How much do you really know about cognac? Hennessy’s Jordan Bushell wants to help you out

Talking sustainability, memorable rituals, and Hennessy MyWay comp advice.

How much do you really know about cognac? Hennessy’s Jordan Bushell wants to help you out
Jordan Bushell is the global ambassador for Hennessy. Photo: Supplied

Sometimes you realise how little you know. I had one of those moments this week — I realised I didn’t really know much about cognac.

I’ve been doing this booze and bar writing thing for about 12 years, and worked the bar for 10 years before that. I did the WSET forever ago, visited distilleries, written bartending and spirits exams, tasted what seemed like was all the Australian gins (but then again, with another 83 produced every day how is one to keep up?). But I didn’t really know much about cognac.

I knew that it was made from grapes, so that’s good. I knew that the grapes best suited to cognac production are high acid grapes. I know that cognac is an AOC and has its rules. I knew that they used alembic copper stills, fired with an open flame. And I knew that there are varying ages of cognac. I knew most of it was blended, the product of multiple years’ distillations.

But talking to Jordan Bushell — the global brand ambassador for Hennessy, who is visiting Australia and New Zealand this month — for Drinks At Work I realised that there’s so much more to the spirit, and to Cognac the region, than I previously knew. And it felt really good to know that there’s so much more to learn.

Jordan is an interesting guy, and someone who clearly knows the ins and outs of cognac. We spoke at length about his advice when it comes to creating drinks rooted in sustainable practices, about the memories a considered drinks ritual can create, and how Jordan thinks about the sustainability of a global brand like Hennessy — I really like his answer on that one, too. Jordan also talks about creating quality at scale, and the over 800 small distillers Hennessy sources spirit from, the role of the tasting committee at Hennessy, and how he thinks abut a luxury brand in a time when the cost of living for bartenders just gets higher and higher.

Below, I’ve got a few takeaways from our conversation, and the full edited transcript, too.

A quick note: this episode is sponsored by Hennessy, because they want to let you know about Jordan’s upcoming visit to New Zealand and Australia this month in support of the Hennessy MyWay 2024 Challenge. It’s the fourth year for this global competition, and they’re launching in Australia and New Zealand for the first time.

Jordan will join the Australian and New Zealand Hennessy ambassador Alex Zanarini for five masterclasses:

  • Auckland – Monday April 15th 12:30PM – 2:30PM, Tommy’s Champagne Parlour, Seafarers - RSVP Here
  • Brisbane - Tuesday April 16th 12:30PM – 2:30PM, The Gresham - RSVP Here
  • Melbourne - Wednesday April 17th 12:30PM – 2:30PM, Pearl Diver - RSVP Here
  • Perth - Friday April 19th, 1:00PM – 3:00PM, The Leederville Hotel - RSVP Here
  • Sydney - Monday April 22nd , 12:30PM – 2:30PM, The Emerald Room - RSVP Here

Bartenders are invited to come along to an event and participate in Hennessy MyWay, a quest to discover the most innovative and sustainable cocktail creations paired with spectacular serving rituals. On offer are cash prizes of €1000 for top 50 finalists with the top 10 invited to Paris and Cognac to compete in the live final in October.

To enter the competition visit, and to RSVP to one of the five events visit the link here.

You can listen to Drinks At Work on Apple PodcastsSpotifyAmazon Music and on Android.

“What is sustainable — it means a lot of different things, and can mean different things to different people.”

Jordan has a great example in this interview about making sustainability relatable to you and your situation. For instance, he says, Canada has so much fresh water available, no bartender would ever consider its scarcity. That’s different, obviously, in more drought-prone areas.

“The ritual — if you can make people remember your bar, it’s free marketing.”

It’s a theme we’ve been following this year: how do you make your bar stand out in an era of too much information all the time? When the level of drinks has never been higher?

You gotta make things memorable. Guests want an experience, as well as the best drink they’ve ever had in their life. “It’s the old adage,” Jordan says, “people will remember how you made them feel, they won’t necessarily remember the ingredients in the drink.”

“It’s unique to that terroir.”

