Whether you’re an alcohol aficionado, a casual drinker, or even someone who’s never tasted alcohol in their life, chances are that you’ve at least heard of Hennessy Pure White. In fact, you may even be among the lucky few who have tasted Hennessy’s most exclusive beverage — well, unless you live in the U.S., where HPW is not available.
But have you ever wondered why Hennessy Pure White is illegal?
While it may be unavailable on the U.S. market, Pure White is quite popular in other parts of the world. In the Caribbean, for example, it’s a favorite among tourists and locals alike. In fact, many choose to travel so that they can get their hands on a bottle! If you’d like to learn more about the reasons behind the drink’s exclusivity, keep reading.
What Is Hennessy Pure White?
Since its introduction to the market some few years ago, Hennessy Pure White has come a long way. Its popularity spread, and it quickly became a favorite among avid alcohol enthusiasts and the general public alike. Affectionately dubbed “Henny White” by the former, this drink is one of the most exclusive beverages out there.
That wasn’t always the case, however. In fact, when Jas Hennessy & Co. first introduced it to the U.S. market, they couldn’t have imagined its success. Initial sales were rather disappointing, and the product failed to spark the interest they were hoping for.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it flew completely under the radar. After all, Hennessy is an industry giant with over two centuries in the business — any product the company puts out is sure to cause a stir.
That alone wasn’t enough to make HPW a hit, however, and it couldn’t compete with the brand’s more popular drinks. It remained largely ignored in favor of staples like Hennessy V.S and was promptly pulled from the U.S. market.
Ironically, that is what sparked nationwide interest in the drink. While it didn’t become a hit in the U.S., other countries still produced and sold it — and with great success.
Word of the exclusive drink quickly reached alcohol aficionados in the States, who all wanted a taste for themselves. The fact that it was now unobtainable made it all the more sought after. Soon enough, people were searching high and low for a bottle of Pure White.
But what makes HPW so special, and why didn’t Hennessy reintroduce it to the U.S. market, considering the high demand? More importantly — why is it illegal?
Here’s Why Hennessy Pure White Is Illegal
Technically, nobody actually outlawed the drink. But while it’s perfectly legal, it’s also unavailable for purchase in the U.S. through ordinary means. You’ll have a hard time finding a bottle of Pure White in any local bar or liquor store. In fact, you can’t even order it from Hennessy’s own website.
Of course, like with most banned products, the fact that it’s not widely available doesn’t mean you can’t get your hands on a bottle or two. Still, such merchandise would qualify as contraband, and it wouldn’t be worth the potential legal or health risks.
If you’re buying from an unofficial source, you have no way of knowing whether you’re getting the real thing or some off-brand cognac (if you’re lucky).
We’ve covered why Hennessy Pure White is illegal, but you may still be wondering what’s so special about it. To answer that, we first need to talk about cognac in general.
What Is Cognac?
Whether you drink alcohol or not, you probably know of the golden boozy beverage known as cognac. It’s a staple on every bar’s menu, and no house party feels right without it. But what is it, exactly?
In short, cognac is a variety of twice-distilled brandy aged in oak barrels. It’s produced in the French town of the same name, and it has to meet specific legal requirements to actually be considered cognac.
Namely, you can only make cognac from certain varieties of grapes — the most common one being Ugni Blanc, or Saint-Émilion, as the French call it. The process is rather complex; you can’t just put some grapes in a barrel and call it a day. First, you have to make wine, which you then distill to produce the actual cognac.
And just like wine (and most other kinds of alcohol), cognac gets better with age. In fact, it must age for at least two years to even be considered cognac. However, most types worthy of the name mature for much longer than that.
Hennessy Pure White, for example, needs ten to fifteen years to achieve the delicate flavor most know and love it for.
But What Makes Hennessy Pure White So Special?
Those lucky enough to try Henny White describe the taste as delicate and subtle, despite the high alcohol content. With a honey-like color, sweet aroma, and sophisticated flavor, it’s no wonder HPW is one of the most exquisite cognacs in the world.
Of course, the actual ingredients necessary for perfecting said flavor are a well-kept secret, with Hennessy insiders describing Pure White as “difficult to produce.”
It should come as no surprise, then, that Jas Hennessy & Co. takes great caution with the amount of HPW it makes. Everything from the grapes to make the wine to the copper stills necessary for distillation is a big investment of resources. And when the expected return is over fifteen years away, the caution is understandable.
On an ever-changing market, what’s popular today could become irrelevant tomorrow. Scarcity creates demand, and by keeping Pure White exclusive, Hennessy ensures that it remains highly sought after.
If you’ve wanted to know why Hennessy Pure White is illegal, now you do — it’s not. While there’s no law that outright bans it, however, chances are that you won’t be seeing it in your local supermarket any time soon. Some legitimate distributors do supply it in limited amounts, although with a steep price tag.
Still, if you don’t feel like shelling out a few hundred bucks for a bottle, maybe it’s time to plan a trip to Cognac — in some cases, that might even be the cheaper option.