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August 28, 2016


White rhums agricoles on Sunday

We’re still in summer mode, so let’s have a little white rum. In my meagre experience, rum has to be quite ‘congeneric’ to be interesting when white, that is to say to come from pot stills or Creole columns. Anything from multiple-column distilleries is boring at best when white (and sometimes brown, agreed). Mind you, it’s almost always pure flavourless ethanol. There’s rum and there’s rum, as we all know. Anyway, let’s see what we can find… Rhum agricole should be a safe bet, even if apparently, agricole only makes for around 3% of all rums sold in the world. Oh and please note that most good white rhums agricoles are bottled at 50 or 55% vol., so, let’s be careful…

Saint Aubin ‘1819’ (50%, OB, Mauritius, agricole, +/-2015)

Saint Aubin ‘1819’ (50%, OB, Mauritius, agricole, +/-2015) Three starsThis one’s actually agricole, so from cane juice rather than molasses, in the French tradition. Colour: white. Nose: it’s very ‘natural’, totally grassy, with an obvious briny side and this great ‘dirty’ feeling that mostly comes from these artisanal kinds of rum. A rather rough rhum agricole, but that’s what we enjoy. Mouth: a bittersweet arrival, with a great salinity and a lovely cane juice/grapefruit combination. I’m also finding a little caraway, sloe, and juniper. Some pepper striking in the back of your palate. Finish: long, perhaps a tad too spirity, but these rums are not meant to be sipped ‘like that’. Comments: this session starts well. Some characterful agricole from l’Île Maurice! SGP:362 - 80 points.

Depaz ‘Blanc’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Depaz ‘Blanc’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Two stars and a halfYou wouldn’t imagine how many hectolitres of this are quaffed on the island, usually as ‘Ti-punch’. Colour: white. Nose: a richer, more aromatic white rhum agricole, with more bananas and plain cane juice. Lovely whiffs of angelica and lemon balm, plus green olives and freshly cut pineapples. Perfect balance, this is high-quality quality distillate! Mouth: it’s got this soapy side that’s consubstantial to this style, then rather some lavender sweets, as well as a little mint (drops). Other than that, it’s just a cane-y explosion. Finish: long, grassier, with a soapiness that’s perhaps a little too obvious now. But other that that, it’s very fine. Comments: expectedly nice and really characterful again. SGP:462 - 79 points.

Saint James ‘Fleur de Canne’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Saint James ‘Fleur de Canne’ (50%, OB, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Two stars and a half This is a limited edition – but we all know that that doesn’t mean much, don’t we. Colour: white. Nose: rather different, more coastal, with some soot and some oysters, as well as quite some shoe polish, like in a great Alsatian Riesling from around Hunawihr or Riquewihr. Like this, really like this… Mouth: we’re closer to the Depaz, with pineapples and lavender sweets, but also notes of gin. I guess that’s what I was calling ‘soapy’ before. Juniper. Finish: long, and even more ‘junipery’. Some spices as well, mulled wine, speculoos, lemon… Grittier and hotter aftertaste. Comments: less earthy/grassy, but not less characterful. There’s really something happening in these white agricoles. SGP:451 - 78 points.

Fighting Spirit Blue (50%, Chantal Comte, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015)

Fighting Spirit Blue (50%, Chantal Comte, Martinique, agricole, +/-2015) Two stars This one comes from Distillerie du Simon, where they distil for HSE and Clément if I’m not mistaken. Chantal Comte is an French independent bottler. Colour: white. Nose: almost the same as the Saint James, while both do not come from the same distillery. Perhaps a tad dustier? Notes of plain sugar. Mouth: rather better, a little sweetish, and perhaps a little rough as well. Lacks the depth that the other ones had. A little lemon liqueur? Ginger? Finish: medium, a little indefinite. Nicer touches of tangerines in the aftertaste. Comments: less well-chiselled and less deep than the others, but yeah, quite good. Too expensive at 40-45 Euros, though. SGP:451 - 75 points. And since we were talking about HSE…

HSE ‘Cuvée Titouan Lamazou’ (50%, OB, Martinique, Agricole, +/-2015)

