Is Hennessy Whiskey? Complete Guide (2023 Updated)

Last Updated on November 5, 2023 by Lydia Martin

Some drinkers assume that it must be whiskey if their drink is light and golden. So, it’s no wonder Hennessy has always been mistaken for whiskey. However, is Hennessy whiskey?

Our team extensively researched everything about this celebrity favorite to find a solid answer. Read on to find out what we have discovered.

Hennessy: Is it Whiskey? 

Hennessy VS

Hennessy is not a whiskey but a cognac. It is a specially brewed brandy created for people looking for an extravagant flavor. Hennessy has a strong Irish connection indeed because Richard Hennessy is an Irishman. 

They distilled these spirits in Charentais copper alembic stills, compared to column and pot stills used for whiskeys. After distillation, they store them in French oak barrels for aging, unlike whiskey’s American oak barrels.

The flavors of the two spirits are very far from each other as cognac is thin and dry yet very acidic. Cognac is made from grapes, while whiskey depends on the grain used for flavor.

Its Main Ingredients

White Grapes 

Hennessy is made from grapes. This spirit is specially processed and created to produce the highest quality cognac. Manufacturers prepare the grapes for fermentation before processing them for distillation. Then, they are distilled twice before being stored in French oak barrels. 

The distinct taste of Hennessy is credited more to the barrels because it creates so much character. It depends on how long it is stored inside, though. The visible taste would be vanilla and licorice [1], with a subtle taste of nut, fruit, and toasty oak note. 


Why People Believe Hennessy is Whiskey

Hennessy Bottle

Those who are not used to drinking Hennessy think it is whiskey because of its goldish hue, which is very similar to a whiskey. It can also be because of its name, which sounds Irish. 

Knowing the history between Ireland and whiskey, it isn’t surprising why some believe that they are indeed one. However, starting from the smell of Hennessy to its full fruity taste, the difference is very obvious. The texture is also dissimilar, which the drinker will only discover when they open the bottle. 

What Makes It Cognac 

Hennessy is not just a brandy but a cognac because its creation abides by rules established to be categorized as one. Hennessy is made in Cognac, France. It must be manufactured in the regions using specified grape varieties to be labeled a cognac. 

Cognac brandies only use 90% of Folle Blanche, Colombard grapes or what Hennessy uses, Ugni Blanc. It should also be double-distilled in copper pot stills and, after, should be stored in French oak barrels. All these are fully abided by Hennessy, including aging of a minimum for two years. But, what is Hennessy’s alcohol percentage?

Reasons Why Hennessy Isn’t A Whiskey

Hennessy with foods

Hennessy was never a whiskey from the start because it is not from grain. The main ingredient is a fruit that produces a different variety of spirits. Aging-wise, it requires a minimum of two years which whiskey does not require. At least, not that much. 

The processing of cognac is also different because of the stills used. These differences start from the ingredients down to its processes, making Hennessy not a whiskey but a cognac brandy.


What’s the difference between whiskey and Hennessy?

The difference between whiskey and Hennessy is the ingredients. Hennessy is a cognac brandy that is from grapes. Whiskey is from grains, mostly wheat, and corn. 

Does Hennessy taste like whiskey?

Hennessy does not taste like whiskey since the ingredients are different. Whiskey is somewhat dry and grainy, while brandies are sweeter and fuller in taste. 

Final Verdict

Hennessy is not a whiskey but a very flavorful brandy. There may be whiskey varieties that may taste a little similar to a variant of Hennessy, but the taste is generally very far. The color may also be a tad similar. 

However, the smell will easily differentiate the two. Hennessy has a reputation for having an extravagant flavor. The only similarity you can find between Hennessy and whiskey is that these two are spirits and have high alcohol content.



Lydia Martin

Lydia Martin hails from Redmond, Washington, where you’ll find some of the best cocktail bars and distilleries that offer a great mix of local drinks. She used to work as a bar manager in Paris and is a self-taught mixologist whose passion for crafting unique cocktails led her to create Liquor Laboratory. Lydia can whip up a mean Margarita in seconds! Contact at [email protected] or learn more about us here or feel free to give Lydia a tip.

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