge of finance and business, good commercial sense together with his French and English skills gave him special status. He expanded what was to become the traditional business of the HINE company; making bespoke cognacs for English wine merchants. When his father-in-law died, his mother-in-law chose Thomas — rather than one of her own sons — to take charge of the family cognac business.
In 1817, Thomas gave his name to the company: Thomas Hine & Co. Just a few years later, in 1822, he died of pneumonia at the age of 47, thirty years after he first arrived in Jarnac. His eldest son, Thomas Georges, just old enough to take over the reins of the company was to succeed him, thus continuing the extraordinary story of the Hine family and HINE cognac — today with its sixth generation. Today the expertise of the family ancestors continues to live on through Thomas Hine’s direct descendents.
Each family member has contributed to the HINE story:
Thomas Édouard Hine (1837-1914): He created Triomphe in 1888 to celebrate the revival of the vineyards in the Cognac region following the devastation wrought by the phylloxera crisis.
Isaac Georges Hine (1843-1902): He registered the HINE stag emblem as their trademark in 1867.
Georges Thomas Hine (1881-1940): He developed markets for HINE in Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands and Belgium in the early 20th century. In 1920, he created Antique, the most well-known of HINE’s cognacs.
François Thomas Hine (1908-1983): He created Family Reserve in 1936 to meet a special request made by a famous client in New York. He opened up the American market at the end of Prohibition in 1933 and introduced HINE cognac to China in 1951.
Robert Hine (1912-1994): Robert Hine developped the shipping in bottles and the first advertising campaign for HINE (1946).
Bernard Thomas Hine (1939): Bernard Thomas Hine is the current Hine family member. His renowned cognac creations include Rare, Mariage and Talent. In keeping with the HINE values, he has pursued his passion for single vintage cognacs — which are officially recognised — thus upholding and furthering the great family tradition.
In the 1960′s, Bernard Thomas Hine added central Europe to the long, growing list of HINE markets, while continuing to develop HINE’s prestige and reputation across the globe.