This is the interesting response to the idea that using a spirit from overseas — something like Hennessy and cognac — is an inherently unsustainable practice. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a bit lately, and it’s one of the reasons why people want to drink local more often these days. I think the emphasis on supporting local distilleries and producers is a great thing. But I also don’t see people’s desire to taste things from across the seas is going to change, ever. We’re curious creatures. We want to know what things are like over there. I don’t want to live in a place that is closed off from outside influences completely. I don’t want to live in a place that is swamped with outside influence only, either. I want to live in a place where we can get a bit of everything. Because whilst there are some Australian brandies, for instance, which are great, they don’t possess the same flavour profile as cognac. As Jordan says, that’s because of the terroir and the particular rules governing that time and place.

So I’d be quite happy if we could ship everything — cognac and champagne would be high atop my list — by sail. And, as Jordan says in this episode, they’re working on it, too!

The Interview

Sam Bygrave: Jordan Bushell, thanks for joining me on Drinks at Work.

Jordan Bushell: Thanks for having me, Sam.

Now you’re the global brand ambassador for a little cognac brand called Hennessy, is that right?

Yeah, I’ve been with Hennessy for about 13 and a half years. I started on the global team January 1st, 2020, so wonderful timing. And before that, I was the national brand ambassador in the United States, even though I’m Canadian and lived in Canada the entire time.

I’m speaking to you in Toronto today, is that right?


Very good. All right, well, I appreciate you taking time out of your night to talk to us because you’re coming to Australia and New Zealand in a couple of weeks time, in support of the Hennessy MyWay competition.

Yeah, I’ll be working with the team there. So we’re going to fly into New Zealand first, into Auckland specifically. And then from Auckland, we’re going to go to Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, and then Sydney.

That is a good spread of cities. Have you ever been to Australia before?


Oh wow, wonderful. Well.

Yeah, it’s, I think I had the opportunity many, many years ago when a friend was from there and was going back and then for whatever reason it just didn’t work out. And it’s, I think it’s one of the farthest places on the map from Toronto. So it’s one of those things. It’s like I was working my way there. And then Hennessy, Hennessy called.

I think you’ll find that when you go to Perth, it’s the most isolated city in the world. It’s the furthest capital city away from any other capital city. So yeah, good luck getting back from there.


As I said, it’s for the support in the Hennessy My Way competition. It’s in its fourth year globally, I believe, but its first year in Australia. What is the brief for the competition? What do bartenders have to do to get involved?

Well, MyWay is, I mean, to get involved, it’s easy. You go to and you’ll be able to sign up. It’s got all the rules, the regulations, sort of everything you need to know is on the microsite. But the brief is really, you’re making a cocktail. And of course the cocktail’s gotta be good, but it also has to consider the environment or sustainability in the production of that cocktail. It’s something that’s close to Hennessy’s heart, it’s a value at Hennessy and it’s something we consider in the production of our cognac. So it makes sense that we would ask the same of you in your production of a cocktail.

And then secondly, it’s gotta have a ritual serve because again, at Hennessy, we’ve got this storied history over 250 years and there’s an elegance when you go to France — or when you go to Cognac — in how they present cognac when you’re in our ancestral home.

And so we thought about, well, that’s something that people are looking for at bars as well. I mean, it started many years ago when cocktails first came back into vogue of just watching a bartender properly stir, properly shake a drink. And now it’s gone into kind of a little bit more craziness, but it’s all kind of that same value. We want to see that love and care that went into it. And, if it looks good and tastes good, then you’ve got a winning combination there.

I think those are good rules to abide by in life. While we’ve got you on the podcast, what would be some good tips that you’d give to bartenders wanting to enter the comp? What are the things they should be looking to really nail down?

When the competition first started, it was, I kind of did an example cocktail for people, but no one needs to see me make more cocktails. It was kind of like taking all the sides of the drink, like every part of the drink. I thought about the sustainability. I thought about the presentation. I thought about all of that and that should be the case. And I gave some examples when I did that cocktail. And so this is why I’ve stopped doing it because then I feel like I’ve I’ve taken those options off the table for people if I’ve already done it, and I want them to feel free to do whatever they want.

But if you’re gonna choose something, if you’re gonna make a drink in a way, think about all sides of the sustainability. Sustainability means something different to everybody. So it’s like, what is sustainable to Australia or New Zealand? It might be something different. I’ll give the example of in Canada, we’ve got most of the world’s fresh water.


So right or wrong, I don’t think any Canadian bartender has ever considered their water usage because that’s not a thing in Canada. We’ve never, you know, we’ve never been worried about that. But if we had a bartender from a warmer climate or a climate that’s more drought prone, that was farther up the list of priorities for them. And that can be an interesting thing, whereas when you look at Canada, it was like, we don’t grow limes and lemons. So limes and lemons is a huge environmental concern, sustainability concern, you’re shipping them in, you better get the most use out of them.

