The island of Martinique heralds some of the most well-known agricole brands available, including Rhum Clément, but it’s the partner in Rhum J.M. that this article will be focusing on, as we dive into this northern based rhum.
The journey begins in the late 17th century where the famous Pére Labat, the Jesuit priest credited with proliferating sugar cultivation in the French West Indies, was the parish priest of Macouba while he operated a sugar refinery at his house on the Roche River. Antoine Leroux-Préville purchased Father Labat’s estate in 1790 and gave the plantation the name it goes by today, Habitation Fonds-Préville.
In 1845, Antoine Leroux-Préville’s daughters sold the property to Jean-Marie Martin, a merchant from Saint-Pierre and husband of Marie Ferment who was the daughter of one of the island’s most famous sugar planters of the day. Jean-Marie Martin recognized the quality of the sugarcane he found on the Fonds-Préville estate and decided to shift the cultivation practices away from producing huge quanities of sugar and to focus on growing sugarcane. He built a small distillery on the estate and branded his initials “J.M.” on the first oak barrels used to mature his rum. Since then, these two letters have become and remain the emblem of the brand.
In 1914, Gustave Crassous de Médeuil, already owner of the Maison Bellevue, purchased Habitation Fonds-Préville from his brother Ernest. From this day, Maison Bellevue and Fonds-Préville became one entity. Located at the foot of the volcano Mont Pelèe, north of the island, Habitation Fonds-Préville remains to this day a family farming property, belonging to the heirs of the Crassous de Médeuil.
The sugarcane itself is 100% cultivated on the volcanic slopes of Habitation Bellevue, down from Mont Pelée. Once harvested and selected, the sugar cane is pressed to obtain the sugarcane juice. It is then distilled within column stills, in which the resulting liquid is bottled with volcanic mineral water to become the Rhum J.M Blanc expression. Parts of this run of rhum though will be placed in oak barrels to age in the cellars neighboring the distillery. The rhums begin to age in “rhum charred” American oak barrels.
So how does Rhum J.M. fare? Well below, I give to you my experiences so far –
Rhum J.M. XO – 45%
Aged 100% in re-charred Bourbon barrels. Light, subtle notes of oak on the nose, followed by toasted nuts. A sharp kick of sugar cane mellows into a bright voice of orange and cocoa, cinnamon and nutmeg on the palate. A long finish includes dashes of white pepper.
An exquisite tot of rhum to enjoy neat. Simple. Although I’ve only experienced the XO, if you’re looking for a sipping style, this should have a place in your drinks cabinet for sure, especially if you’re a whisky drinker looking to make the jump to rhum.
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