Friday, September 16, 2022

Jay-Z's D'Ussé VSOP Cognac

Celebs Selling Snake Oil? 
I am always a wee-bit suspicious when a celebrity endorses a brand of drink.  


I am wondering if it's all about the bags of money exchanged for their endorsement.  So many celebs have lately hopped on a spirits money train.  There's Sammy Hagar (tequila), George Clooney (more tequila!), David Beckham (whisky) and even Bob Dylan (more whisky!).  So much for the hippie ethos of Blowin' in the Wind!  Just send some bucks Bob's way and he will be comfortably tangled up in greenbacks.

So, as I stare at a bottle of D'Ussé VSOP Cognac, I tell myself, "I am going to suspend judgment," and at the same time try to forget the horror tasting I did of an artificially darkened spirit promoted by Drake that was called 'Virginia Black' that strongly tried to masquerade as being a cognac.  It was a bizarre whisky science project in a bottle.

I don't know much about the guy other than: he grew up in the NYC projects, sold drugs on street corners, got into rap music, made his fortune in rap music, and then ventured into the business sphere where he has enjoyed considerable, well incredible success, given that he is now a billionaire.  Unlike a lot of celebrities who fritter away their wealth, he has exercised impressive business acumen, with investments in a wide range of industries including spirits.  He is a true rags to riches story that I never tire of.

D'Ussé VSOP cognac was initially launched in 2012.  Jay-Z was an early investor who became a part owner of the brand, and publicly endorsed it in advertising, as well as drinking some of it from his Grammy trophy at the time.  The other owner is Bacardi.  For Bacardi, it was their first foray into the cognac market.

While corporate ownership is relatively new, the actual producer of this cognac knows what they are doing.  The spirit is made at the Château de Cognac (it's a 1,000 year old castle where cognac production dates back to 1820) and the idea for the cognac germinated in the mind of a well-regarded master distiller, Michel Casavecchia.  He wanted a more up-to-date VSOP cognac that was more approachable, and that would also work in cocktails.  He also developed an XO.

After the release of D'Ussé VSOP, the reviews were pretty harsh.  Critics online didn't like it at all.  I must admit I read a few, and steeled myself for my tasting (hoping that at no point would my gag reflex be engaged).



VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale) designates a blend in which the youngest brandy is aged for at least four years in a cask.


Nose (undiluted)
Strawberry, sweet candied oak, leather, mint and inviting floral tendrils.

Palate (undiluted)
Rich, luscious red licorice, caramel, milk chocolate, while sweet initially, mid-palate it transitions to red wine (merlot) commences a march to a drier clime.

Finish (undiluted)
drying with a little heat, green apple, fresh mint leaves and toffee.

General Impressions
Damn the critics!  This is good!  All their reviews date from about ten years ago, at the time of the market launch, and maybe it wasn't as good then as it has become now?  All I know, is that in 2022, it's balanced, interesting, approachable, and great for the cognac newbie wondering about where to start in this spirits category.  Connoisseurs may find it a little light on the palate, but alas it is not a defect in my opinion.  Not every cognac must be a chewy caramel, chocolate granola bar. 

Just my hunch that this cognac has been improved over time.  Spirits brands do evolve sometimes where the owners start sourcing different ingredient parts.  I have seen this in the whisky category a couple of times.  Teacher's Highland Cream had a key sherry cask malt (GlenDronach), but the owners at one point substituted another sherried malt and it impacted the flavor profile.  Same thing happened with the blended Scotch, Black Bottle.  Used to be very peated and Islay in style, but a few years ago they abandoned that style and opted for a more sherried style and the change in flavor was like 180 degrees, and not for the better.  Maybe that happened here with D'Ussé?  Can't say for sure, but might be the case, except the changes were an improvement, maybe even, a dramatic improvement.  

So, in light of the above, I guess I will be the lone critic that likes D'Ussé. 

I'm gonna cue up Money Ain't A Thang.  Jay-Z got it going on with that track and this cognac!


Jason Debly

Monday, August 15, 2022

J&B Scotch Cocktail Recipe for Heatwaves!

Today is a heatwave.  The air shimmers above the highway pavement, dogs with their tongues hanging, and not a cotton swab in the grampy's baby blue, Crown Victoria sky.

Walk outside and it's like walking into a gym sauna.  You know, furnace like air temperature.  Maybe this weather foreshadows what I can expect in the afterlife.  Oh well, I banish that thought as I enter the heavenly chill of my local air-conditioned liquor store.

I am on a mission to find a tonic to provide comfort from the fiery sun ablaze above.  My studies in alchemy tell me that Scotch and rum on their own will not work.  Beer is for young people.  I have a beer and my stomach goes condo with space for rent.  

On one aisle I see J&B Rare.  Nothing 'rare' about this bottom shelf blended Scotch whisky.  It's everywhere and usually always on sale.  By itself, on a day like this, it's torture, but I get inspired.  I know that this is not a blend worth drinking neat.  A lot of blends are designed as the alcoholic anchor of a mixed drink and J&B is a shining example.  