Like what are the aspects in which to use those ingredients to their fullest?

I’ll give the example of one of the gentlemen that won top three last year, Rizky [Ramdhani] from Indonesia. He had sustainable elements in his cocktail. But then he took it a step further, he had it listed at his bar and for every cocktail sold, a portion of the profits went towards reforestation of orangutan habitats in Indonesia. And then he had images of like, if you had gone in and ordered that cocktail, then your name appeared on a plaque beside the tree that was planted for you. And so it’s linking you back into ownership of that responsibility or ownership of like, yes, you did this. And this is going to help the orangutans in the future because they have deforestation, all of that. So he thought about sustainability, not just within the drink within his establishment, but within the greater community of, in this case, his country. But it could be your city, the street you’re on, anything like that.

That is one of the things that I would challenge people to do. Think about things outside of there and what is sustainable. It means a lot of different things and can mean different things to different people.

And then, the unique ritual, we had three Japanese bartenders in the finals and they all had a different kind of take on it, but one of them went very traditional Japanese as far as his rituals went.

And that was really interesting because it’s unique, but there’s a point to it. It’s not just I’m doing a smoke cocktail because smoke looks cool. It was, I’m doing this because this is native to Japan. It works for the drink. It tells a story, all of those things. And that makes it memorable because what do you want in a drink that has a ritual? You want a memory.


I think rituals for bars, it’s part of marketing. It’s part of advertising. If you go to a bar and you have a cool experience, you remember it. You may never remember what’s in that drink two years from now, but you’ll remember the time fireworks went off in front of you when you ordered a drink, you know — that kind of stuff leaves an impression. And I think that’s what we’re aiming for here.

Yeah, how do you avoid the gimmicky side of the ritual stuff? Because sometimes, like you were saying with the smoke for smoke’s sake, sometimes you see these things, you’re like, well, what’s the point of this? Is it just a gimmick?

Yeah, I would say own it — have a reason. So the gentleman that won last year was from Japan and there was a smoke element in his cocktail, but he linked it to greater sustainability around his community. He went from outside of his bar, because he has a very small bar, he said, okay, what other establishments or what other bars or businesses in my area could potentially help or utilise their waste in my drink? And one of the things was this thousand year old cedar wood that a woodworker is using — a volcano buried these trees a thousand years ago. And it’s highly prized wood in Japan. I’m butchering this story. But when they’re making furniture out of it, when master craftsmen are using this wood that’s worth a fortune to make furniture out of it, they’ve got obviously wood shavings and things like that — they’re not using them for anything. So he used those to make a tincture to flavour a cocktail. And then he also used some of the shavings and used it as a smoke element beside the drink. So it wasn’t in the drink, but beside the drink. And he said then, part of your serve is you now can try it both ways. You can have this drink this way, or you could pour it over the wood, extinguishing the wood, and thus also flavouring your cocktail in a different way because that vessel has had the smoke in it, and now you’ve got the wood directly in it.

It was an interesting way, but he had smoke, which we all have seen a thousand times, but he did it in a meaningful way where he owned it. It wasn’t just like, I’m smoking this because smoke looks cool. It was, I’m smoking this with a reason, and here’s the reason, and the ritual tied to the sustainable side, so there were multiple reasons for why it was there.

Yeah. And it also looks cool. I think when you can tie your cocktail into something that was going on for like a thousand years, you’re probably on a good track there with your story.

Yeah. And if it’s gimmicky, but your bar is gimmicky, or you’re a whimsical person, own it. If you have a reason for it, then it’s great. Not everything needs to be, you know, a Dickens novel with super depth. It can be light, you know? The best cocktail competition offerings are ones where you can imagine what bar you’re sitting at. You know what I mean? Like sometimes some Tiki bars, they can seem gimmicky, but if the drink works and you remember it and all the elements are there and you know what kind of environment you’re in, if you can recreate your bar in Sydney virtually and then in the finals in Paris through what kind of drink you made, amazing.

I guess it’s a muscle worth exercising because at the moment, there’s more competition than ever for bars and it’s really hard to stand out. You know, just going on Instagram, everyone’s got a clarified drink or something like that. So I suppose these are the kind of muscles that are worthwhile flexing to distinguish your bar and build your own identity there.

