The West

Rapping it up in suburbia
Picture: Robert Duncan

Champagne? Old hat! If you want to appear rapster cool, it's the French brandy known as cognac that you should be seen drinking, not champers.

Take Jay Z.

When the US rapper collected three gongs at last year's Grammy awards he was photographed drinking cognac from one of his trophies.

Years earlier, Busta Rhymes and P. Diddy had a number called Pass the Courvoisier with references to cognac brands such as Hennessy and Remy Martin as well as Courvoisier.

Now, the drink of choice of these aspirational trendsetters in the predominantly African-American music genre appears to be influencing young male drinkers.

Liquor Barons general manager Chris O'Brien reports robust sales of this niche product in suburbs not normally associated with expensive spirits.

"It's more pronounced in that south-east corridor but there's no doubt that in other areas we traditionally would associate with mainstream beer and budget spirits, we see this anomaly of an increase in the sale in cognacs," Mr O'Brien said, though he stressed the level of sales was still low.

"Companies that sell these premium and prestige cognacs traditionally don't service those parts of the metropolitan area but they're getting calls saying 'We need a few cases' and it's a bit of a surprise."

There are several grades of cognac, which is made only in one part of France. These include VS, which stands for Very Special, VSOP for Very Special Old Pale and XO, which means Extra Old. Prices start at about $65 a bottle.

Mr O'Brien said brandy sales in general were stagnating and few consumers were emerging to replace the typically older brandy drinker.

"But cognac is a different story," he said.

"We're getting various cultural groups becoming attracted to the product because of its aspirational nature."

Jeffrey Digwood, who has owned Liquor Barons Kenwick for 30 years, said cognac had long been favoured by mature-aged people of Chinese and Burmese descent. But the new buyers were more likely to be 23 to 30-year-olds of Chinese descent.

"You wouldn't have seen that six or 12 months ago," Mr Digwood said.

"It started as a seed and it's grown into a bush."

Though cognac remained a small part of turnover, he suggested its sales had risen by at least 20 per cent, with the younger buyers responsible for virtually all this growth. "I largely put this down to that demographic being more interested in quality over quantity," he said.

The owner of Liquor Barons Yanchep, Peter Maddalena, said Asian and African communities were by far the biggest purchasers of cognac and this had been the case for years.

"Cognac seems to be on the lift, although from a very low base," Mr Maddalena said.

Brandy sales, however, were declining.

The West Australian

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