HSE ‘Cuvée Titouan Lamazou’ (50%, OB, Martinique, Agricole, +/-2015) Four starsTitouan Lamazou is a French sailor that won many races such as the Vendée-Globe. He’s also an excellent writer and artist, you should check his drawings. Colour: white. Nose: it might be the same juice, but I like this much better than the Fighting Spirit, it’s fresher and deeper at the same time, with notes of agave (I know) and cane juice, lemon, seaweed, grassy earth… Lovely nose, really. Mouth: superb mezcaly white rum, earthy, very fresh, very slightly smoky, very pure and zesty… It’s really lovable spirit. I’m asking you, who needs oak? Finish: medium, fresh, even more on cane juice. Stunning rooty aftertaste, mezcal-like indeed. Comments: I’m going to buy a bottle. Well done, HSE! SGP:462 - 86 points.

We’ve got many more, but perhaps a last one, from Guadeloupe this time…

Karukera ‘Rhum Blanc’ (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2015)

Karukera ‘Rhum Blanc’ (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2015) Two stars This is pure blue cane rhum from the Domaine de Marquisat Sainte Marie, exactly where Christopher Columbus set foot quite a long time ago (thanks Alexandre!). It belongs to Longueteau. Colour: white. Nose: it’s a bit fatter, less pure in a way, with more earthy aromas, and more spices as well. Notes of fresh butter with bits of seaweed, as Monsieur Bordier is making. Great butter! Now it hasn’t quite got the entrancing brightness of the HSE. Mouth: quite brutal and rough, with something medicinal, some earth, some dust, many spices (juniper and cloves), and quite some cinnamon, which is uncommon in unaged spirits. Harder to pin down.  Finish: long, earthier, and still quite spicy. Comments: loses you a bit, this is perfect material for ageing in wood, IMHO. As a white, it may lack cleanliness and ‘zing’. SGP:361 - 74 points.

Wait, do you have three extra-minutes? Why not try another Guadeloupe? Or rather a Marie-Galante where, according to this humble taster, they make the best of the best?

Père Labat ‘50°’ (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2015)

Père Labat ‘50°’ (50%, OB, Guadeloupe, agricole, +/-2015) Four stars How can anyone not love this immaculate label? I’m sure Kazimir Malevich would have approved. Colour: white. Nose: yess. Extremely pure, and yet deep and wide, and yet simple and millimetric. Are you following me? In fact, it’s totally on sugar cane juice. Grass, earth, lime, olives, tar. Mouth: oh totally perfect! Same extremely high quality as the HSE, only even brighter, further chiselled, and purer. Ashes, a wee touch of eucalyptus, three olives, and please no gin, thanks. Finish: long, ultra-clean, superb. Celeriac. Leaves your mouth as clean as a baby’s, which is a little dangerous since the next think you want is another glass of the same. And then another. And then… Comments: this is funny, I quite like the Père Labat 40° (WF 78) but this 50° is in a whole different league in my opinion. Okay, same score as the HSE. SGP:462 - 86 points.

Oh well, while we are at it…

Nine Leaves ‘Clear’ (50%, OB, Japan, +/-2015)

Nine Leaves ‘Clear’ (50%, OB, Japan, +/-2015) Pot still rum from Japan, made out of Japanese brown sugar, not out of cane juice, so it may not belong here. But who sets the rules? I do! I have to say Nine Leaves’ Almost Spring had left me totally cold last year (20 points-cold, actually), but a wise man changes his mind sometimes, a fool never. So… Colour: white. Nose: much shier than the Père Labat, and probably much less cane-y. Pretty delicate but really, it does not talk much, unless you give it a lot of time and attention. Perhaps cut green pears, perhaps fresh asparagus. And surely a touch of fennel and aniseed. Actually, it grows on you! Mouth: ah but this is nice! Aniseed and fennel-forward again, then a little eau-de-vie-ish (williams pears, plums), becoming a little more spirity after a few seconds, losing definition and focus. Finish: yes, that’s where it loses it. Too spirity for me. Comments: certainly much better than the ‘Almost Spring’ that we had tried, but indeed, after the agricoles, it’s getting tough… SGP:441 - 65 points.

More tasting notes Check the index of all rums I've tasted so far



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