Yeah, I mean, completely. A great cocktail, I look at it as like a small element of a great bar program. It’s just an another element towards great hospitality, because we’ve all been to great bars that don’t make cocktails or don’t make great cocktails. But the bar is amazing because it’s, you know, your favoUrite dive bar or it’s your favorite, you know, restaurant and wine’s more their thing or beer’s more their thing. Fine.


It’s still a great experience. But if you can make a great cocktail, it’s just another tool in your arsenal of your personality. You’ve got a lot of jokes that you tell at the bar or you’re able to read people’s moods and like delve into it. It’s another element that you can use to create a great experience at a bar. And I think that sustainability is something that people find very interesting. It also can be great for business, because it can save a bar money in a lot of ways. And if it doesn’t, then that might be an element that is not that sustainable.

And then secondly, the ritual, if you can make people remember your bar, it’s free marketing. Everybody loves Instagram right now. If you can make an Instagrammable drink or a drink that gets viewed 10,000 times on TikTok, good for you.

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m just thinking about La Capella in Tequila town, and them stirring the drink, the Batanga with the knife, you know? That’s a little ritual as well. When it comes to sustainability, Hennessy, it’s a global brand. It’s a mark known around the world. It’s 250 years old. Some might say that using something like Hennessy in a cocktail is by its nature unsustainable if it’s got to travel all the way across the world.

Maybe we should be using less freight, and more local ingredients. What do you make of that argument?

Yeah, I think it’s time and place. That can be a very easy argument to make for sustainability in that way. And for some things like for produce, that might make sense. When you’re looking at something like Hennessy, it’s got a unique terroir that leads to the flavour profile. So can you get brandy in other places around the world? Yeah, I mean, there’s South Africa and Cape Town is well known for brandy. Australia, New Zealand are well known for their wines. And when you can grow grapes, you can make wine, you can make brandy. But it’s unique to that terroir. And I think that’s the interesting thing about brandy. And that’s what I go around educating on cognac about. And the interesting thing when it comes to that is, well, we’re sort of tied — we have to make it in Cognac. We have to bottle it in Cognac.

It’s those rules are there for a place because at the end of the day, you’re paying for the quality and those quality sometimes come down to rules. And then each individual brand is going to — within those rules — their mark on the category. When you look at Hennessy specifically, when it comes to sustainability, we’ve been looking at sustainability since the sixties. So long before it was in vogue or cool.

We raised our hand and said, yeah, this is something important because again, we can only make cognac in Cognac. If we ruin Cognac, we can’t go further north in Europe to Germany and get our grapes and still make it and call it cognac. We can make brandy somewhere else, but we can’t make cognac. And so being the eighth generation of a family that’s been around for 250 and more years, it’s important to us to continue that.

We have rebuilt the trains in Cognac. At one point, trucks were easier. But then you look at the environmental impact of trucks versus trains, trucks are easier because they don’t require that track, but far more damaging from a carbon standpoint. Now for us, all of our vehicles in Cognac are EV vehicles currently. And we have the largest private fleet of EV vehicles if not in France, beyond that, but we’ve helped to rebuild the trains to allow for better shipping of our products to the boats. And we’ve been looking at boats with sails, like these big cargo ships that are being rebuilt with sails. They’re not all going to wind power, but it’s going towards lessening the impact of their petrol on global shipping routes.


[the problem] is those ships need more demand for their use for them to build more of them. So we’re really stuck on that; they need to build more ships to keep up with our demand for them and any other businesses that want to get involved in that. So we’re looking at all the different ways we can, within the rules of still making cognac. So when it comes to our bottling facilities and everything like that, those are going more and more towards carbon neutrality every year. When we look at distillation, we have biogas that runs all of our distilleries. And we actually helped build, along with some of the other larger brands, a biogas facility that turns the offshoots of distillation into biogas and that biogas is used to power the town of Cognac.

So the town of Cognac is powered by the offshoots of distillation of cognac and then we also have biogas that powers all of our stills, because by law cognac stills need to be open flame. That may change in the years to come.

Yeah, do you think that will change?

Currently, it needs to be open flame, so it’s biogas now, and we’re working on changing that. We’re experimenting on our stills with more and more percentages of hydrogen every year, because hydrogen burns clean. It’s just more volatile. So we need to experiment on our stills before we can go to the small farmer that’s got one or two stills and show him how to do it.

I mean, I love the idea that cognac is literally keeping the lights on in Cognac. That’s fantastic.

Yeah, figuratively and literally.

