Depaz Rum – Official UK launch

As a blogger, I occasionally get asked to post Press Releases for various things, from new rums to festivals. As this blog is a personal blog, purely based on my own opinions and reviews (almost exclusively from rums I buy, swap or get samples from friends), I don’t publish a lot of them. Sometimes though, there are certain festivals (RumFest being one) and certain rums that I feel should be publicised. This is one of those times.

Depaz is a rum brand from Martinique and carries the AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) classification. For those that don’t know, this is a very strict set of rules around production and bottling methods that must be adhered to – the same way that Cognac does and Scotch Whisky, very (very!) basically it; indicates a rum made from sugar cane cultivated in strictly authorised areas on the island, with limited yields and agricultural practices that protect the land and the quality of the crops. 100 per cent sugar cane juice must be used in production, distillation is made through columns or continuous stills, alcohol levels must not be lower than 40% ABV and colouring must be natural from ageing only in oak casks. There are only seven AOC accredited distilleries on Martinique. Just 3 per cent of the world’s rum holds the AOC Agricole Rum mark. It goes on and on to include the brix level (sugar content) of the juice, fermentation times allowed, level of organic volatiles for each grade, minimum maturation periods etc…..

Now we don’t tend to see a lot of Agricole rum in the UK and even less with AOC classification, so the fact that an official UK launch is being done by such a brand is exciting news. Agricole rums are an area that I’ve not had much chance to venture into so far and something that I’m planning to change – if only I could get the bottles I want at the right price! One of the main reasons I’m publishing this is that the regulations in the UK on what can be sold as rum are a farce, and the likes of AOC is a perfect example of the type of thing we need more exposure to. As a consumer, knowing how my rum is made and to what standards would give me far more confidence in my purchases.

For transparency purposes, I’ve been sent a sample kit by Depaz which contains the 4 rums mentioned in the Press Release. I was hoping they would be good, as I wouldn’t be prepared to post this for rum that I didn’t like. I’ve tried them, and will be reviewing them separately with my own notes – and as such won’t publish their “official” notes, but they are very good.

************ Press Release start ************ 

 

Depaz, one of the world’s oldest and most exceptional rums, has announced its official launch in the UK this autumn, bringing a taste of its lush Martinique home in the French West Indies to British drinkers.

One of the few rums to hold ‘AOC Rum Agricole’ status (‘appellation d’origine controlee’) – a mark exclusive to Martinique, denoting production in a small designated geographical area – Depaz is one of the island’s finest terroir spirits; a traditionally crafted rum of exquisite quality and flavour, the perfect embodiment of its place and the perseverance of its people over 350 years.

The Depaz team will launch a portfolio of four 700ml expressions in the UK market, all perfect for sipping and savouring: Depaz Plantation Rum, Depaz VSOP Reserve Speciale, Depaz Grand Reserve XO and Depaz Port Cask Finish. Launch events and tastings are planned for Rumfest on 20th and 21st October and The Spirit Show 22nd and 23rd November (both in London), with limited stocks then available at specialist spirits retailers and bars around the UK. The range will have an RRP of £35 – £55.

From cane to cask, every drop of Depaz Rum is produced at the Depaz Estate and Distillery on Martinique’s rugged north west coast, nestled in the shadow of the island’s highest mountain, volcanic Mont Peleé.

This terroir is at the heart of the rum. The rich volcanic soil surrounding Mont Peleé, and the shelter it provides from rain clouds brought to Martinique on the eastern trade winds, cultivate the estate’s high quality blue sugar cane. Harvested each spring amid celebrations, its juices result in a rum of unique character and superb depth of flavour.

Depaz is also defined by its history, which stretches back to 1651 when ‘Chateau Depaz Estate’ was founded; and the resilience of the Depaz family in the face of enormous tragedy. A catastrophic eruption of Mount Peleé in 1902 claimed the lives of 30,000 islanders and destroyed the entire Depaz Distillery. Just one member of the Depaz family survived, with a resolve to rebuild the estate and restart rum production for future generations.

Unlike standard rums which are made with syrups and molasses, Depaz is crafted using only the pressed juice of freshly cut sugar cane. Each expression is smooth, flavourful and perfectly balanced, with different styles and finishes to suit different tastes.

Commenting on the launch, Ruaridh Paterson, Key Account Manager for Depaz Rum said: ‘We are very much looking forward to bringing Depaz to the UK, and to sharing the extraordinary taste of our rums and the fascinating story of our Martinique heritage with British drinkers. We are seeing a growing interest in spirits that are more premium and crafted, offering interesting new flavours, distinctive provenance and an authentic story. As an agricole rum with centuries of island heritage, Depaz is rich in all of these areas and is already highly acclaimed and sought after in our existing markets. We look forward to sharing these exceptional rums with drinkers over the coming months.’

www.depazrhum.com

************ Press Release end ************ 

West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants – French Overseas XO

What is it? An Agricole rum (sugar cane juice based rum) produced by Rivere du Mat in Reunion and Galion in Martinique. This was distilled using column stills then aged in American and French oak casks for an undetermined amount of time and bottled for Crucial Drinks under their “West Indies Rum and Cane Merchants” brand. I’ve contacted Crucial Drinks for details on ageing but they have not responded. This is a limited release of 2,000 bottles worldwide.