I hop on the J&B website which is a lot more modern and hip than the antiquated bottle label.  The site has mixed drink suggestions, and what I like is that they are simple concoctions.  No 'mixologists' here!  Don't need obscure ingredients or shavings of this and a touch of that.  I looked at all the recipes and settled on "J&B and Ginger ale" except I decided to substitute ginger ale for ginger beer.  There is a difference my friend.  So, I grabbed a bottle and then headed to Costco to get some good quality Fever-Tree ginger beer (no alcohol).  

I am not paid anything by whoever makes Fever-Tree ginger beer, but would gladly take their money because their product is fantastic!  Real ginger used, carbonated water and sugar.  That's pretty much it.  What I like about Fever-Tree is that it doesn't taste super sweet like typical soda.  Maybe that is because it is made in England and exported to mugs like me in North America.  This ginger beer has a real nice spicy/tart bite to it.

J&B Rare with Ginger Beer Recipe
1. Twist off the cap of your J&B bottle.  You're gonna use that cheap metal cap to measure out two capfuls of J&B Scotch into a tall glass (preferably Irish Galway crystal - everything tastes better in crystal doncha know).

2.  One lemon or lime.  Slice it into wedges. One of those wedges is going into you tall glass.

3.  Lots of ice, I mean three or four cubes.

4.  Fever-Tree or other similar high quality ginger beer.  But, friend, make sure its at room temperature.  We don't want it refrigerator cold.  Chillin' is the job of the ice.  So, pour that ginger beer into your glass.

5.  Wait exactly one minute to let the ice chill your ginger beer and J&B.

6.  Now have a taste!


Jason Debly

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Glenfiddich 15 year old Solera Single Malt Scotch Review


I saw this on the shelf, at my local liquor store, and thought it was time to revisit it.  Fifteen years ago, I was a big fan of this single malt.  It was a nuanced honey, barley, golden cereal type of flavor profile that exhibited impressive complexity.  It was totally in my wheelhouse: a classic Speysider on the lighter honey based flavor map.  Back then, Glenfiddich 15 Solera had a place on my shelf alongside other malts with similar flavor profiles like Cragganmore 12 and Glenmorangie 12 Nectar d'Or.

So, while the security cameras watched my every move in the liquor store, as I hefted the bottle in its tube, I decided to pull the trigger, and approached the cashier.  $99!  Times have changed.  Used to be much cheaper.  But, I thought this is a fifteen year old single malt and given that age statement, $99 in Canada is fair.  My friends south of the Canadian border are probably getting it for $70 or so.  Still fair I think at first glance.

So, I get this bottle home, sit out on the back deck, pull the cork, pour a dram and just let it sit for about 10 minutes or so.  Let it breathe. I do this because sometimes the first dram poured too soon tastes a little tight or hot with some single malts.  Highland Park 18 comes to mind.  Best to open the bottle, have a dram after twenty minutes, and it will taste even more mellow a week from then because of oxidation.  

While my dram breathes, I think about 'solera' on the label, and what it really means.  'Solera' is a method of aging port and sherry that originated in Portugal and Spain.  

Imagine rows of barrels or casks, stacked five or so levels high, all connected by pipes, and sherry drained from the ground level casks is the oldest, and the empty space in the cask is replaced with sherry from the cask of the row above.  Meanwhile, as the oldest sherry is bottled by draining the floor level barrels, more young sherry, is poured into top row barrels.  This is the purported Solera system, but from what I have read, the term is used very loosely meaning the actual aging and blending of spirit may not be adhering to Spanish tradition outlined above.  

The solera technique also is purportedly used by some rum producers.  However, I read one rum expert write he had never seen a Solera system employed at any distillery as described above.  So, who knows what the truth is?  Anyhow, you and I now have some understanding of what Glenfiddich wants you to believe.  I suspect the use of the Solera term is more marketing than fact.

Single Malt


Age Statement
15 years


Artificial Color

Chill Filtration

Widely distributed.

For a 15 year old single malt, the price was reasonable.  Most single malts of this age statement are priced 40% or so higher.

Wood Management
Ex-sherry casks, European oak, New American Oak.

Nose (undiluted)
Honey, dandelions. Pleasant.  Speaks of quality.  Light aromas.

Palate (undiluted)
Apple juice, honey, apricots, white grapes, a hint of raspberry.

Finish (undiluted)
Short.  Tastes young on the finish of flabby white grapes.  Hint of bitterness.  Is that ginger?  For a 15 year old single malt there should be some length of flavors.  Faint, stale note of New York City, yellow taxi cab, cigarette smoke hanging in the backseat.

General Impressions
This may say a 15 year old single malt, but the ingredient whiskies are tasting much younger.  Notes of pearl onions . . . ahh not in a good way.  

Really disappointing.  

15 years ago or so, I really liked this malt, but not now.  Somehow, it tastes young.  Maybe the ingredient whiskies are much closer to 15 years age statement and years ago it was composed of more older whiskies closer to 18 years?  Can't say for sure, but does taste that way.

In a peer review, this used to be on par with Cragganmore 12, but not anymore as Cragganmore continues to outshine this malt.  As for Glenmorangie Nectar d'Or, the age statement has been sadly dropped and it too is now a disappointment.

Not recommended!


Jason Debly

PS. Here's my YouTube review: