All Cognac is brandy but not all brandy is Cognac. Brandy is produced from numerous different types of grapes, using various methods, virtually everywhere in the world. Highly regulated Cognac on the other hand can only be produced in the Cognac region of France. It must be 90% made from a nasty little white grape called the Ugni Blanc that is very dry, acidic and thin and produces undrinkable wine but kicks butt when distilled and aged. Also allowed in that 90% group are Folle Blanche and Colombard grapes.
Cognac must be twice distilled in copper pot stills and aged at least 2 years in French oak barrels but most of it is aged for considerably more time. With all these requirements in place, I am surprised that the French don’t go just a bit further and demand that only French virgin maidens be allowed to handle the spirit during its various phases of production and on top of that only during periods of a full moon..
I just happen to be a big fan of Cognac and have taste driven some 30 or 40 brands and have to admit that all that regulation and control seem to have a positive effect on the final product. I’ll also admit that it’s an acquired taste and your first time with a straight up snifter of Cognac might make you think that anyone who drinks this stuff is insane. But slow and easy does it. Small sips while enjoying the nose is definitely the only way to go.
And now, Bacardi introduces D’USSE VSOP. D’USSE is crafted at the Chateau de Cognac which has a 200 year old legacy of blending spirits and storing them within their limestone cellars. The youngest Cognacs in this D’USSE VSOP blend are aged for at least 4½ years. As far as the rating system goes, VS (Very Special) is where it starts with the youngest in the blend being aged for at least 2 years. Then comes VSOP (very superior old and pale) with the youngest aged for at least 4 years. Then there’s XO (extra old) with the youngest Cognacs in the blend being at least 6 years old. Of course, it doesn’t stop there as Cognacs of 20 to 50 and even over 100 years old are certainly available. I have the feeling that D’USSE will be adding a couple more blends to its line up in the near future.
D’USSE VSOP comes in a short squat bottle with the historic Cross of Lorraine on one side of the bottle and its name on the other side. Not a whole lot of marketing going on here. The color of the liquid within is a deep amber. At first sniff, the nose is quite filled with alcohol fumes but settles down quickly to reveal a lush leathery, smoky, citric, nutty, oaky aroma. On the palate at first there is a lively peppery, slightly spicy overtone that is quickly followed by flavors of vanilla and fruit and almonds and backed by lemon like high notes. The finish is lively and pleasant with just enough presence to let you know you definitely just tasted Cognac. This is a very pleasant Cognac that justifies its price point of around $45.00 to $50.00 per 750 ml bottle. I would consider this a very good every day Cognac. There are of course more complex Cognacs out there but they are all much more expensive then this modestly priced D’USSE. That being said I again have no doubt that this is just the start of the D’USSE line up and there will be more offerings following sooner rather than later. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Cheers.
By George Brozowski
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