The iconic Hennessy cognac house was founded in 1765 by the young Richard Hennessy (1724-1800). Born in County Cork, in Ireland, Richard was forced to leave everything behind to escape the repression against Catholics at the time. Thus, he fled to France when he was only 19. Once he arrived, he enrolled in the army and became an officer in the Irish Brigade of the French Royal Army, under King Louis XV. In 1745, he fought at the Battle of Fontenoy and spent some time in the Charente region. During his stay, he took a strong liking to the local eau-de-vie.
So much so that Richard decided to use his personal funds to start making his own brandy. In 1757, he accompanied his cousin James to Flanders (in Belgium) on a trip to study the trading business. Back in France, in 1765, Richard and his wife Ellen Barret settled in Charente. He immediately started asking some Parisian banks for a loan and ended up not only with some money but with two new partners: Mr. Connelly and Mr. Arthur. The three businessmen created their company that same year, simply calling it "Hennessy, Connelly & Arthur". Exports started pretty soon after, first to the United Kingdom and Ireland, and then to the United States (a few years later, in 1794).
In the early days already, Richard was shipping cognac to the wealthiest people in Europe, such as the King of France or the Russian Czar, although he didn't even have his own office at the time and stored the bottles in his own house. The 1760's were a golden age for cognac, and business was booming for the three men. After some years, Richard's son, James Hennessy (1765-1843), a.k.a. "Jacques", joined his father. Although Hennessy, Connelly & Arthur was quite prosperous, the cognac house remained small and unknown to the general public. As he got closer to retirement, Richard Hennessy left the city of Cognac for Bordeaux in 1776. The year he died, in 1800, his son Jacques inherited the Hennessy distillery.
Then, in 1795, Jacques Hennessy married Marthe Martell, heiress to the eponymous cognac house and also a Protestant. Later on, he partnered with a man called Samuel Turner, born in a family of alcohol merchants. The two men registered the name "Jas Hennessy & Co." in 1813. Jacques was the one that really helped the business reach the bigger spirits scene, especially since its breakthrough in the USA. During the 1840's, the House Hennessy became the biggest brandy exporter in the world. Jacques died in 1843, leaving everything to his two sons, Auguste and Frederick. The brothers went on to buy many little distilleries in the Cognac region, developing the entire Charente department at the same time.
A few years later, in 1870, Maurice Hennessy (Richard's grandson) came up with the Hennessy X.O (for "Extra Old") cuvée. That blend was so famous that it became the de facto reference for all the other eaux-de-vie. Gérald de Geoffre de Chabrignac, Maurice's nephew, was responsible for the bottle's outstanding design; he got the idea in 1947. Two of the two most important dates in the history of Hennessy were 1971 and 1987. The first one was when House Hennessy, managed by Kilian Hennessy, allied with Champagne House Moët-Chandon, to form the Moët-Hennessy Group. And 1987, because LVMH was born that year. The combination of Moët-Hennessy and Louis Vuitton: when fashion and prestige drinks collide.
Today, the Hennessy brand is part of the popular culture in the USA and Europe. It gets featured in many hip-hop videos, for example, like the Cristal champagne from House Roederer, and it's also present in sports (Hennessy entered a partnership with the NBA in 2021). The expensive cognac produced by Hennessy is now sold in more than 130 countries all over the world. The family brand has become the first French spirits brand in the world.