D’Ussé Cognac has just become a lot more accessible to drinkers seeking a bold, new brandy experience.
Bacardi USA’s first foray into the category has recently expanded its reach into several new markets including Los Angeles, Houston, New Jersey, Connecticut, Chicago, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Miami, after first launching in New York and Washington last summer.
Meant to shake up a spirits class that, according to Bacardi USA CEO Robert Furniss-Roe, has grown “a bit dusty,” D’Ussé, with its full-frontal profile, is aimed at both experienced Cognac enthusiasts and those new to the category. Vice president brand managing director Giles Woodyer has said that the brandy has had an incredible response since it rolled out last year.
One notable convert is rapper and music producer Jay-Z, who hosted a launch party and then drank D’Ussé at the Grammy Awards in February from the trophy he won.
While some pundits have used the old fallback descriptor “smooth” to characterize D’Ussé in comparison with typical Cognacs, our tasting showed that while it may lack bite, it has a bold presence that makes it much more than a beginner’s brandy. The point seems to be a brandy that can be used for sipping and drinking on the rock as well as in a cocktail. In the latter consideration, D’Ussé brings plenty of the flavor needed to stand up to mixers.
Even as this VSOP (at least four years old) is not as complex as the Cognacs rated XO (at least six years) and above that we usually suggest for pairings, it proved a formidable partner with a cigar. (Furniss-Roe said that XO and VS [two years or more] variants could eventually follow the VSOP).
Pronounced “dew-say,” it is made by Chateau de Cognac, a venerable house founded in 1795. Located near the Charente River, its aging cellars are known for their dampness and a constant temperature of 59° F. The company also makes Otard Cognac, which is not distributed in the United States.
Featuring the Cross Lorraine, the packaging is also a distinct departure for the generally staid category. Those of us who do not have Grammy trophies in which to decant may appreciate owning vessel that looks like it would be at home on TV’s “Game of Thrones.”
(Tasting notes and cigar pairings on next page)
D’ussé (80 proof, or 40 percent alcohol by volume, $44.99 for a 750 ml bottle)
APPEARANCE: It’s dark amber, coppery color is quite forceful. The legs start out thin as they hang pendulously to glass, then clot together and roll down in fat chunks.
NOSE: An inviting, toasty aroma of caramel, maple and toffee. Fruit comes in the form of sweet oranges and lemons. The toasted aspects verges on pumpkin pie.
PALATE: A remarkable change occurs initially from the nose to the palate. The formerly mellow notes become bold, effervescent and spicy. Minty, eucalyptus sensations fairly blow through the roof of the mouth. Then calmness occurs, and the sweet and hearty flavors of the nose regain dominance, with some honey, cinnamon, maple and woodiness.
FINISH: As it finishes, the sassy, spicy notes of the palate seem to disappear, leaving only the sweet and mellow. At the very last, the Cognac snaps shut with a tart hard-candy flavor.
NOTE: Big and bold, this is perfect for mixing (we found nirvana by muddling cucumbers and basil in lemon juice and D’Ussé and shaking with ice and straining). Taken without added flavors, it cries out for some (but not too much) water. Siphon up H2O with a straw and add it in dribs and drabs until you get it right.
CIGAR PAIRING: J. Fuego Edicion Familia 2012 Toro (6 1/2 inches by 54 ring, $10, 88 points, Feb. 26 Cigar Insider)
A distinct walnut sweetness comes on strong, but dissipates, ushering in faint coffee notes. Tasty, but could use more body. The D'Usse handily delivers the formerly delinquent body to the cigar, showcasing its nutty qualities and accentuating the coffee and some hidden spiciness. The Cognac smooths out considerably under the influence of the J. Fuego, with its woody character coming to the fore.
Añoranzas Gran Toro (6 inches by 60 ring, $8.50, 89 points, Feb. 26 Cigar Insider)
A massive, thick smoke, this toro is toasty and pleasant with occasional snaps of pepper. The finish is a bit dry, but imparts notes of almond flavor. Any dryness on the cigar quickly disappears when taken with the D'Usse, which takes its pepper notes into another realm of more complex spiciness. The sweetness and fruitiness of the Cognac's nose becomes much more appreciable with the cigar as a graham cracker luster suffuses it.
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