As we said, it’s a brand with over 250 years of history. And bartenders tend to like, you know, weird and wonderful new things, and the obscure. How do you keep a brand like Hennessy fresh and relevant and top of mind for bartenders? I guess that’s a big part of your role, right?

Yeah, that’s a really great question because we’re always wanting something new and fresh and it’s easy to say you’re innovative when you’re always able to come up with new.

Every brand says they’re innovative, you know?

Yeah, when you’re able to come up with like, hey, we added cinnamon to this and this is our cinnamon whiskey now. That would be easy, but is that true to the brand? In some cases, yeah, it might be to them. But to cognac and to Hennessy, our eighth generation master blender has said, and I’m paraphrasing his statement, if you’re gonna do a sherry finish or you’re gonna do a wine finish or whatever, we could do that with cognac. That’s within the legal parameters, but that’s a Scotch thing. And if everything becomes sherry finished, then everything kind of starts to taste similar.


And the beauty of our back bars are that they do taste different and they do have different, things about them and we are even after 259 years, we’re still finding new ways to work within the terroir of what the land gives us and what the grapes give us. And that is still intriguing enough to us to play around with those different things. And so at Hennessy, I think the thing that makes it exciting for bartenders is when we can show you what it means, what terroir means when it comes to cognac, because I think —
I’ll use myself as an example. I was working behind the bar, I wanted education in spirits and wine and beer and all this. And I looked at all these people and I was like, oh yeah, there’s a sommelier course or WSET wine. Those were obvious to me when I was a young bartender. But I looked around and I was like, there’s so many sommeliers out there. Like grapes were a subject for the floor staff. That was the sommelier, the servers.


Yeah, we had wine by the glass behind the bar, but it was like the spirits and the beer behind here. Nobody focused on those. So I thought that was our responsibility behind the bar. Grapes kind of came last. And we started using all these vermouths and like, then port and sherries and all this. And we’re using them, but we’re not really understanding grapes at that point. It was only when I started delving more into cognac that I started really understanding more [about] grapes. And I think that’s the interesting thing for a lot of bartenders.

When I can introduce them to cognac in a different way, what does grape mean to a distilled product? We think about it in wine and you have vintage wines that are different year to year because of the different growing conditions. Well, if we have to distill it every year and distillation is a concentration of flavour and alcohol, but the point being the flavour, the fun bit being the alcohol, we’re getting something, if it’s slightly different as a wine, it’s vastly different as a spirit now, and yet your Hennessy VS has got to taste the same year in and year out.

So how do we do that? Well, we do that with an eighth generation master blender and the largest collection of eau de vie on the planet where he’s able to find, [for example] I need that cinnamon note that’s in this eau de vie and I’m going to use this much of it. And I need that, you know, fruit note. It’s in that eau de vie, and I’m going to use this much of it. But next year it’s going to be a different proportion because it’s a different flavour. But I need the same end result.


It’s like I need to make the same cocktail, but with slightly different flavoured lime juice every time. But he has to do that on a global scale.

So how do you think of terroir then when it does come to cognac? Because something like armagnac, there’s a lot of vintage, the product of one year’s distillations in armagnac. It’s not something that cognac does as much, though I think you can do it in cognac, right?

Yeah, you can certainly do it in Cognac, but what you would need to do to create a vintage Cognac is you’d need the BNIC, which is the Bureau National Interprofessional de Cognac. So we’ve got two controlling bodies in Cognac. There’s the AOC, Appellation Origine of Controllee, that is the French term for domain of origin. So what you can grow, how you can grow it.

The BNIC would then need to come around to do a vintage. They need to come around and have controlled access to your cellars, like launching the nukes. You have a key, they have a key. You can’t go into it without them there. And they have seals that go over the bung of the barrel and seal on either side and seal to the top so that you can’t access that. They
register every eau de vie, which are the building blocks of cognac. So a singular distillate from a singular field from a singular year is one eau de vie. And it is going to be marked by the BNIC up until 14 years of age. Because the oldest cognac that we have rules for, not the oldest produced, but the oldest that like matters by age is XXO. And that’s a new age verification and it starts at 14 years. So after 14 years, the BNIC doesn’t care unless it’s a vintage.

With Hennessy, we have a tasting committee that tastes through all of our eau de vie every year. So we would basically need to house BNIC members at our warehouses pretty constantly because we’re constantly going in and checking for quality control of how those eau de vie are individually aging. And so I find when people do vintages, it’s unique and it’s different. And it can be very cool when it is like a time and a place or an individual field. That’s super interesting and that pushes the category in an interesting direction.

