A toast of life: One man’s journey from jail to the business of Cognac

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- This is the tale of two destinies: one of grapes in the south of France and the other, a man in South Louisiana.

They would come together in the most unusual way. The moral of the story is this: Where you start doesn't have to be where you end.

"If I try to compare myself to cognac, I would say ... yeah I'm smooth," Norvel Lassere jokes.

Laserre, who owns Laserre Liqueur, has lots to laugh about now, but things weren't always that way.

"Things were hard," he recalls. "I got involved in some dealing drugs to try and help my family because we were starving ... trying to find a way to get me, my mom and my sister off the streets."

Laserre spent 11 years behind bars, and when he got out, he was looking for a new business venture. That's when he came across wine bottles with his own last name on them. His discovery led him to his great grandfather, a man who lived in France and owned wine vineyards in the mid-1800s.

"A man becomes a man when he first learns how to accept responsibilities for his own actions," Laserre says. "Just leaving that place knowing I beat the odds."

Fast forward a bit, and you'll find Laserre traveling to France, sipping a glass of cognac and learning all about liqueur from his now business partner.

Laserre, along with his business partner, produces his own brand of cognac in, fittingly, Cognac, France. Laserre Liqueur de Cognac is made from wine that's aged into cognac with Native American spices and honey.

"I got a product with my last name on it, sitting on the top shelf," Laserre says. "That is so surreal to me.  It's a blessing."

Laserre's business partner watches over production in France, while Laserre stays home in New Orleans tending to the distribution.

You can look for it wherever spirits are sold. Learn more about the product here.