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.
Agricole is becoming more and more frequent within bars across the UK as bartenders are starting to embrace its sugar cane juice qualities. There are numerous brands leading the way, including Rhum Clément of Martinique, part of the French Caribbean Islands that also includes the likes of Guadeloupe and Saint-Barthélemy.
It’s Rhum Clément I’ll be focusing on here, looking back from the late 1800’s to the modern-day.
1887 is where we start with the purchase of the prestigious 43 hectare sugar plantation, Domaine de L’Acajou by a gentleman named Homère Clément, a physician and mayor of Le François. It’s here he pioneered Rhum Agricole. In 1917, Homère Clément created a distillery to fulfill the large request of alcohol during the first World War, using the fresh free-run sugarcane juice available to him.
After the death of Homère Clément in 1923, his son Charles Clément took over the business. He is credited with perfecting his family’s Rhum Agricole method and honed his craft while studying distillation at the famous Louis Pasteur School in France. It was Charles Clément who first bottled Rhum Agricole in Martinique and branded it after his father. Charles Clément was also the first to export bottles of Martinique Rhum Agricole and developed France as the first great market for Rhum Agricole outside of the Caribbean.
In 1973, Charles Clément passed away, succeeded by his son, Georges-Louis, who was in charge of production and his two brothers Jean-José and Marcel-André, who increased the visibility of Rhum Clément throughout the Caribbean, Europe, Central and South America, and North America.
Once 1986 rolled around, Rhum Clément was sold to the Hayot family, who remained close to the Clément family in order to keep what was now one of Martinique’s great cultural assets, Habitation Clément, in Martinique hands. The Hayot family continue to this day to maintain the heritage, culture and passion of the Clément family and Rhum Clément.
In 1996, the agricultural rum of Martinique gains the Denomination of Controlled Origin (AOC), alongside the Creole home, the terrace and the dependences all classified as Listed buildings by the Ministry of Culture, a testament of Habitation Clément that had been re-vitalized previously with investment in new cellars for aging rhum, a reception for tourists, art galleries and tasting room for visitors.
So steeped into the Martinique history, but how does it all fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes on my experiences so far –
Rhum Clément Canne Bleue – 50%
The first mono-varietal rum in the world, resulting from the juice of one single variety of sugar cane called ‘canne bleue’.
A sweet grass note on the nose, with soft earth and subtle cane juice coming through. A good hit of the fresh-cut grass on the palate, with the natural sugars imparting nicely and its builds to a fresh, thin yet bold finish.
Rhum Clément Select Barrel– 40%
Crafted with a unique blend of rhums matured in selected oak barrels with a particularly heavy toasting selected by their cellar master.
Subtle dry oak upon the nose, with hints of orange rind and cocoa nip following. A smooth profile on the palate, with a fresher note of the orange and cocoa hitting. Subtle fresh sugar cane creeps in on the lingering finish.
Amazing tots to enjoy on their own, even the 50% stylings of the Canne Bleue is easy to sip. Of course, for a simple mix, the traditional signature serve is always a good shout –
Ti’Punch by Clément
60 ml Rhum Clément Canne Bleue
30 ml Sugar Syrup
1 wedge of Lime
Stir all ingredients over ice, squeezing in the lime wedge. Serve.
R. St Barth has changed distribution after 4 years in the UK market. Emerging distribution company Bohemian Brands of London is a new fit for R. St Barth due to its focus on small batch, leading brands.
R. St Barth is also pleased to retain its UK Brand Manager in Dave Marsland of Drinks Enthusiast.
With the owners of R. St Barth having spent a significant time in Manchester, it was important to continue the partnership, whilst also growing its audience with a new national distributor in Bohemian Brands.
“I’m looking forward to working alongside Bohemian Brands and their team in driving the awareness of the Agricole category, with R. St Barth as the driving force across the UK to consumers and bartenders alike”. – Dave Marsland
Julian Piler of Bohemian Brands went further stating “This is a fabulous opportunity for all of us. R. St Barth is an extremely versatile brand and we can’t wait to spread the word!”.
“We are excited to have Bohemian Brands on board as we look to spread to new heights across the UK. The retention of Dave too in this new exciting phase of our work will bring forth an exciting time for R. St Barth”. – Mikael Silvestre, owner R. St Barth.
The 23rd July saw me travelling down to London to a rather prestigious event where some of the elite spirits would be showcased. A rather bold concept, but when you have the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) 2014 winners, who incidentally were announced that very morning for, in one room, it’s an honour to have been offered the invite. Organised by both the IWSC and The Worshipful Company of Distillers, the event was to the 7th annual and held within the Vintner’s Hall.
All gold winners were on display here, with a smattering of ‘Outstanding’ silver winners (197 overall), alongside brand representatives and Master Distillers, so to me it was the perfect opportunity to not only try some of the names I hear so much about, but to also experience, and ultimately compare, the liquid of a winning brand to other similar flavour profiles and categories.
As I tasted a fair few, for ease, below you will find my tasting notes covering a variety of categories –
Bourbon Barreled Big Gin – 47%
Aged 6 months in a once used Kentucky bourbon barrel. Slight wood aromas on the nose with a smooth vanilla scent following. The vanilla dominates the palate, offering a smooth yet dry finish.
Bedrock – 40%
Fresh and fruity on the nose with red berry and liquorice styles dominating. Sharp on the palate with a rather harsh kick of cinnamon creating a very long and very dry finish.
See-Gin Bodensee – 48%
A rather high kick of alcohol, with plenty of aromas including liquorice on the nose. Smooth and aromatic on the palate, but develops with a good kick of liquorice allsorts. A little raw because of this, but produces a lingering finish.
Hernö Juniper Cask – 47%
Lively with heavy juniper on the nose, rounded off with sweet notes. A smooth start on the palate, developing a sharp citrus that creates a lingering finish.
El Tesoro Añejo – 40%
Light caramel on the nose with hints of banana coming through. Smooth, subtle flavours of dry, sun-kissed toffee creating a lingering finish.
El Tesoro Platinum – 40%
Smooth with notes of caramel and kicks of fresh wood on the nose. Very smooth with a banana flavour dominating. A long, fresh finish that’s slightly dry.
Herradura Seleccion Suprema Extra Añejo – 40%
Light on the nose with fragrant scents of wood and honey coming through. Again light on the palate, with hits of banana and smooth, fresh agave. A slightly sharp finish that lingers.
Milargro Special Reserve Añejo – 40%
Fresh agave on the nose creates a rather aromatic experience. A rich blend of agave and wood on the palate that’s lively, yet lingers to a dry finish.
Vieux Niesson – 45%
Light with high, aromatic notes of cocoa and spices. A slow burner on the palate, with again light, aromatic flavours of wood, spice and almonds. Long finish.
Rum Company Old Guadeloupe Calvados Finish – 43%
Rich apple and orange notes, with vanilla and dried fruits kicking the end. Very smooth on the palate, with the rich aromatic fruit flavours dominating, followed by delicate sweetness that produces a long finish.
Angostura 1824 – 40%
Soft notes of wood and sugar on the nose with hints of vanilla following. Very smooth and rich on the palate, with plenty of fresh kicks of wood, honey and spice on the lingering finish.
Pays d’Auge 8yr – 41%
Rich apple aromas on the nose, yet becomes lighter once onto the palate. More aromatic styling, with a smooth, rather thin finish that’s surprisingly short.
4 Fundos– 42%
Very aromatic on the nose with fresh, light fruit flavours coming through. Sharp and very dry on the palate, with cereal flavours creating a long finish.
Blanton’s Gold Edition – 51.5%
Light wood on the nose with rich wheat and sweet honey combining soon after. A sharp spice start on the palate, that soon mellows into a sweet, long fudge finish.
Russell’s Reserve Small Batch – 45%
Light and aromatic on the nose with plenty of wood notes before dark caramel aromas step in. Light and thin on the palate, creating a mouth-watering flavour of caramel and wood before hitting a sharp finish.
Blanton’s Original Single Barrel – 66.6%
A bold hit of fruit and sweetness combined on the nose. Incredibly rich on the palate with deep kicks of caramel that creates a long finish.
New World Projects Starward Single Cask #1 – 56.5%
Fresh notes of light wood on the nose combined with sweet spice. Very rich on the palate, with an incredible sooth offering of toffee, banana, dry fruits and chocolate to create a lingering finish.
