It’s hard to believe that in the 21st century we can still drink booze first distilled in 1777, not long after the Declaration of Independence. When it comes to Cognac though, there’s always surprises springing out of charming cobwebbed cellars, filled with oak casks and demijohns holding ancient spirits awaiting bottling.

Now, five ancient Cognacs sourced from the private collection of the late Jacques Hardy, member of the famous Cognac-producing Hardy family in France, will be going on auction, including a bottle holding spirit first distilled in 1777 and matured for 100 years in oak casks.

Spirits auction website whisky.auction will open bidding on the bottles January 31st, here’s more details on the liquid history that will be on offer.

1777 vintage – 100 Years Old (First bottled 1936)

This Cognac was distilled at Domaine de la Vie in the Grand Champagne area, which still is around to day. It was aged for 100 years in oak before it was moved into a demijohn and subsequently bottled in 1936. Hardy and his brother were given 12 bottles each of this Cognac as presents when he was 15 years old. In his personal notes on the bottle, he wrote:

“Despite its importance, in your glass, this Cognac will show its aroma of a smooth bouquet and of the blossoms of vine flowers in June in Charente.”

Two of these bottles have been purchased and opened by the Lanesborough Hotel in London, while another five known bottles are in private collections.

1802 vintage – 88 Years Old

This Cognac was produced with grapes typically used in pre-phylloxera Cognac, Folle Blanche and Colombard, grown in the Petite Champagne region of Cognac. In 1802, Bonaparte declared himself Consul for Life before he began expanding his empire. The Cognac was first bottled in 1890 before it was rebottled for a private collector in 2002.

In his notes, Hardy mentions the spirit’s finesse and its subtle aroma, suggesting that “it will make you dream of the period of time that the Cognac was made.”

1812 vintage – 90 Years Old

First distilled the year that Napoleon invaded Russia, Hardy found this bottle in 1950. Colombard and Folle Blanche grapes grown in the Borderies region of Cognac are the feedstock for this particular spirit. Hardy’s personal notes about this bottling claim that there is a distinctive violet perfume associated with the grape varieties and the soil of the region.

 1906 vintage – 72 Years Old

Benedicte Hardy, the current owner of Hardy Cognac, claims that this was Jacques’ “favourite of all the vintages he had tried in his lifetime”. 

Hardy noted: “This cask was one of my first discoveries back in 1950 in Grande Champagne, when visiting a “Bouilleur de Cru” (A distiller who is authorised to produce his own eau de vie). It was a revelation. It’s very rare to encounter an eau-de-vie coming from a single cru, from a single vine grower and single distiller a quality so complete: elegant on the nose and excellent on the palate.”

1914 vintage – 72 Years Old

Distilled the same year when World War I began, Hardy discovered this Cognac during a visit to his winemakers and purchased a few bottles, especially as he saw it as a landmark year in world history.

He notes: “Like me, you will appreciate its elegance and its finesse. Old local winegrowers confirmed this judgment: ‘those 1914s, there is nothing better’.”

The auction will go live on Sunday 31st January 2021, running for 10 days until Tuesday 9th February. The bottles can be previewed here.

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