My bottle is number 859 from Batch 3.

No colours or flavours added. The rum is non-chill filtered and bottled at 43% Abv.

Sugar? No. They state so on their website and on tasting it seems clean to me.

Nose: Quite floral with lavender, Lilly of the Valley and violets. There is a vegetal note that reminds me of very well made/home made leek and potato soup, yams, some caramel and a light roast coffee bean. A touch of olive oil appears, as well as a little clove and a tiny bit of vanilla. The longer it’s in the glass the more vegetal and rooty it gets.

Palate: Medium weight, slightly hot and spicy entry. Cane juice, as you’d expect, olives again (green ones), Seville oranges, a touch of raisin and a burst of spicy oak mid palate. There are tastes of herbal and floral notes that I can’t quite pin down to a specific thing, some menthol, liquorice root and sweet potato. There is a burst of soot and charcoal as it moves to the finish.

Finish: Quite long actually, given it’s probably young rum. The end of the charcoal from the palate carries through, salted liquorice and and then gets really quite rooty with that good vegetable bouillon/soup note from the nose. There are some lingering cask spices with clove, ginger and white pepper as it tails off.

Thoughts? I find this pretty good actually. It’s probably very young stuff but that doesn’t really seem to matter with agricoles – maybe a French oak maturation thing, there’s a fair bit of tight grained oak spice to it. There are some really good rooty agricole notes in here and they are laid right out in front of you so you don’t need to go hunting for them. I wouldn’t say it was an “easy” or mass approachable rum but it is an accessible agricole for a good price that isn’t too full-on, so it you fancy having a go at agricoles it’d be a good place to start.

I picked this up for £35 in July 2017 and I personally think that the price reflects well the rum in the bottle. So happy with that.

 

Barbancourt 5 star (8 year old)

What is it? Haitian rum, from cane juice, so an agricole. Produced at the Barbancourt distillery and aged tropically in Limousin oak casks (French oak) for 8 years. There is some more background on Barbancourt and the distillation method in my review of the 15 year old here, so I wont go over this again; linky link.

Chill filtered, coloured and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? 6 grams/litre – pretty much residual cask sugars, this isn’t added sugar content.

Nose: Quite hot and spicy, as expected from the French oak and youth. Some cloves, cinnamon iced buns, ginger root and black pepper. Once the nose gets used to the heat there are some really lovely toffee apple (red apple) notes, vanilla buttercream frosting, golden syrup and Seville orange rind, maybe even coarse cut marmalade. There is a caramel, crème brulè, toffee type background to it and an ever so slight smell that does remind me of Cognac. The faintest rolling of tobacco smoke flutters about.

Palate: Not as hot as the nose would suggest, medium mouth feel with a weighty but fresh presence. Quite an indulgent set of flavours here with egg custard tarts, more crème brulè, salted caramel, runny honey, those toffee apples from the nose as well as the vanilla buttercream. Behind the sweeter notes is a light grassy cane and a handful of mixed herbs (marjoram and parsley). It’s not very “agricole”, more as if cane syrup was used or even a very light molasses – there are the grassy and herbal notes in there but not as much as you’d expect from a normal French Caribbean style agricole. There is an oaky buzz throughout the whole palate and a prickle of heat on your tongue to let you know it’s been in French oak casks.

Finish: Quite long on the spices, like one of these modern chefs who has infused chilli into a caramel or black pepper into toffee sauce, or something. It’s got the residual sweeter notes there but the real heat of spices from the casks – gotta love that French oak influence on spirits.

Thoughts? Great rum. Lots of gorgeous flavours but it’s tempered with the spice. There is a lot less oak on this than the 15 year old, and I prefer it – personally I think it’s a better all round rum for it and you can see the spirit more. It’s basically got all the flavours I expected to get in the 15 year old but that got lost under the oaky onslaught.

Price wise, this cost me £32 in the UK, which I think is stunning value for money. One I’d definitely get again.

 

 

 

Saint Aubin History Collection Cuvée Grande Réserve

20160922_204352What is it? Mauritian rum from sugar cane juice and distilled in copper pot stills – so we have an agricole. The distillate is then matured for at least 7 years in a mixture of both ex-bourbon casks and French oak casks. This bottle was from the 2014 release and I have been told that the distillery no longer produce this expression. Now, French oak. We’ve been here before with the Barbancourt 15 year old and I said that French oak is tighter grained and produces a spicier flavour profile, of course French oak is also used to mature French wine and I have a very strong suspicion that some of the casks used to mature this were ex-red wine cask, wet ones at that.

