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In September at the McIntosh Townhouse in New York, we joined D’USSÉ for a spirited night of cocktails. There for the brand’s second installation of its “Re-Mixer” series, we joined the brand’s cellar master, Michel Casavecchia, and special guests 9th Wonder, a Grammy Award-winning producer, and Derek Brown, the owner of Washington D.C.’s hotspot Columbia Room. Throughout the space, each creator anchored a different station, and we explored the inspiration, history, and cocktail recipes of cognac through varying workshops.
Whitewall caught up with Casavecchia and 9th Wonder to chat about this year’s Re-Mixer event and how cognac and music are both engaging art forms.
WHITEWALL: Michel, tell us a bit about this year’s D’USSÉ Re-Mixer. Why did the brand choose the types of activations it did to showcase this?
MICHEL CASAVECCHIA: The D’USSÉ Re-Mixer series, which will travel to select cities across the U.S., draws fascinating parallels between remixing a classic cocktail and remixing a classic song. The NYC Re-Mixer event showcased all of the synergies between sound and cocktails, what effect sound has on flavor and our taste perception, and how remixing one ingredient can create a whole new perspective.
Interestingly, this also applies to the making of cognac. When blending the different eaux-de-vie, it’s also about making sure each one of them will “mix” well with the others and lead to a final blend with a lot of balance, depth, and a beautiful aromatic profile. All the components of the blend combined will lead to something that will always be richer and more balanced than each of them separately. Cognac’s production is not so different than making a great cocktail and creating great music.
Guests were led on an interactive tour throughout the house with various activities to experience. I held tastings of D’USSÉ XO and VSOP and explained my inspiration behind them. Cocktail expert Derek Brown and his team from D.C.’s award-winning Columbia Room provided a sonic wave cocktail demonstration. 9th Wonder unveiled the connection between mixing classic cocktails and remixing tracks through an interactive DJ Masterclass, utilizing The World of McIntosh’s renowned sound system. The event was a true display of D’USSÉ’s versatility, served on its own or in fantastic cocktails.
WW: In Cognac, the grounds are made up of a chalky soil. How does the importance of landscape effect cognac?
MC: From our vineyards to our cellars, landscape plays a crucial role in cognac. In order for a brandy to qualify as a cognac, it must be made from grape varieties grown in Cognac—where its soil contributes greatly to the overall flavor of the grape and thus the richness of the cognac produced. For D’USSÉ specifically, I have an incredible asset that I benefit from: The Château de Cognac. The different cellars inside the Château provide very different aging conditions. From dry to very humid cellars, each type helps to achieve something different in terms of aromas. A dry environment will lead to eaux-de-vie that are spicier, more intense, with woodier aromas, and nice notes of cinnamon. A more humid environment will provide fruitier aromas, orange, citrus, vanilla, as well as aromas of undergrowth.
WW: Entering the house, you were tasked with creating a cognac for Bacardi—D’USSÉ VSOP. Tell us a bit about what makes this cognac special.
MC: The VSOP blend has a complex taste and smooth finish—with hints of spices, almonds, and cinnamon. It’s perfect to sip alone and to mix into cocktails as the Re-Mixer series demonstrates. This versatility makes it approachable for both Cognac-enthusiasts and new drinkers looking to expand their knowledge of premium spirits. D’USSÉ is also one of the newer brands to the market, but brings with its expressions—VSOP and the ultra-premium XO—over 200 years of tradition from the Chateau de Cognac, resulting in distinction and heritage for the modern consumer.
WW: What type of goal is the brand working on now?
MC: A large focus for D’USSÉ is engaging key members of the trade in various markets about our brand and the Cognac category as a whole. Through activations like the D’USSÉ Re-Mixer series and my tours around the U.S. to conduct tastings of our expressions, it’s our goal to connect with bartenders and consumers about the revival of Cognac cocktails, and why D’USSÉ is the best option for them.
WHITEWALL: 9th Wonder, tell us a bit about your involvement with D’USSÉ. What do you think makes the brand special?
9TH WONDER: I have been working with D’USSÉ on their Re-Mixer series for about two years now and it keeps getting better. Together, we’ve shown the similar natures between producing or re-mixing music and mixology behind the bar. Music is an important part of the brand, so I’m excited to work with them to further educate people on the behind-the-scenes aspect of both music and cocktails.
As a music producer and professor, what makes the brand special is its dedication to its industry, teaching bartenders in cities around the U.S. how to work with Cognac. Learning different skills—whether in music or mixology—is extremely important and D’USSÉ has shown its commitment to educate in a fun and engaging way.
WW: How do you feel cognac is an form of art?
9W: Aside from the D’USSÉ bottles being sculptures in themselves—with their shape and powerful Cross of Lorraine—the process of making each blend is incredible. D’USSÉ Cellar Master Michel Casavecchia taste tests every day to ensure quality and flavor is uniform, which is a level of mastery that is as beautiful as it is artful, and one that should be strived for in any career.
WW: How do you feel music is an art form?
9W: It’s one of the best forms of expression on the planet. Music is as universal as math. No matter what language you speak or background, music can tie generations, races, color, and creeds together like no other art form.
WW: What are you working on now?
9W: Currently I am involved in the NMAAHC at the Smithsonian in D.C. I am also involved in the Kennedy Center of Performing Arts. My record label Jamla Records is still enjoying our partnership with Roc Nation, and working on releases throughout the holiday season and well into next year.