Tasting Notes: D’USSÉ XO Cognac
Cognac is one of those pillars of drinking culture that never goes out of style. For something so soaked in French tradition—Cognac can only be called "Cognac" if produced according to strict standards in a specific region, and some houses date back to the early 16th century—it has surprisingly broad appeal. Everyone from wizened French gastronomes to rap royalty like Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy enjoys it. Cognac crosses lines of culture, class, and taste to appeal to all types, while maintaining its iconic status.
D’USSÉ is a newer entrant into the Cognac world, but has already made a splash, with Jay-Z counting himself among their growing fan-base (doubly impressive as Jay-Z is not a paid partner—he reps the stuff because he likes it). The risk with celebrity endorsement is that the product is lumped in with the crowd that relies on notoriety rather than quality to sell their wares. A sommelier with whom I tasted the cognac was frank—"Usually if a celebrity endorses it, it means it's shit." His hopes weren't high, but when he put the drink to his lips, his face glowed. "It's really good! Very bright and subtle, lots of citrus and sunflower. Quite delicious, actually."
I had already decided it was quite delicious. It's tough not to enjoy a cognac when you sample it at a lovely steakhouse in Beverly Hills, and when you have a chance to speak directly with those who made it—in this case gregarious Cellar Master Michel Casavecchia, a 20-year veteran of the legendary Château de Cognac, who taught us about the distillation process, aging, tasting, and even the effects of global warming on the grapes. D’USSÉ offers a fresh take on the classic spirit, designed to stand out on its own (for the solo tasting they rolled out the new XO expression: très cher, mais c'est magnifique) and to play well with others in a cocktail—new territory for a cognac label.
I can attest that it succeeded on both fronts, and after a good meal, great cognac sampled in many expressions, and lovely company, the weekend was off to a wonderful start.
Written by Sid Feddema