Taste is quite literally our most visceral sense, and tastes, like smells, can elicit surprisingly intense emotional reactions. I was reintroduced to the connection between tongue and emotions on my recent trip to Cognac, when I found myself startled by my own tears, standing before some equally startled French people.
During the grand tasting in the Museum of the Art of Cognac, I found my way to the Hine table, where I had the pleasure of meeting Cellar Master Eric Forget. He introduced me to their fresh, fruity and subtly spicy VSOP and their richer, more floral Rare VSOP, both of which were quite tasty.
Then we got to the Hine “Homage” Early Landed Fine Champagne Cognac, a blend of top-quality Cognacs from 1984, 1986 and 1987. For the Homage, Hine returned to a seldom-practiced centuries-old tradition of aging the Cognac in English caves, instead of in France. (English merchants used to purchase barrels of freshly distilled Cognac to age themselves.) Because of the different climate and cellar conditions, Early Landed Cognacs develop different flavor notes.
In this case, the heady floral aroma had me at first sniff. In my notebook, I wrote “so rich and smooth, but not heavy — absolutely delicious — yes!” That last word was a bit scribbled, because I had to quickly wipe the tears from my eyes so that my hosts didn’t see them. The exquisite flavor and the connection with tradition stirred something deep inside.
I recovered over a taste of the elegant Hine XO, but I completely lost control of myself when I sampled the gorgeous Hine Triomphe, a blend of Grande Champagne Cognacs averaging around 50 years old. So beautiful was this Cognac, with velvety caramel and tobacco flavors, the emotions welled up within me yet again, even more strongly. There was simply no hiding it. Monsieur Forget, seeing my reaction, quietly remarked, “It’s not a Cognac. It’s just a pleasure.”