If we were to just do vintages, then we wouldn’t, you know, you’d be focused on a different thing and you’d have to say, okay, we’re not using that eau de vie until a certain year. We’d be like number hunting. For us, we’re looking for quality at scale. Like the ability to be able to make VS at the quantity we do, while maintaining quality, is an unfathomably difficult challenge.

When our seventh generation master blender retired, and he retired in 2017, after 50 years with Hennessy, and he passed it to his nephew as the eighth generation to take over for him and his nephew had been training with him for 17 years already.

A 17 year apprenticeship, that’s amazing.

Yeah, right. Can you imagine the frustration? But the thing he’s most proud about is that he doubled, in his tenure, he doubled the amount of Hennessy VS they created without compromising the quality. And to grow that requires a lot of planning, of growing the amount of farmers that we’re working with, the amount of quality of the eau de vie, storing it all, all of these implications, but then also being able to blend. And if you only have one field that produces one specific flavour, then that becomes a problem for scale. And for us, it’s a VS drives the ship and the other things become interesting passengers aboard the ship.

Yeah, gotcha. I mean, it sounds to me, there’s the artistry of the blending side of things. But it’s also, it’s a massive logistical operation, right?

Completely. I mean, in having to taste everything, we need to track all those barrels where they are. We have close to 80 —I never can put a number on it, because it’s always going up — 80 warehouses, 565,000 different barrels of eau de vie. And that breaks down to about between 16 to 1,800 batches. So a batch would be an individual field from an individual year.

And what distinguishes Hennessy in a lot of ways is that size, while still maintaining quality, can only happen with strict controls. And those controls come down to a tasting committee that sits with our eighth generation master blender every day between the hours of 11 and 1pm and they taste between 40 and 100 eau de vie every day. So during the months of distillation, which are approximately end of October, based on harvest end of October into the last day by law is the end of March. So April 1st, like April Fool’s jokes on you, you’re not making cognac anymore. We’re generally done before that, but during the distillation months, they’re gonna be tasting raw eau de vie, unaged right off the stills to make sure it’s quality enough to represent Hennessy. So if it’s from our stills, and it doesn’t reach the quality mark, then we’ll sell it on the secondary market.

But if it’s from one of our partner distilleries, we work with 800 different distilleries. Some of them are large, but 600 of them are farmers that grow the grapes on their property, presses the wine and ferments the wine on their property and distills on their property. So they might have one or two stills. And we like that because that is terroir and it’s very, very core, like we’re getting flavours from all over cognac, from the six cru growing regions. Well, we pull from five of the six currently, but if it’s quality, it doesn’t matter where it’s from, as long as it’s legally in Cognac. We’re looking for quality, and that’s what the tasting committee is identifying. They’re not looking at like, this is where it’s from, so it’s good. They’re looking at, what does the eau de vie tell me? Is it good, eau de vie? And if it is, where’s it going? And this is where the control comes in and this is where the mind gets blown when you think about this.

Because when you think about other aged spirits, they’re working with a constant distillate. If you go to a whisky distillery, like I’ll use Moet Hennessy’s Glenmorangie as an example, it’s like everything coming out of Glenmorangie is, you know, other than Signet that is a different malt. Like if it’s the same malt and you’re distilling it in the same still, you should get the same distillate.

So you’re working with a constant. And then where the whiskys wanna differentiate is what barrel they put it in, maybe where in the warehouse they’re putting it, all of these things. What finish was on that barrel beforehand? All of those things are gonna bring it to differentiation. But generally then they’re waiting for a year. Is it the 10 year, 12 year, 15 year, 18? They’re waiting. In some cases, they’re gonna pull it out and finish it in another barrel for a couple years or a couple months, whatever their ethos is. With cognac and with Hennessy, we are constantly changing barrels, constantly changing where in the warehouse it is. Is it in a dry cellar or is it in a damp cellar? Is it in a 270 litre barrel? Is it in a 350 litre barrel? Is it in a 440 or a 540? Is it in a new barrel? Is it in a used barrel? All of those things are factors that our tasting committee is determining every time they taste it. So year one, they’re trying a new eau de vie and they’re making a decision. This is quality. It can represent Hennessy.