Casks are often steamed out prior to filling with spirit to remove excess liquid that remains from the previous fill, such as sherry or wine, so when I refer to “wet” casks what I mean is that the casks have not been fully emptied of previous contents or have not been fully steamed out. I did contact the distillery to ask about the cask makup but I haven’t had an answer, as such (and due to the flavour) I’ll be trusting my senses and assume that this was matured partly in wet in ex-wine cask.

Coloured (but there is a slight red tinge to this), lightly filtered (some sediment thrown) and bottled at 40% abv.

Sugar? No online data, so we’ll give the benefit of doubt and say no.

Nose: Strawberries, raspberries, plums, blackberries and black cherry – very, very fruity. Just alcoholic fruit juice at first. This has to be part matured in wet red wine casks! Now some liquorice, warm grass, hay barns and walking past a flower stall. Ah, some cane juice at last, black pepper and a tiny weeny bit of oak. The longer it’s in the glass the less fruit and more herbs appear with a little parsley and some marjoram – this really needs time in the glass.

Palate: Thick mouthfeel, semi-sweet delivery, but fruit sweetness and not sugar sweetness. Runny honey, vanilla, a little bit of nutmeg, a pinch of cinnamon and then a big wave of juicy berry fruit. Salted butter, very faint and distant tar and the prickle of ginger in syrup. Not getting much agricole from this really….

Finish: Medium. Still some sweetness and continues with honey, some butterscotch, almost a salted cherry (?) and then a blast of spice and liquorice finally as it fades away leaving a dry and herbal taste. Hurrah! Some agricole notes finally at the very end as all the fruit goes away.

Thoughts? Not really sure what to make of this. It’s lacking balance and there is way too much fruit, I can see the underlying spirit and it’s interesting, but there just isn’t enough of it to really explore and it’s very shrouded. Where Foursquare used Zinfandel casks to add and compliment their rum, these wine casks have totally overpowered and covered what rum was there. Enjoyable, different, but not a rum I’ll be buying again; just not enough “rum” in this rum for me.

Note: If someone wants to tell me there are no ex-wine casks in this product then that’s great, but can they then explain what is put in here to make it taste like Pinot Noir 🙂

Barbancourt 15 year old review

20160622_133411Happy Black Tot day! To celebrate I’ll do a review of something totally un-related to British Navy rum…..

What is it? Rum (rhum) from Haiti. Distilled from sugar cane juice, making this an agricole via…well….from what I’ve read I’m not entirely sure. The website states that it’s distilled using the Charentaise method of distillation and evaporation is done in the distilleries columns. This is slightly confusing as the Charentaise method is double  distillation in alembic pot stills, not column stills. Again, according to the website they get a spirit up to around 90% abv on the second distillation, which I would assume means they are using column stills…..either way, it’s double distilled. They produce a white agricole (locally called Clairin, which some of you may have seen knocking about now thanks to Vellier) and then distill it again to get the end spirit for maturation. Maturation is done in Limousin oak casks, the same stuff they mature Cognac in, and provides quite a spicy tight oak to the spirit. I’ve seen Limousin oak work wonders in some whiskies so looking forward to seeing how it effects a rum at full maturation in tropical climates for 15 years minimum.

Filtered, coloured and bottled at 43% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Ah yes, French oak. Lots of lovely spicy prickle. Deep caramels, Crema Catalana (Spanish answer to Crème Caramel, heavier, thicker and more yummy), shoe leather and freshly polished, tobacco and dry earth. There is an almost heathery sweetness on the nose too, a touch of honeycomb, toasted brioche and some coffee grounds. Slight cane’y notes but it’s covered in a lot of oak.

Palate: Yep, oak baby, oak. 15 years is a long time in French oak, especially in Haiti, and it’s verging on too much. Ground black pepper, fresh black peppercorns, chillies, black tea, tanic. Musty earth, warehouses, maybe even soil. A little touch of that new leather from the nose along with a slight tobacco note, well, when it makes it past the oak. I think it just about managed to pull it off before it turned into a pencil chewing session.

Finish: Long and spicy, as expected from the nose and palate. Dry, tanic tea again and wait, what’s that, some banana…..well not sure where that came from, maybe it was there all along and waiting for the oak to finishing being all bolshy.

Thoughts? Good this, very good. I think it’s had a little too long in the cask but they’ve blended any beasts away well and it pulls through ok. I’ve not tried the 8 year old (5 star) yet, but I imagine that’ll be more to my liking. Not that I don’t like this, I do, I’d just like to get more of the cane juice through that’s all. At £40 (or there abouts in the UK) it’s well worth it and I’d buy again.

Nice box by the way.

Update: I’ve now tried the 8 year old (here) and it was more to my liking!