What’s the best way to impulse a new start to a cognac house? In a fairly static market product-wise, Frédéric Delpeuch, the 5th generation and head of Maison Delpeuch-Joyeux, has taken a radical approach by launching Deljoy, a unique liqueur combining cognac and citrus fruit.
Delpeuch-Joyeux was born of a meeting between Auguste Delpeuch, the son of a merchant from Auvergne, and Sarah Joyeux, the daughter of a Charente winegrower. They founded Maison Delpeuch-Joyeux in 1890 which produced the Delpeuch-Joyeux cognacs. Their eldest son Daniel expanded the vineyard, the distillery and the cognac range while trading spirits with a famous liqueur brand at that time called ‘La Vieille Cure’ which ceased to exist after the take-over by Bolls. Jean-Pierre Delpeuch, the 3rd generation, put an end to the production of the Delpeuch-Joyeux cognacs in the 60’s to focus on viticulture and brandy production that he continued to sell to trading houses. At the same time, he created a cognac-based liqueur for his own consumption, which he called ‘Délice des Anges’. Alain, the 4th generation, continued his father’s work by supplying the major trading houses including a famous liqueur from Charente that still exists today!
Because of that historical connection with the liqueur market, Frédéric, the 5th generation who took over the commands of Delpeuch-Joyeux in 2022, decided to relaunch the trade business (own-label sales) with the production of a unique liqueur made from cognac and citrus fruit.
The family estate has a vineyard of around thirty hectares of ugni blanc located in Grande Champagne (four parcels spread over Segonzac, Bourg-Charente and Mainxe-Gondeville). The vineyard is cultivated in a sustainable way in collaboration with the local agricultural chamber. Frédéric’s brother Louis Delpeuch and their father Alain both look after the vines.
The cognac produced by the family-owned estate is distilled in a 1971 pot still equipped with a wine heater and a boiler with a capacity of 25 hectolitres. Distillation is carried out without the lees to obtain a finer distillate matching the aromatic profile of the liqueur. This still enables the company to distil 100% of the harvest without having to use an external distiller.
Ageing and blending
The young spirits are placed in new oak barrels before being transferred to red oak barrels after several months once the desired extraction level is reached. The casks used have a capacity of 350 litres, the “best quality/size ratio” according to Frédéric.
The blending process took around two years and involved the preparation of over 500 samples to achieve the desired balance between the different components. Frédéric first selected fresh, aromatic cognacs before testing their compatibility with different citrus fruits. Cognac makes up 30% of the liqueur. 7 citrus fruits were selected, along with some Asian spices who complete the formula to add complexity and underline the fruity, fresh character of the liqueur.
A versatile liqueur
Why a liqueur and not a cognac? Since Frédéric is an amateur of liqueurs and mixology, its his interest in this field which gives the opportunity to be creative that drove the creation of such a product. The underlying idea was to make a product that could meet the needs of today’s amateurs (less sugar, more complexity, more natural ingredients) and please their palate through three modes of consumption: pure on the rocks, in long drinks (spritz, fizz) and short drinks (margarita, sidecar…). The aim was thus to create a product that would appeal to sommeliers, chefs (great potential in sorbet, for example, or in the preparation of a citrus tart, in ceviche, etc.) as well as bartenders. Deljoy cognac and citrus liqueur was therefore born out of the observation that it was difficult to find a liqueur on the market that could be enjoyed in all three ways.
A contemporary bottle
With its lighter weight (-150g), cork in natural beech timber and no label, Delpeuch-Joyeux has minimised the impact of its packaging on the environment. The use of sugar has also been kept to a minimum (less than 200g of sugar per litre) to bring more freshness and liveliness to its citrus and cognac liqueur. Expect to pay around 39€ a bottle. You can purchase Deljoy directly at the estate or online (La Cognathèque for instance).
A bottle was kindly provided by the producer. Three tastings were carried out to test the liqueur at three different serving temperatures. Regarding the sweetness of the liqueur, glasses with a larger capacity than the stemmed tulip glasses usually used were preferred.
1st tasting at room temperature in a Glencairn glass.
Colour: pale gold.
Nose: fairly suave, with notes of candied orange, sweets (berlingots, dragées) and citrus fruit (grapefruit, orange blossom, kumquat, Nice lemon). The background is marked by more discreet notes of tarragon and hazelnut. A hint of ginger and cinnamon completes the nose.
Palate: moderate attack. The mid-palate is invigorating, with a liveliness not expected from a liqueur. The palate is textured without being heavy nor two sweet. There are notes of blood orange, grapefruit syrup and lime. A light bitterness develops on the finish, accompanied by a very slight harshness that counterbalances the sweetness. A tangy undertone runs through the palate, stretching out to a rather long, fresh finish.
2nd tasting in a chilled Glencairn glass
Nose: less expressive, less suave. Notes of tangerine and flowers (rosehip). Hints of green pepper and nutmeg in the background.
Palate: the attack is slightly rounder. The mid-palate shows more tracing acidity. Notes of orgeat, orangeade and orange-peel jam emerge. The finish is fairly long.
3rd tasting on ice in a cognac glass
Nose: clearly less expressive due to the colder temperature, the nose remains fresh with notes of sweets (berlingots) and orangeade. There is a slightly herbaceous freshness.
Palate: the palate becomes more nervous and slightly astringent: the sweetness is tamed by the cold, which brings out the bitters and acidity. There are notes of candied orange, candied ginger, timut berry and tarragon. The finish is shorter due to the gradual dilution.
Deljoy’s liqueur is interesting because the ratio between sugar, acidity and bitterness is particularly well-balanced, making it very versatile in both service and use. On top of that, it has a rather complex nose where most liqueurs are rather monolithic. Room temperatures allow the aromas to unfold, while lower serving temperatures mean that the nose loses expressiveness but the palate gains in tension. The only thing one might regret is the slightly high price, given its low alcohol content.
In a nutshell
Deljoy cognac and citrus liqueur is produced by Maison Delpeuch-Joyeux, owners of around thirty hectares of ugni blanc in Grande Champagne and distillers. Drawing on centuries of know-how and history, Frédéric Delpeuch, the 5th generation, has decided to revive the trade business by producing a refreshing, home-made liqueur. Made with 30% cognac, 7 citrus fruits and a few spices, this liqueur is complex and versatile, making it ideal for both pure tasting and mixology. The reduced sweetness also makes it more lively, which means it can also be used in the preparation of certain dishes.