Cognac comeback races on as Sazerac announces expansion
The classic New Orleans brandy, inescapably tied to the Southern city, will expand stateside in a bold move for the historic company.
Sazerac, one of America’s largest privately owned distillers, has revealed it is expanding into new US markets including New York, California and Illinois, with more to come.
Why is this a big deal? Because up until now, the latest expression of the brand’s flagship spirit (which relaunched in 2019), has only been available to buy exclusively from The Sazerac House distillery in New Orleans.
It’s hardly surprising given the brand’s unshakable bond with the Southern city, with New Orleans’ adopting the brand’s name for its signature cocktail, The Sazerac, made with Cognac, Bourbon, absinthe, bitters, sugar and lemon peel.
The fact that The Sazerac Company has decided to roll out its latest blend nationwide points to an upward trend in Cognac and in luxury spirits more broadly. Earlier this week, the drinks business reported that global sales of Cognac soared by 31% last year, following a catastrophic 2020 caused by the pandemic, when core brands in the category including Hennessy, Martell, Courvoisier and Rémy Martin suffered losses of up to 26% on the previous year.
Now it seems, Cognac is back with a bang. And The Sazerac Company is not about to miss out.
No stranger to aggressive expansion strategies, The Sazerac Company, which also owns Buffalo Trace Distillery, purchased 19 drinks brands in 2019 including Dorado Tequila and Caribaya Rum from Diageo for a cool US$550 million as part of its acquisition of Star Industries and Black Prince Distilleries.
The brand has since been working with historical archivists to research its connection with France and the Sazerac family, which almost 400 years ago, established vineyards and a distillery in the Cognac region.
It is no doubt because of this link that Sazerac is allowed to label itself a Cognac, a privilege usually reserved for spirits crafted in the French region itself, rather than on the banks of the Mississippi. According to historical documents, New Orleans received its first shipment of Sazerac in 1784.
This week it was announced that the brand’s flagship spirit, Sazerac de Forge & Fils “Finest Original” Cognac blend, will be introduced to additional US markets throughout 2022.
The 94-proof blend includes Cognacs made from a number of old and rare grape varieties including Folle Blanche and Colombard, which the brand says provides a unique opportunity to enjoy Cognac “as it was 150 years ago, prior to the Phylloxera epidemic.”
“Our blend returns as closely as possible to the original methods of making Cognac and contains Cognacs from as young as seven years old, bringing freshness and delicacy, to some which date from the 1960s, adding their powerful, rich aromas,” said Clive Carpenter, general manager of Domaine Sazerac de Segonzac.“It possesses a character and complexity that is almost impossible to achieve using a single variety of grape.”
As well as a Cognac house, the Sazerac family business empire once included an iron foundry and paper mills during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, with the US Revolutionary Navy armed at one time with Sazerac-built cannons.
Sazerac de Forge & Fils “Finest Original is rich and floral, and creamy in texture, with hints of spice. It retails for around US$129.99 (750ml).