While I was in Cognac with Grey Goose, I made a quick trip to the Chateau de Cognac where they make cognac Baron Otard in addition to the new product for the US market, D'USSE.
I previously visited this chateau to learn about Baron Otard, which was then just called Otard. Baron Otard is the sixth largest cognac brand.
D'USSE is also made here, so I wanted to learn what makes it different. I met with Philippe Jouhaud, Sales and Marketing Director of Chateau de Cognac.
Jouhaud described the ways that the cognacs here are different from other brands. Firstly, they use grapes grown in four of the legal regions: Grande Champagne, Petit Chamagne, Fins Bois, and Borderies regions.
They distill the brandy on the lees, which means the grape skins are put into the still along with the grape juice.
They also redistill the segund (sp) with the result of the first distillation. Or, in English: Cognac is distilled twice. In distillation, you take out the heads and tails, but keep the heart. The segund is the spirit that's between the heart and the tails. Distillers have the option of recycling this segund by throwing it back with the wine for the first distillation, or as they do here, put it with the spirit from the first distillation. Thus, the segunds are only redistilled once rather than twice.
They insist their brandies are distilled before the end of January, though legally eau de vie for cognac can be distilled until the end of March. This ensures the grapes are fresh.
They also use casks made from different regions - Limousin, Trancais, and other regions. Limousin oak is loose grained, and thus allows for more extraction/interaction with the wood and spirit. The other woods are tighter grain.
In aging, they put the newly made spirit into Limousin oak barrels for 4-6 months then later transfer it to older barrels so it won't extract so much tannins. Limousin oak barrels are typically used for younger cognacs so it gets more wood influence in a shorter amount of time.
They give their barrels a medium toast.
The chateau is unique in Cognac. Not only are barrels of brandy aging in what is essentially a castle, it is a mere 50 meters from the Charante river. This makes for cellars that are the most humid in Cognac, along with some dry cellars as well. The humidity of the aging cellars make a big difference in the flavor profile of cognac.
Otard vs. D'USSE
The goal with D'USSE was to make a boldly flavored cognac that would stand out in mixed drinks. To do that, the blenders used cognacs from certain cellars.
Otard and D'USSE are made from the same barrel stock, just with different blends.
In humid cellars the barrels lose alcohol faster, and this creates cognac that Jouhaud describes as round and smooth. In dry cellars, the alcohol evaporates at a slower rate and the cognac tastes woodier, spicier, drier, and with more of a bite.
Thus, to give D'USSE its desired flavor, they used a greater proportion of cognac from dry cellars.