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04 Oct 2019 By

Go Explore The New Sazerac House in New Orleans and Find Out Why a Distiller Famous For Whiskey is Launching a Cognac Brand.

By Wayne Curtis, The Daily Beast

This week, after a $50 million renovation, an empty and majestic five-story 1860-era New Orleans building was reborn as the headquarters of the Sazerac Company, maker of notable whiskies and other fine spirits. 

Three stories of it have been turned into an immersive state-of-the-art museum focusing on spirits history, complete with a working distillery. It’s located just across Canal Street from the French Quarter and a five-minute walk from Bourbon Street, a boundless source of tourists pre-approved for bibulous entertainment. Tours are free, and the company is anticipating 100,000 visitors a year.  

Coinciding with the museum’s opening, the Sazerac Co. will officially release its first Cognac in decades—Sazerac de Forge & Fils “Finest Original” Cognac. No real surprise: the company bought a venerable Cognac distillery in France a few years ago. Billed as an “expressive, generous and honest Cognac,” it will be available only at the Sazerac House through early 2020, and is priced at $140 a bottle. 

So one wonders, is the company that’s most closely associated with the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky—where beloved bourbons like Eagle Rare, Blanton’s, E.H. Taylor, W.L. Weller, and Pappy Van Winkle are made—leaving the plains where it has long roamed to set off on new ventures?

Well, yes and no.

By building its high profile “homeplace,” Sazerac is jumping on a bandwagon led by other spirits producers. Homeplaces are brands made manifest, a geographic anchor, a Disneyland for drinkers—essentially a visitor center turned up to “11.” Downtown Louisville is now abloom with such places—Angel’s Envy, Old Forester, Evan Williams, Michter’s, Peerless and Rabbit Hole all have opened immersive tours, some attached to active distilleries.

sazerac house new orleans

© Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast

Beyond Louisville, distillery “experiences” throughout Kentucky have significantly upgraded lately—including Four Roses, Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. The new Bulleit Distillery in Shelbyville, promises the “experience [of] the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the Bulleit portfolio through our interactive tasting experience.” And Bardstown Bourbon just opened its new “Visitors Center Experience” last month.

Sazerac, however, has chosen not to follow suit in Kentucky. This seems odd at first, since its historic Buffalo Trace property, with its recently excavated remnants of an 1873 distillery, would make a spectacular homeplace and already attracts hordes of visitors every year.

But by investing deeply in New Orleans—and releasing its new Cognac—Sazerac Co. is in effect returning to its deep roots. This is not just the opening of a homeplace. It’s a full-on homecoming.

Sazerac de Forge et Fils dates to 1782, when Bernard Sazerac purchased an estate outside Angoulême, near Cognac, France. His business empire would grow to include a paper mill, steel forge, along with a vineyard and brandy distillery. In the 19th century, his descendants expanded exports to the United States—and by the middle of the century New Orleans was emerging as a booming market.     

Read the rest at The Daily Beast

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