In the mid-1970’s South West France was my family’s holiday destination of choice. My Father believed that an ability to speak foreign languages broke down barriers and what better place to explore our newly acquired school French.
My sister had the bright idea to contact certain Cognac makers asking if we could visit their production facilities. She received several embossed replies, and we visited several but the most engaging and somewhat surreal visit was to the House of Hine. We were flattered to be greeted by Jacques Hine at his empire’s front door; forty years ago it was unusual for a factory to receive non-trade visitors.
M. Hine made us very welcome and showed us around the wonderfully archaic catacombs of his business explaining in poetic detail the process of making their fine Cognac – which to this day holds the Queen’s Royal Warrant.
M. Hine apologised but explained that he has to attend a funeral but had asked his works Director, Gilles, to continue our tour to the company’s new facility outside town. He insisted that we should use his car. The image of this charming, and I suspect wealthy French distiller, in his black suit disappearing into Jarnac on his aged Solex scooter was comical.
Meanwhile Gilles beckoned us to the courtyard where M. Hines’ gleaming black Citroën DS sat waiting to for us. The clunk of the heavy doors, the smell of the black leather and the oh so Bentley-comfortable gliding ride was truly magical. The Citroën DS had always been my Father’s favourite car.
The Citroën DS – if pronounced carefully sounds like the French word for “Goddess”- was manufactured by Citroën from 1955 to 1975 – selling over 1.4m cars and was a true symbol of French ingenuity. This classic French icon was designed by the genius, Flaminio Bertoni, engineered by André Lefèbvre and the ingenious pneumatic self-levelling suspension was developed by Paul Magès. It was the first production car to have front disc brakes, it also had power steering, semi-automatic transmission and directional head lights.
Our featured image show the DS Pallas 23 from the mid-1970’s.
Our visit to the then new facility was fascinating and upon our return to the main office we were ushered into the Hine tasting room. M Hine, having returned from the funeral, proceeded to present us some souvenirs of our visit including a silk scarf for my Mother and a bottle of Hine’s finest, for my Father. He then explained that we all needed refreshment and produced a ice-chilled bottle of champagne which he served into the finest Baccarat crystal glasses Baccarat Chrystal Paperweight
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