Five extremely rare bottlings, pieces of liquid history from 1777, 1802, 1812, 1906 and 1914, will be available to purchase via Whisky.Auction from Sunday 31 January 2021.
The bottles have been sourced from the private collection of the late Jacques Hardy, part of the famous Cognac-producing Hardy family in France. They are presented for auction with certificates of authenticity from the hand of Monsieur Hardy himself and are being sold by their current owner who purchased them directly from Jacques in around 2003.
The collection was built up by Jacques during his lifetime, with each bottle having a well-documented story that has been passed down through the family.
The jewel of the collection bottled under royal France, this Cognac was given to Jacques’ uncle, James Hardy, on his wedding day by his new family-in-law, the Yvon family. They had distilled the liquid at Domaine de la Vie in the Grande Champagne area, which still exists today. The Cognac was aged in an oak barrel for around 100 years before being transferred into a demijohn and finally bottled in 1936. It was given to Jacques by his uncle when he was just 15. On the certificate of authenticity, Jacques states: ‘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.’
The 1777 vintage Hardy Cognac is one of the finest Cognacs ever bottled according to whisky and Cognac expert and collector, and consultant for Whisky.Auction, Sukhinder Singh. He says: ‘I am pleased to have tried this around 10 years ago when it was available by the dram at The Lanesborough Hotel in London. The bar manager at the time, Giuseppe Rua offered me a taste saying that it was the best Cognac he had ever tried, on sampling I was mesmerised and completely agreed. What a privilege it was to taste such old liquid that was still fresh and full of life with the lingering rancio flavour that you find in pre-phylloxera Cognac, this in turn led me in search for a bottle of this for my private collection which I did eventually find.’
This Cognac was made with grapes popular in pre-phylloxera Cognac, Folle Blanche and Colombard, grown in the Petite Champagne region of Cognac. According to Jacques it is distinguished by its great finesse and its subtle aroma. In his notes, he suggested that it should be tasted ‘peacefully… it will make you dream of the period of time that the Cognac was made.’
Made from Colombard and Folle Blanche grown in the Borderies region of Cognac, this bottling provides a distinctive violet perfume associated with the grape varieties and the soil of the region. The vintage marks the year in which Napoleon invaded Russia, resulting in his troupe’s forced retreat and his eventual exile in 1814, and Jacques was particularly excited to add this to his collection of rarities when he discovered it in 1950 due to this historical significance.
The 1906 vintage was Jacques’ ‘favourite of all the vintages he had tried in his lifetime’, according to Benedicte Hardy, current owner of Hardy Cognac and fifth generation family member.
Jacques said: ‘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.’
A particularly memorable year for Jacques Hardy whose father fought in WW1 and often told him stories about his experiences, Jacques purchased this vintage to mark what he saw as a landmark year in world history. Having tried the vintage he noted: ‘Like me, you will appreciate its elegance & its finesse. Old local winegrowers confirmed this judgment, stating “those 1914, there is nothing better.” I hope that you will confirm my opinion after you taste it.’
About These Hardy Bottles
The provenance of these bottles of Hardy Cognac from the 1777, 1802, 1812, 1906, 1914 vintages is superb. They originated from the personal collection of Jacques Hardy (director of the house from 1957 until his death in 2003). These were sold privately to collectors and friends around the world by word of mouth as only a handful of bottles from each vintage were available.
Of particular importance is the 1777 vintage, one of the oldest vintage Cognacs in existence and the crown jewel from the archives.
Benedicte Hardy, the daughter of Jacques is the 5th generation, tells us that there were initially only 36 bottles of the 1777 vintage and the bottles were split between the 3 brothers, Philippe, Jacques and Frances.
Back in the summer of 1938, when Jacques was only 15 years of age, the three brothers went to help their uncle James Hardy to prepare hay for winter during their holidays.
During their stay, as young boys do, they went around the estate mischievously poking around and found these ancient bottles of Cognac in a cabinet. Uncle James, although not happy, rewarded the boys for their help during that summer by giving them 12 bottles each.
Uncle James received these bottles on his wedding day, gifted to him by the Yvon family as he married one of their daughters. The Cognac was distilled at Domaine de La Vie which is in Grande Champagne area and the family still produce Cognac to this day. The Cognac was matured in barrels for around 100 years before being moved to glass demijohns and finally being bottled.
Jacques and his brothers were originally given 12 bottles each of this vintage, and while the brothers both drank their allocation, Jacques had the collector’s foresight to keep some of the bottles back. He reluctantly decided to start selling them in the mid-1990s when several collectors pursued him to do so after hearing about these rare bottles. Two of the bottles are known to have been purchased and opened at The Lanesborough Hotel in London, and another five bottles are known to be in private collections, making this bottling extremely rare indeed.
The certificates that accompany the bottles say that during Jacques professional career he was often in touch with small growers who had old cognacs in their cellars, handed down to them from their ancestors. These lots were sold for special occasions from time to time, but the quantities were too small to interest the big Cognac houses. Jacques discovered that these lots had great qualities, delicate flavours and subtle aromas. He bought them in demijohns and kept them for his own personal enjoyment and were not part of the company stock.
The 1802 was distilled in an area that later became the Petite Champagne region and the 1812 is from Borderies. These Cognacs are from the very beginning of the 19th century, not so many bottlings of these vintages are found today from this era, especially with such great provenance, condition, and quality.
Little is known about the 1906 except that Benedicte remembers that it was his favourite of all. The 1914 was sentimental to Jacques as this was distilled during the first world war which his father fought in between 1914 and 1918.
These bottles were purchased by the current owner (based in Texas, USA) directly from Jacques Hardy back in 2003 and are being sold at auction in their original wooden boxes with certificates signed and dated by Jacques Hardy.
All five bottles will be available for bidding in our next auction which runs from 31 January to 9 February. For any enquiries or for more information please contact [email protected].