When Julious Grant embarked on his journey to produce a brandy that meets the taste preferences of today’s consumer, he looked no further than California and its prolific grape-growing regions to produce OMAGE, a super premium artisanal brandy made in a style similar to that of French Cognac.
While California has long been recognized for its robust wine offerings, brandy has been produced in the state for centuries, with new, higher-end brands debuting over the past decade. And without the stringent regulations found in French Cognac production, brands like OMAGE have had success in crafting Cognac-inspired brandy reimagined to appeal to a wider swath of spirits enthusiasts beyond Cognac loyalists.
Grant, a three decades-long alcohol and beverage industry executive who previously held top positions with giants like Beam Suntory, Moët Hennessy, Bacardi and Diageo, places his focus on the grapes in his brandy-making. He uses a blend of four varietals from the Central Valley, all but one differing from the higher-acidity grape varietals used in French Cognac; and makes minor, yet noteworthy deviations from the strict mandates on barrel aging and distillation found in Cognac production.
“I wanted to pay homage to French tradition, but with a California grape-forward style. Unlike Cognac, which places the emphasis on the oak, OMAGE brandy places emphasis on the vineyard and its grapes to produce a beautifully-balanced spirit to be enjoyed not only by Cognac and brandy lovers, but also enthusiasts of bourbon, whiskey and scotch. No other US brandy fits that mold.”
Though the amount of time OMAGE spends in the barrel meets French Cognac standards, the type of oak used in the aging process differs, giving the artisanal brandy an identity all its own. Cognac is aged exclusively in French oak, but Grant uses both charred and toasted American bourbon and French oak barrels to create individual flavor profiles across the range of expressions, enhancing flavor while reducing the sweetness often found in other American brandies.
“The American oak brings more aroma and flavor while the French oak has more tannin and contributes more weight on the palate,” said Grant. “There are glorious spectrums to both and some notable overlaps but generally this is what we find in OMAGE.”
When it comes to the distillation process, Grant points out that OMAGE uses the “méthode cognaçaise” of pot distillation, but with an added column distillation for further refinement.
With such close attention to detail in producing OMAGE, it makes sense that Grant takes this same approach with other spirits he’s producing from parts of the world far beyond California wine country. Grant’s company, The Brand House Group, also has a wide-ranging portfolio of unique Japanese spirits created by Grant’s partner, Taichi Seki, which exists under the company’s ICONIC SPIRITS division.
“Our Japanese portfolio includes a variety of incomparable and innovative spirits including: TEITESSA, a super-premium, single-grain whisky made from the water of Mount Fuji; AWAYUKI, a one-of-a-kind, strawberry-infused gin made with rare Japanese strawberries of the same name; and our soon-to-debut HAIKEN, a hand-crafted vodka with unique fruit-infused flavors,” said Grant.
While Grant seems on his way to building a craft spirits empire, it’s clear that OMAGE brandy is the first major standout in his portfolio, having garnered national attention among spirits journalists and reviewers as well as swift distribution in most major cities nationwide.
All three expressions of OMAGE (VS, aged two years; VSOP, aged four; and XO, aged six) are available throughout Los Angeles at various local independent wine and spirits shops and at Total Wine & More.
“OMAGE is the end result of my passion for Cognac and my quest to perfect a super-premium US brandy made using the Cognac method,” concluded Grant. “It’s my honor to introduce OMAGE to the world.”
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