Hardy was an Englishman who fell in love with France. As a London wine and
spirits merchant, he took every opportunity to escape the city and visit his
neighbor to the south, with the Cognac region as his favorite destination. In
1863 he moved there permanently and founded his own Cognac house, adopting the
French rooster as his company’s symbol and changing his name to Antoine in the
process. The enterprise prospered, and today is run by Benedicte Hardy, Antoine’s
great-grandson and the fifth generation of family ownership.
beverage market, the importance of family ownership can’t be overestimated. We
live in an era of consolidation, a time when multi-national beverage
conglomerates are buying up wine and spirits brands at a dizzying rate. While
it’s true that many proprietors stay on for the customary five-year stint after
selling, the focus of the enterprise almost always changes. Strict quality
control and pride of ownership often take a back seat to corporate profit
For the past
three decades, Hardy has subscribed to a philosophy of haute couture in its bottle design, a concept usually associated
with dresses that have five-figure price tags. The analogy is a good one,
because the Hardy bottles are nothing if not beautiful. The philosophy
culminates in the packaging for their top Cognac, Perfection ($8,500), which
comes to the consumer in a unique carafe designed by Jacques Hardy and
Cristallerie Daum, and their commitment to style is evident at every point in
their product line.
months ago, Hardy released Legend 1863 ($60, 80 proof/40% alcohol) to the U.S.
The date is not a vintage designation, but rather a reference to the year the
house was founded. The Cognac was created from selected eaux de vie from the Petite Champagne district, blended with a
touch of Borderies, and aged up to 12 years in toasted Limousin oak. True to
their haute couture concept, Legend
1863 is presented in a sleek, stunning bottle of sculpted glass.
On the nose, Legend 1863 offers a complex assortment of aromas: floral scents mingle with hints of citrus, chocolate, and menthol. The Cognac is just as interesting in the mouth---rich and full on entry, then expanding in the mid palate with delicate flavors of mocha, vanilla and lemon peel. The long finish has echoes of citrus and coffee. In addition to enjoying it neat, the company recommends it in a Sidecar; if you’ve had a large meal and are feeling adventurous, I’d consider making a Stinger. All in all, legend 1863 is representative of the house of Hardy: the texture is ample yet elegant, and the value for money ratio is excellent.