Thirsty Reporter: Pass the Cognac

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Jay-Z drinking D’USSE at the 2013 Grammys

And drink like Jay Z.

Cognac consumption is on rising globally, with a 30 percent sales spike in the United States alone in the past four years. Some of the renewed interest in the old-school distilled brandy from France is thanks to its popularity with the music set — Snoop Dogg loves Hennessy (and who can forget when Kanye West walked the MTV VMAs red carpet with a bottle in hand?) while Courvoisier is Busta Rhymes' choice.

And if the name D’usse rings a bell, it is probably because you have seen Jay Z sipping the spirit on the front row at The Grammys or heard him name dropping it in songs, both Drunk in Love and Part II (On the Run) have lyrics mentioning it. In honor of the brand's fifth anniversary, D'usse's cognac master distiller Michel Casavecchia talks cognac drinking for beginners, the renewed interest in the liquor and Jay Z's favorite way to enjoy it.

Pret-a-Reporter: Why do you think there has been a resurgence of cognac and cognac cocktails?

Consumers today are looking for products that have substance, rich heritage, authenticity and that are also locally crafted. Cognac answers this trend and offers all of this to consumers, especially as they become even more discerning. As for cocktails, bartenders are also coming back to classic cocktails but reinventing them, and cognac played a big role in cocktail history. As a category with a lot of aromatic complexity, it allows bartenders to show their skills and offer cocktails that are both extremely balanced and rich in flavor.

What do you think is one misconception that people have about drinking cognac or one mistake people make when drinking cognac? 

A big misconception that a lot of consumers have is that cognac is "too strong." This is due to the misconception that it can only be consumed neat and the comparison to other categories that consumers are used to drinking mixed in cocktails. In fact, the alcohol content for cognac is the same as the alcohol content of most other spirits categories. When they realize that, and try it in a cocktail, most tend to change their mind.

What are some tips to keep in mind if you are a cognac newbie?

When enjoying cognac neat, first, I strongly recommend using a tulip glass. Too often, big snifters (balloon glasses) are used. This type of glass is way too big, with a very wide opening allowing the alcohol to evaporate rapidly, giving a first nose impression that is very aggressive. A smaller tulip glass, similar to the one used during professional tasting sessions, is definitely the best option for a great cognac experience. After pouring into a tulip glass, take the time to observe the color of the cognac, its density, then start to nose it, the nose not being too close from the glass and enjoy all the rich and intense flavors it will provide. Finally, take a sip, make sure you have it fully in your mouth, breathe a little bit to give some air, and you will then experience all the complexity and long aftertaste of an exceptional cognac.

D'USSE XO, our brand's premium expression which launched in 2014, would be an excellent cognac to enjoy neat. On the palate you can taste notes of hazelnuts and nutmeg followed by well-rounded and complex apricot and orange with hints of wood and subtle warm spice. Then, rich dark chocolate and walnut culminate in an exceptionally balanced finish.

D’USSE  is one of Jay Z's favorite liquors. How does he usually drink it? 

Jay Z prefers to drink D'usse in "The Code" cocktail, which features D’usse VSOP, pineapple juice and Disaronno liqueur (recipe below).


1 ½ parts D'usse VSOP Cognac

1 part Disaronno liqueur

2 parts pineapple juice

Dash ANGOSTURA® aromatic bitters

Shake and strain over ice into a rocks glass and garnish with a lime wedge