The love affair between the British and France is hardly a secret (perhaps not reciprocated in many respects). But when it comes to the origins of hardy cognac »”>Hardy Cognac, it’s an England–France union truly made in heaven.
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Wind the clock back to the mid-1800s, when an English wine & spirits merchant, Anthony Hardy, sold his wares from the UK capital city of London. Of course, as any good businessman should, he liked to get out in the field to keep abreast of the latest developments. One of Anthony’s areas of expertise was Cognac. In fact, it was not simply his expertise: The man had a burning passion for both the region and the drink that share a name, and he visited this tiny corner of France as much as was feasibly possible at the time.
Eventually, even these regular visits couldn’t satisfy his love. And in 1863 he followed his dream, relocating permanently and founding the Cognac house of Hardy.
But as far as Anthony was concerned, even this massive step didn’t quite cement his relationship with Cognac and France. So he then adopted the French form of his Christian name, becoming forever known as Antoine Hardy. And in choosing a suitable trademark and emblem for the newly formed Hardy Cognac, what could be more fitting than the iconic French cockerel.
No matter how much you love your work, it can’t have been easy for Antoine in the early days. He continued as a dealer, but now he also had all the added responsibilities that come with running a Cognac house. But he certainly wasn’t afraid of hard graft. This, combined with his knowledge and devotion to his trade, ensured that the Cognacs he produced were of great quality. In 1869 his Cognac Fine Champagne was awarded the Diploma of Excellence, firmly placing him in the league as a real player within the Cognac industry.
The 1870s brought with it the blight of Phylloxera. This tiny insect decimated the region’s vineyards (and indeed, much of Europe), and changed the face (and taste) of Cognac forever. Antoine, along with a few of the other leading Cognac producers, rode out this turbulent period thanks to having accumulated enough stocks in reserve.
Read more about how Phylloxera affected the Cognac industry.
A Russian Alliance
Even during these difficult decades of the late 19th century, Antoine continued to market his Cognacs. His brilliance as a sales person soon brought about fans of his wares on a global scale, especially in Russia and Germany. More industry awards, medals, and plaudits continued to be won, and these further helped Maison Hardy cement its reputation as a high quality brand of luxury. Such awards continue to be awarded today, with Hardy priding itself on producing Cognacs of a standard way higher than average.
Family and Tradition
One thing that many Cognac houses boast about is their sense of all things family. And Hardy Cognac certainly doesn’t buck the trend. 1910 saw Antoine’s son, Valère, join the business. He was pivotal in the exports of their Cognacs to Northern and Eastern Europe. Sadly, he died at a young age, and in 1924 responsibility fell to one of his children, Armand Hardy, to lead the house through this great growth period within the Cognac industry.
He rose to the challenge admirably, concentrating on the markets of Central Europe. Cognac was certainly in the family blood, because in 1945 three of Armand’s offspring joined the business, followed by a fourth in 1955. When Armand passed away in 1957, the family took the step of becoming a limited company, with Jacques Hardy as Managing Director.
It was during this time that they made the massive leap to expand into the US market, as well as South America and Africa.
Luxury all the way
Over the years, Hardy coined what they term the ‘Haute Couture’ of Cognac. These are creations of exceptional art and worth, including collaborations with Lalique Crystal and Cristallerie Daum. These have become true collector’s items. Indeed, the first such range known as, Perfection, created back in the early 1980s, was the first Cognac produced that had ever had such attention paid to the bottle itself. Since then, other bespoke creations have been brought to life, including Carafe Cassino, a collaboration with Baccarat Crystal in 1979, and a further Daum Crystal offering, Noces de Platine in 1997. But the Haute Couture ethos runs through every single Cognac created by Hardy. This is, after all, a luxury brand, meaning even their youngest VS Cognacs tend to be a cut above what you might expect.
A Cognac for all Tastes
Whilst these high-end creations are wonderful, it’s also important that a house has a selection of Cognacs to suit all occasions. And Hardy certainly hits the spot in this respect. And they manage to do so without ever losing sight of their luxury appeal.
Hardy Legend 1863 is a tribute to the date Antoine Hardy set up the house. This Petite Champagne, Fins Bois, and Borderies blend is a versatile VS that can be enjoyed neat, in a cocktail, or with a mixer. The bottle is very attractive, and is a subtle clue to the high quality of the Cognac it gently cradles.
For a touch of something special, yet still commanding a price tag well below a comparable quality by one of the famous brands, Hardy Noces d’Argent is a wonderful Cognac that marks a special occasion. Based on the Roman tradition of the marriage anniversary–Silver represents 25 years in marriage–this Fine Champagne Cognac is 25 years of age.
Moving up yet another grade, the house boasts the limited edition Hardy Noces D’Or Sublime. The Golden anniversary in the Roman ages meant 50 years of holy matrimony. This Hors d’Age Grande Champagne offering is a blend of eaux-de-vie aged between 30-60 years. This floral, fruity Cognac is presented in a decanter reminiscent of the Art Nouveau era, with beautiful detailing on the glass.
Hardy Noces d’Or Sublime Cognac was awarded Double Gold at the 2017 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Alongside these collections, the house has also put aside a selection of small, high quality plots where they grow vines using a totally organic approach. This has led to creations such as the Hardy Organic VSOP; a Cognac that truly embraces the haute couture of the house, whilst being offered at a price that means it can grace most drinks cabinets.
Innovative, bold, and truly 21st Century
Today, the house of Hardy is led by Bénédicte Hardy. Women, despite how far the western world has come in breaching the gender gap, are still far from the norm in this male dominated industry. Bénédicte is the fifth generation of the Hardy family, and a wonderful ambassador for Hardy, women, and the Cognac industry as a whole. She continues to push forward the identity of the Hardy brand, especially in the US.
Here’s Benedicte visiting Sophie at the Cognac Expert headquarters. Two women passionate about Cognac!
Hardy Cognac in the 21st century stands for all that Antoine began over a century and a half ago. Their Cognacs are the epitome of tradition, quality, and sheer luxury. Whether you’re sipping an ‘impossible to get your hands on’ Hardy limited edition, a VS in a cocktail, or enjoying an XO as a digestif, one single element continues to shine through; and that’s the love, passion, and expertise that’s gone into its creation.
And we like to think that’s a legacy that ensured Antoine Hardy truly does rest easy in his grave. His portrait adorns the family headquarters of Cognac Hardy to this day.