NOT JUST FOR THE JET SET CROWD
It’s funny how when you get into drinking you often dip a toe or two before diving head first into the stiff waters of various spirits. For some, first it’s beer followed by raiding your parent’s liquor cabinet before falling in love with a few spirits that quickly become your go-to types of booze.
For me, I remember first taking small sips of my father’s beer, followed by raiding my uncle’s liquor cabinet. When I really got into drinking I was a whiskey guy then slowly went through a vodka phase followed by gin and rum. I’ve stayed with whiskey and rum for years and during a trip to Cuba, I was introduced to cognac (go figure).
My first experience was with Courvoisier and I didn’t like it. Then I went to George Clinton’s birthday party (the musician not Bill’s brother) and tried Hennessy and cognac cocktails. It still wasn’t my thing but I learned that I am fond of a Sidecar. Later I realized I liked Martell and Rémy Martin somewhat but recently I was introduced to D’USSE Cognac and became a fan. And since my first Sidecar, I’ve added the Sazerac, Corpse Reviver, French Connection and Brandy Alexander to my drinking repertoire.
The following is a little insight into the spirit known as cognac.
Cognac is a variety of brandy named after the town of Cognac, France. It is produced in the surrounding wine-growing region in the Departments of Charente and Charente-Maritime. When you see cognacs, they are often graded or characterized as VS, VSOP and XO.
V.S. stands for Very Special and designates a blend in which the youngest brandy has been stored for at least two years in cask. V.S.O.P. is Very Superior Old Pale or Reserve and designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least four years in a cask. And XO is Extra Old or Napoléon and currently designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is stored for at least six years. Beginning next year, the minimum storage age of the youngest brandy used in an XO blend will be increased to ten years. The names of the grades are in English because the historical cognac trade, particularly in the 18th century, significantly involved the British.
Maybe because cognac has an air of refinement to it, it’s often championed by dignitaries and celebrities. Rapper and mogul Jay Z has almost become a spokesman for D’USSE Cognac he likes it so much, which does help give the brand some swagger and street cred. Recently, I spoke with Los Angeles D’USSE Brand Advocate Charisse Curtis about the brand and the different ways of drinking and enjoying cognac.
Please describe the process of creating and distilling D’USSE Cognac?
D’USSE VSOP is naturally aged at least four and a half years within French Oak casks in the cellars of France’s Chateau de Cognac. Made from white grapes from one or more of six approved growing regions, the cognac goes through a double distillation process – one within a humid cellar that results in fruity, floral notes, and one in a dry cellar that brings out the woody, spicy flavors. The resulting liquid from the distillation process is called eaux-de vie. Blending the two eaux-de-vie together accounts for the distinct bold flavor of D’USSE Cognac.
For people new to cognac and D’USSE, describe what they can expect when tasting?
D’USSE VSOP is unexpectedly smooth and with each taste you savor hints of spices, almond and cinnamon. There are also subtle accents of honey and dried fruit at the finish. On the nose, it reveals a powerful bouquet, rich in woody notes that are layered with cinnamon and floral notes.
How do you recommend drinking the VSOP? Neat, rocks, cocktails?
While there are many who believe D’USSE VSOP should be served neat or on the rocks – known as the D’USSE Perfect Pour – it is versatile enough to be used in the creation of an excellent cocktail. The key is to select fresh ingredients and mixers that complement the notes that are found within D’USSE for a heightened cocktail experience.
Talk about how well the VSOP works with cocktails? Any recommended libations?
The D’USSE brand team has worked diligently to create an arsenal of signature cocktails that can be made with D’USSE Cognac. The most popular to date is The Code – the fresh taste of pineapple blended with D’USSE VSOP and amaretto liqueur. The recipe calls for 1 ½ parts D’USSE VSOP, one part amaretto liqueur, two parts pineapple juice, a dash of aromatic bitters shaken and strained over ice in a rocks glass with a lime wedge.
How instrumental was Bacardi in the creation of the brand and cognac?
For more than twenty years, Cellar Master Michel Casavecchia has been curating some of the world’s finest cognacs at the legendary Chateau de Cognac. His vision was to create a distinctively bold, yet remarkably smooth cognac…the result is D’USSE Cognac.
The XO is amazing. Talk about the process to create.
Cellar Master Michel Casavecchia meticulously hand-selects the finest eaux-de-vie from the cellars of the Chateau de Cognac to craft the unique blend of D’USSE XO Cognac. The eaux-de-vie is aged ten years or more in French Oak barrels to ensure the utmost complexity and depth in flavor. The result is a cognac with rich flavor notes of ripe blackberry and apricot, layered with hints of dark chocolate and walnut.
The XO should only be enjoyed neat, right? Please explain.
In order to be fully appreciated for its quality taste, pundits definitely recommend drinking D’USSE XO neat. Many believe that at room/hand temperature cognac releases highly delicate notes that would not otherwise be noticeable.
For people new to cognac, how do the VSOP and the XO differ from other cognacs?
D’USSE Cognac is masterfully crafted at the prestigious Chateau de Cognac where its proximity to the River Charente results in two climates within its walls—a humid cellar that results in fruity, floral notes, and a dry cellar that brings out the woody, spicy flavors of the cognac. Blending the two eaux-de-vie results in the boldness of character in D’USSE VSOP and D’USSE XO.
What should someone look for in a quality cognac?
Cognac is a wine-based spirit solely produced in the Cognac area of France. To be considered cognac, it must be made from white grapes from one or more of six approved growing regions. Quality cognac must go through a double distillation process resulting in a liquid called eau-de-vie. Cognac must also be aged at least two years in French oak casks and can be a minimum of eighty proof by volume.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy: D’USSE Cognac