SOUTH AFRICAN WHISKY
Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky 5yr – 43%
Smooth with a slight whisp of smoke on the nose. Light and thin on the palate, with a slight kick of vanilla and coconut before the short finish.
Gibsons Finest Rare Blended 18yr
Smooth caramelised vanilla blended with fruits appear on the nose. A rich, sharp fruity start on the palate, mellowing down to a sweet vanilla and spice combination.
English Whiskey Company Peated – 43%
Delicate peat nose with hints of green fruit coming through. Short, light peat and some kicks of fruit on the palate.
Säntis Malt Edition Snow White 2 – 48%
Light, fresh, soft fruit on the nose, turning over onto the palate too. Aromatic herbs and spices combine with white fruits to create a lingering finish.
Mackmyra Svensk Reserve Double Wood Elegant– 48%
Plenty of wood and malt on the nose, although a lighter experience once upon the palate. Chocolate and tobacco flavours dominate before moving to a smooth vanilla finish.
Tullamore Dew Special Reserve 12yr– 40%
Smooth, soft notes of citrus and almond on the nose. Slightly sweet on the palate, with citrus, honey and spice combining well for a short finish.
Bushmills 10yr– 40%
Light cereal notes on the nose with hints of floral and raisin. Smooth, light and easy to enjoy on the palate, with vanilla, spice and kicks of chocolate combining for a short finish.
Bushmills 16yr – 40%
Dark fruits mix with deep hits of malt on the nose. Sharp, rich malt on the palate too, although smooths into a short finish of sherry.
Bushmills 21yr – 40%
Light, aromatic nose of sherry and fresh fruits. Cinnamon and liquorice combine on the palate, with a long finish of the sherry and malt.
Teeling Vintage Reserve 30yr– 46%
Fine, light caramel notes on the nose, with rich almonds following. Sharp start on the palate, but mellows into a light malt, honey and spice blend that creates a lingering finish.
Redbreast 15yr – 46%
Aromatic ripe fruit on the nose, with a soft malt finish. Plenty of barley and vanilla on the palate creating a rich and slightly sweet finish.
Grant’s Voyager – 40%
Rich on the nose with smooth cereal notes and ripe fruit. A combination of honey, fruit and chocolate dominates the palate, creating a rich, sweet lingering finish.
Ballantine’s Limited Deluxe Blend – 43%
Ripe berry and barley blend on the nose, with hints of citrus cutting through. A sharp start on the palate with vanilla countering the citrus for a long finish.
Grant’s Deluxe 18yr – 40%
A lively cereal nose with a good blend of toffee and honey. A light offering on the palate with toffee and ginger, mixing with hints of spice on the short finish.
Glenmorangie Signet – 48%
Light notes of toffee, fudge, chocolate and cinnamon blending together on the nose. A developing sharpness to a ripe malt kick, which mellows towards the short, rich finish of stoned fruit.
Glenmorangie 18yr– 43%
Light on the nose with citrus and fresh white fruit dominating. A developing kick of spice on the palate, followed by a dry, fruity finish.
Glenglassaugh 30yr – 44.8%
Smooth, dried fruits on the nose, followed by a light offering of raisin on the palate. A good kick of malt and spice on the finish with hints of tobacco.
Glenglassaugh 40yr – 42.5%
Rich chocolate and toffee notes on the nose. Burnt wood blends with nutmeg to create a long, rich, deep offering.
The Dalmore 25yr– 42%
Soft vanilla on the nose with hints of dried fruits and citrus. Soft, smooth oak that warms flavours of chocolate and toffee into rich offerings.
Glenmorangie 25yr – 43%
Light cereal notes combined with coffee and dried fruits on the nose. A slight citrus kick on the palate with honey, subtle spice and oak flavours creating a long finish.
Glenfiddich 125th Aniversary Edition – 43%
Aromatic scents of wood on the nose, with plenty of ripe fruits following. A good citrus burst on the palate, with a developing richness of malt and sweetness, leading to a whisp of smoke on the finish.
Glenfiddich Malt Master Speyside– 43%
Soft toffee and honey combine on the nose with ripe pears. Very soft on the palate, with sharp fruit, spice and vanilla offered on a short finish.
