By Michael McCarthy By Michael McCarthy | September 15, 2021 | Food & Drink
The D’USSÉ 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition has arrived, and cognac connoisseurs are about to enter a state of bliss.
A mere 285 bottles of the D’USSÉ 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition are available.
Ten years ago, Shawn Carter, known to the world, of course, as Jay-Z, visited one of the most storied cognac houses in France, the D’USSÉ Château Royal de Cognac. He walked among the aging barrels with Michel Casavecchia, the brand’s cellar master, who poured a rare 1969 eau de vie (EDV). “We tasted [it], and I told him that it was unique, but that it was not still at its peak,” says Casavecchia. “We then agreed to wait.”
Waiting paid off in the most extraordinary way. After aging more than five decades in a single barrel, the D’USSÉ 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition is now available—a mere 285 bottles and what will likely be a liquid crown jewel for many collectors. The first bottle in the collection, which featured a 24K gold leaf wrapping and a Jay-Z engraved signature, sold at Sotheby’s auction house earlier this year for $52,500; proceeds benefited the Shawn Carter Foundation. Casavecchia, who still marvels at this rare find, discusses the cognac’s aging process, how he assessed its quality and what connoisseurs can expect at the first taste.
What makes the 1969 Anniversaire Limited Edition so special? Cognac is traditionally a blend of different batches of EDV from different cognac vintages; [it’s] aged in separate cellars before being blended to create the final quality, such as VSOP and XO D’USSÉ. [The Limited Edition] is unique because it’s a single batch of EDV from the Grande Champagne region alone—aged in a single cellar and a single barrel.
How did you discover this excellent batch? Every year, I taste all the eaux de vie to assess their aging. During these tastings, I sometimes meet [one] that seems promising to me. So, I follow it meticulously for years until its climax, when it will give the best of itself. I don’t assemble it. This was the case for this batch of the Grande Champagne more than 20 years ago. I’ve therefore followed it [closely] each year.
Where was the cognac stored during its aging, and how was it crafted? This old Grande Champagne has aged at the Château Royal de Cognac, which, unlike most cellars in the Cognac region, has both wet and dry cellars under the same roof. This particular barrel was aged in what we call the Chapel Cellar, located on the first floor of the château, offering a dry environment, which allows for different aromatic palates than what you’d get if this had aged in the basement in a more humid environment.
Please tell us a little about what connoisseurs will taste when they enjoy this limited-edition cognac. The tasting notes will be complex but light, combining the fruitiness of fresh walnut, hazelnut and candied apple with lingering notes of leather and cigar box, all coated in a mixture of woody notes.
Two-thirds of this eau de vie from the last century has evaporated in the angels’ share. Only a third remains, which has also helped to concentrate its exceptional aromas. This balance is the hallmark of this atypical eau de vie, and this is what makes it unique. Once used, I could not reproduce the same eau de vie with these same notes in the same proportions. It [would] be another EDV—maybe exceptional too—but different.
Photography by: PHOTO COURTESY OF D’USSÉ