Then they’re gonna set the price based on the quality. If it’s like exceptional mind blowing, okay, we owe you money for this. If it’s really good, okay, we owe you this much for it. And they’ll pay you well for it because we don’t want you to sell it to somebody else. When we get that, then it’s okay, we know it’s exceptional, what are the qualities for it? So I’ll use VS as the example. VS is a big robust cognac. So.

We put VS largely in new oak. So to be new oak, if it were light and floral, that eau de vie is going to be destroyed by new oak. We need a big powerful fruity eau de vie to handle new oak. If you look at bourbon, that has to go in new oak by law, you have that corn sweetness to battle that new oak. And they’re gonna create something great together. Well, we need the same thing. If we’re going for a VS kind of level or a big bold flavour, well, we need a big bold fruit to handle that big bold oak and not just get railroaded by it. So we’re going to make that decision. And then after a year of it being in new oak, they’re going to taste it again and go, OK, yes. Needs more time? OK, going back. Or, oh, it has enough spice. Let’s put it in a different barrel. Is it going to go in a two-year-old barrel that’s still got a lot of spice but not as much as the new barrel?

So they’ll re-barrel stuff then?

All the time. [We’re] constantly moving things around and that’s the crux of it. Like Single malt scotch started this whole thing of single barrel offerings and it’s super nerdy and it’s super cool. It’s like the ultimate vintage to get one thing that’s been in one barrel its whole life And compare it to another thing that was in a different barrel its whole life. That can like never happen for Hennessy because we are constantly moving them around and we could tell you like, one eau de vie, if it’s 20 years old, could have potentially been in 20 different barrels over that time.

That is crazy. That is, as you were saying, it’s kind of, you know, breaks your mind to think about.

Yeah. Or it could be in one that whole time. But if it weren’t one, it’s because it worked with it that whole time.

And that is kind of the decisions that Tasting Committee is making day in and day out. And the Tasting Committee is made up of different members of Hennessy’s production. So our master of barrels who runs our cellars, makes sure we’re buying the best new barrels, all of these things, he’s on the Tasting Committee. So he knows where every eau de vie is stored and he’s a master of that oak and what extraction they’re going to get out of it. Then we have our director of distillation, that not only runs our three distilleries, but we’ll go and work with all of the other 800 distilleries that we work with to make sure that they are making quality eau de vie.

Well yeah, I imagine that would be the first line of quality control, right?

Yeah, but they all add something to it. So I guess we call them the three pillars of Hennessy, but it’s really the three pillars of cognac, of good cognac production. It’s selection first. Selecting great eau de vie first. Maturation is two and blending is three because you could get so-so eau de vie and put it in exceptional barrels and age it for many, many years, it’s still crap. Like it doesn’t work. You need excellence at every level. And you can take a great eau de vie and poorly mature it and you’ve ruined it.

But if your tasting committee for Hennessy is checking every eau de vie every time, then our master blender and they decide, okay, this one’s mature, [it’s] ready to blend. Then our master blender, he says 95% of his job’s done when he goes to create. Cause he knows every single eau de vie is great. He just needs to get it past the finish line.

Because cognac is a luxury kind of spirit. Hennessy is a luxury brand. There’s cost of living pressures here in Australia. I’m sure you’ve got them in Canada and they’re happening around the world at the moment. And they tend to fall hard on bartenders, right? How do you navigate that kind of juxtaposition? They’re pouring this stuff for people for their guests, but often maybe they can’t afford it themselves.

Well, A, I try to sample as many bartenders as possible. But B, I think we’re in an interesting place globally with a lot of spirits and a lot of people wanting to imbibe responsibly. And I would say, I think it’s what people have become conscious of is value for money. If I’m gonna spend my hard earned dollars on something, what’s the value proposition there? And what we found statistically globally is if you would break down the analytics, it’s that, and not to get super nerdy, but like people are not drinking as much generally. And I know we all know the person that breaks that rule, but I would say that the 25 year old me years ago would have probably imbibed more than the 25 year old me today. And that would be a statistic across the board. So obviously there are people that still indulge greatly and others that might not indulge in alcohol at all. And everyone has their different reasons for it. But what we have seen with that is that people are more willing to spend on individual moments. So if we break it into restaurants as well, it’s like maybe they don’t go to restaurants as frequently as they used to, and they’re more entertaining at home or things like that, but when they do go, they’re more willing to spend a little more, but that experience has to match.

And we see it with nightclubs, [they] have sort of been on the downturn globally.