Some absolute crackers available, despite missing out on the likes of vodka, cognac and brandy, fruit spirits, shochu and armagnac as well as the names I’ve already had the pleasure of experiencing (Elmer T. Lee, Southwestern Distillers, The King’s Ginger, Mozart Gold and Col E. H. Taylor Jr the stand out missing expressions from the above list).
One expression that has truly surprised me was the New World Projects Starward Single Cask #1, coming in at a hefty 56.5% and hailing from Australia. This whisky has dominated my conversations of the event to anyone who will listen to me! One that I will be sourcing as soon as possible so I can enjoy a country that granted, you wouldn’t expect to get a good spirit from, especially compared to their wines, but have raised their output considerably and most importantly, winning a gold medal that highlights their work and effort.
Congratulations to them, and to the rest of the winners!
Everyone loves a celebrity producing a spirit. Dan Aykroyd’s Crystal Head have been in the news lately becoming the official vodka of The Rolling Stones 50th Anniversary, with much fanfare, cocktail competitions and events. Footballer Mikael Silvestre decided to follow in Dan Aykroyd’s footsteps and be behind a rum from the island of St Barts, creating one of the most talked about portfolios in a while – Rhum St Barth.
So how is it created?
Rhum St Barth uses sugarcane from damp volcanic earth that is harvested and cut by hand between March and April. The cane fibres are opened and crushed to facilitate the juice extraction and then pressed before the resulting vesou (juice) is carefully filtered, then put into fermentation vats. The fermentation process takes place in the open air and begins about an hour after the sugarcane has been pressed. The open air and environment contains natural yeasts that convert the sugar in the juice into alcohol, a process that takes usually between 24-48 hours. Once fermented, the liquid is distilled in a column still where once heated between 78°C and 92°C, the alcohol vapors are collected and condensed to create rhum.
When it leaves the column still, Rhum St Barth rhum agricole is then stored for 12-months in stainless steel vats, and the alcohol content is gradually bought down to 50% (from 60 to 70%) by adding water. Once ready for maturation, they use barrels that were previously used for maturing bourbon, Cognac or whisky, and have undergone re-charring.
So how does the range fare? Well below, I give to you my tasting notes –
Rhum St Barth Cool (Blanc) – 50%
Limited to 23,000 bottles per year. Smooth corn notes with slight citrus on the nose. An oily texture on the palate, with sharp citrus dicing through at times. A long, slightly sweet lingering finish that dries a little but freshens on each breath.
Rhum St Barth Chic (Ambré) – 40%
Aged for 4-years in re-charred Bourbon barrels and limited to 5,000 bottles per year annually. A soft blend of subtle spice and vanilla on the nose with a slight hint of toffee following. Very smooth on the palate with a slight sweetness developing. A little dry on the finish, with slight spices lingering.
Rhum St Barth Authentique (Hors d’âge) – 43%
Aged for 12-years in oak barrels and bottled in early 2011 unfiltered. Individually numbered, the rhum is limited to 2,000 bottles per year globally and housed in a collectors box.
Rich sugar and vanilla on the nose with hints of plum darting in. Incredibly smooth on the palate with lots of dried fruits and subtle spices blending well. Sweet vanilla dominates the finish as it lingers for a long, long time.
I’d highly recommend the range to be sipped, although you could always try one of these –
40 ml Rhum St Barth Cool
2 teaspoons Rhum St Barth cane sugar
Small wedge of fresh lime
Put the sugar in a cocktail glass, add a good squeeze of lime juice, leave the wedge in the glass, pour the rhum and stir.
Or maybe their signature cocktail –
1/2 lime quartered
1/2 sprig of chopped lemongrass
6cl. Rhum St Barth Cool
20 ml sugar syrup
Muddle the lime and lemongrass in a highball glass. Add Rhum St Barth, sugar syrup and ice. Build drink by adding 1/3 of the glass cranberry juice, 1/3 of the glass apple juice and top with ginger beer.
An absolutely fantastic range of rhums here, with the standout being the Authentique. Well worth a purchase if you ever come across them in a bar, and even splashing out for your own drinks cabinet. Don’t let the price put you off, seriously.