There’s nothing we like more at Cognac Expert than ground-breaking innovation. So naturally, the arrival of a Cognac product created by an African American with a heritage that linked him to France made us sit up and take notice. Add into the mix a particularly impressive product that combines our favorite spirit with that of honey and other ingredients – and we were hooked. So come with on a journey to discover the intimate secrets behind the wonder that is the Lasserre Cognac Honey Liqueur.

Norvel Lasserre: The First African American Cognac Producer
The innovative Lasserre Honey Liqueur Cognac, in its stunning decanter.

The man behind the brand is one Norvel Lasserre, a Louisiana-born entrepreneur who is surely proof that following your dream is all about the hard work and passion you put into it. The premise of his story is that he took advantage of a grant scheme in his hometown of Louisiana that offered an opportunity to learn about exporting. And although he wasn’t sure, he thought, “what do I have to lose?”  

After successfully completing a course in 2013, Novel was searching for a viable product to sell. He was blown away when by chance he came across a winery of his own name, Domaine Lasserre. It was this happy coincidence that led him to research his heritage, and the first tentative steps down the road that led to his first Cognac product that’s been created in partnership with Cognac resident, Siebe Hartmans.

We were lucky enough to connect with Norvelss for an exclusive interview where he shared a fascinating insight into the journey that’s led to the Lasserre Honey & Cognac Liqueur that’s winning industry accolades, including the coveted gold medal award at the 2019 San Francisco World Spirit Competition (flavored Cognac category)

Cognac Expert: How did you feel when you realized your heritage linked you to France? What was that first visit to France like?

Norvel Lasserre: I remembered hearing the story that my grandmother told me years ago about these two LASSERRE brothers from France that traveled to the USA and settled in Louisiana in the 1800s, but I never knew their names, or anything about them, until five years ago when I reviewed some documents from my grandmother regarding our family’s heritage. I was so fascinated and excited, I knew that I had to travel to France.

Norvel Lasserre: The First African American Cognac Producer
Bottles of the stunning honey liqueur Cognac.

Visiting France was like being in a movie. It was a mind-blowing experience to visit places in France that I’d only ever seen on TV. It was amazing! I arrived in Paris and visited several historical landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe… Later that day I traveled to Lyon by train to participate in the Futurallia Business Forum, which was held at the Eurexpo Mondial Des Me’Tiers… The next morning, I visited several historical landmarks in Lyon and I ate lunch at Restaurant de Fourviere, overlooking the beautiful city. Later that evening, I attended the welcoming ceremony at the Futurallia… That was the moment my journey began.

CE: What was the inspiration that led to a honey-based liqueur? How did the journey from idea to product evolve?

NL: Many people in the USA drink cocktails, mix drinks, etc.. A lot of people, like myself, have favorite mix drinks that we love and sometimes when we order our favorite cocktails at bars or clubs they aren’t prepared exactly the way we like it. So, I thought, what if there was a drink sold in a bottle that was already blended and prepared the way we like it. No matter where on the planet we order it, it will always taste the same.

In regard to the honey, I suggested using this to replace the sugar (which is used to make Cognac) because sugar creates an imbalance in the system. In a nutshell, I wanted to create a drink that you don’t have to blend or mix with anything. The honey was only added as a natural, but not overbearing, sweetener to make the Cognac a bit more tasteful and also because of the health benefits. LASSERRE is made with 99% all-natural ingredients and some of the ingredients have huge health benefits.

CE: Can you tell us about that first meeting with Siebe?

NL:  It was my second day at the Futurallia forum and I had several meetings scheduled with businesses from various parts of the world. I was scheduled to meet with 20 companies overall and Siebe was one of the Entrepreneurs that I met with. I remember shaking hands and thinking, wow, this guy is tall! We sat down and immediately we started to connect with each other He has such a beautiful and positive spirit, and I knew that I could trust him.

He introduced himself and explained to me that he specialized in spirits and I was very impressed. He added that he has connections with  Cognac makers and distilleries in Cognac. I mentioned my idea that I wanted to create a Cognac Liqueur and he said that he could help. I remember telling him that he should be my partner and he agreed. It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. That was five years ago… Today we are good friends and we work very well together. We don’t meet people by accident, we are a blessing to each other.

CE: With the success of the Lasserre Cognac liqueur are there any plans to branch out in the future?

NL: Absolutely. We’re currently prospecting Importers from various countries around the world. For example, an importer from Australia is in the process of obtaining the necessary documentation for his company to import LASSERRE. Also, the legendary professional boxer, Roy Jones Jr., is working on a deal with an Importer in Moscow to import LASSERRE to Russia. Various countries in Africa are also very interested, and we’ve already sold multiple cases at the previous Futurallia in Poitier, France, to importers from five different countries in Africa.

As of today, I’m currently supplying eight states in the USA, and we’re working on distribution in other states as well. LASSERRE is also available in selected Walmart’s in Louisiana, and we’re building our consumer base with a serious social media and direct marketing campaign (via tastings, boots on the ground, online, etc.).. We get people requesting LASSERRE from so many different countries around the world. LASSERRE is definitely a global brand. It’s just a matter of time…

CE: For those who haven’t yet tasted Lasserre, tell us what to expect? 

NL: LASSERRE can be described as “the nectar of the gods.” We’ve added an old Indian recipe using all-natural ingredients like Yerba Mate and Acerola berries, ingredients that increase one’s vitality. Elderly folks nicknamed LASSERRE, “a hot toddy in a bottle”, because, in the old days, people would mix Cognac with honey and heat it up as a remedy for allergies and cold symptoms.

But besides the health benefits of the ingredients, LASSERRE has a very unique, smooth, and distinct taste, unlike any other drink in the world. The first sip requires you to stop and reflect on its smoothness and natural honey flavor. 

CE: Our readers love to hear about entrepreneurial success stories. What are some of the key life lessons you can share for those who want to emulate such a journey?

You have to begin with the end goal in mind, meaning focus on your vision and not the vehicle (your career or industry choice). Because sometimes we choose the wrong vehicle and never actually achieve our end goal. Truth is, we’ll never know all the steps that we must take to achieve our end goal. If we know all the steps it means your goal isn’t big enough. Focus on the vision and the vehicle will come to you. When it comes, it might not be something you’d ever considered, but you have to be open-minded and willing to take advantage of the opportunity when it presents itself.  

When I was researching my heritage I traveled to France to access the birth records of my 5th generation great-grandfather. I didn’t travel to France for business, although I was attending a business forum in Lyon. My plan was to continue my research regarding my great-grandfather, but while attending the business forum, the opportunity to become a producer of a Cognac Liqueur presented itself to me and. So, although I’d never dreamed I’d ever become the creator of a Cognac brand, I didn’t hesitate to take advantage of the opportunity. By focusing on my vision the vehicle came to me, and now, it really is becoming a reality. 

Discover more about Lasserre Cognac here.

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Jacki has been with Cognac Expert from virtually the beginning. She's the senior editor of the blog, and has spent much of her life living in rural France. Today she's based back in the UK, where she splits her working life between writing for Cognac Expert and working as a Paramedic at a large regional hospital.

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