You know, in towns that I visited 10 years ago where there might’ve been 10 nightclubs, there’s now five. And the ones that survived were the ones offering something a little bit better than maybe the rest of their peers. And I think if we take that to cognac, it’s maybe you want a more elevated experience and the bar doesn’t have that occasion. And I think within the bar community, we have alcohol around us all the time that we often maybe don’t think that way. But if you create a better value proposition, like a cocktail with an interesting ritual, or you’re adding more to it, like you’re giving back to an orangutan, regrowth of forest facility, anything like that adds more to the value proposition where a guest feels more about that drink or that offering, I think we’re in a really good place. And I think for bartenders as well, it’s maybe I’m not able to afford certain things, maybe it’s like I look at the value proposition and the quality and do I like this?

Okay, maybe I have this and drink less of something else or less frequently. And I think that’s, you know, over COVID, I think the stats were already going in that direction. And then I think during lockdowns, they were really cemented where people may have started imbibing a lot at the beginning, we were like, oh, we’ll be gone in two months!

Like, what the hell is going on?

Yeah, it’s great. And then it lasted and lasted and lasted. And so we started looking at things like, okay, don’t imbibe as much as home, but maybe imbibe better, less frequently, but better. And it’s the same value proposition. And is my hard earned dollar better suited getting a nicer experience less frequently? That might be a better fit for some people.

It comes back to making things memorable, right? Okay, got the drinks at work question for you. It’s a couple of questions we ask everyone. There’s a professional part and the more personal. The professional is, what are you looking for in a great bar? What are the hallmarks of a great bar? But then more importantly, personally, what makes you happy in a bar?

I think what I’m looking for in a great bar is how they make you feel, you know? It’s the old adage of like, people will remember how you made them feel they won’t necessarily remember the ingredients in the drink or anything like that. They’ll remember how you made them feel, and I think every bar has the ability to do that, whether you’re in a dive bar and you’re there because you’re there for the latent energy in the place, or you’re in, you know a fine dining restaurant and you feel taken care of and you get to relax with a couple good friends or your partner. They all have their time and place. And if I have a feeling and I’m able to walk into a bar and they’re able to match that feeling, that’s amazing. And for what I’m looking at in a bar or what makes a happy great bar for me, it’s the people. You know, it’s like we’ve said it before, like a great cocktail. I can make those at home. I’m, you know, one of those lucky people, in this industry, anybody in this industry, we can all make great drinks at home. And so what I’m looking for in a bar is if you make great cocktails, cool, I’ll imbibe in those. But I’m there for you. I’m there with you. And often with my job, I’m the loner at the bar. I’m the traveling, you know, the traveling businessman,

Yeah, the lone ranger.

Yeah, sitting at the bar by myself. And so I’m there for the people like, we all know that bartender where you sat down and they control the room, they control the space, I love that. I love watching that, even if I’m not involved in that, I just see them, they could be super busy, three deep, but I’m there for the people.

I love it. That’s wonderful. Well, Jordan, I’m looking forward to getting to along to one of your sessions when you hit Sydney. And I think a lot of people will be well served by going along and just picking your brain about cognac and Hennessy and all those wonderful things. So thank you very much for joining me today. It was a great to chat to you.

Yeah, thank you very much for having me. And if anybody wants to see those sessions, I’ve put them out on my Instagram at @jordanmixes. Brilliant. Thanks very much. See you in Australia.

Jordan will join the Australian and New Zealand Hennessy ambassador Alex Zanarini for five masterclasses:

  • Auckland – Monday April 15th 12:30PM – 2:30PM, Tommy’s Champagne Parlour, Seafarers - RSVP Here
  • Brisbane - Tuesday April 16th 12:30PM – 2:30PM, The Gresham - RSVP Here
  • Melbourne - Wednesday April 17th 12:30PM – 2:30PM, Pearl Diver - RSVP Here
  • Perth - Friday April 19th, 1:00PM – 3:00PM, The Leederville Hotel - RSVP Here
  • Sydney - Monday April 22nd , 12:30PM – 2:30PM, The Emerald Room - RSVP Here

Bartenders are invited to come along to an event and participate in Hennessy MyWay, a quest to discover the most innovative and sustainable cocktail creations paired with spectacular serving rituals. On offer are cash prizes of €1000 for top 50 finalists with the top 10 invited to Paris and Cognac to compete in the live final in October.

To enter the competition visit, and to RSVP to one of the five events visit the link here.