Chamarel Blend – 2010 and 2014 – bottled 2017 for 70 years of Velier

What is it? Not quite sure to be honest, the bottle says “Vatted Single Rum” which isn’t a rum type that was outlined by the Gargano classification, odd given that this bottling was done by Velier…..what it does say is that it’s from sugar cane juice, so it’s an Agricole. The rum is from the Chamarel distillery in Mauritius, now they have some different stills there; column stills and pot stills, and as there is no detail on the bottle to say what type of rum was in the casks used for this blend I can’t possibly comment; I have contacted Velier for some information as well as the distillery, but neither have been forthcoming, which is a shame. The rum is made up from 2 casks, cask 181 and 182, there are 2 ages on the bottle too, 2010 and 2014 – these are the vintages of the rum. We would assume that one cask is from 2010 and one cask is from 2014, but it may be that these are 2 sister casks (given the cask numbering) and were filled at the same time/same batch, in which case the rum in the casks is a blend of rum from those 2 different years….again we just don’t know. C’mon, data please!!!! It’s important! Either way, the rum in the blend, from these 2 casks and years, contains 80% from 2010 and 20% from 2014. The rum was bottled in 2017 for the 70th anniversary of Velier and I understand that the aging would have been done entirely in Mauritius. I also have no idea what cask types were used for this rum, Chamarel have a large catalogue of casks ranging from French oak casks, wine casks, ex-bourbon casks to new american oak (virgin casks). My gut feeling is that this was matured in French oak of some sort, but I could be totally wrong.

Not coloured, not chill filtered and bottled at 56.5% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: Not what I was expecting at all; big, bold and spicy with fresh nutmeg, mace and cinnamon sticks. There is some old leather, sandalwood, cedar and rolling tobacco here, green coffee beans, root liquorice and dried parsley. Some sharpness cuts through with a slightly sour white wine note and wet, fresh cut grass. Lots of dried fruit in this too with raisins, cranberry tartness and a mix of dried tropical fruit that you’d find in some muesli, like papaya, pineapple and banana. There is this almost grainy whisky note too right at the back. Very complex indeed.

Palate: Lovely mouth feel to this, medium, not too heavy with an oily texture. Hot at first and spicy with peppercorns, cinnamon and green chillies. Rolling tobacco again and that incense note of sandalwood comes out. Yellow flesh stone fruit (apricots, mango and nectarine) and the sharp wine. Some sour green wood appears just to remind you that this is made from cane juice. Things get dry from this point, very dry; nutmeg powder and a huge (and I mean huge) wave of fresh liquorice root takes over and you can feel the puckering in your mouth as it dries off your tongue. Some unsweetened black coffee and 90% cocoa dark chocolate appear but all it does it make it drier.

Finish: Long. Bone dry. It’s all 90% cocoa dark chocolate, unsweetened espresso, raisins – if you could remove any sweetness from them – tree sap, sucking cut grass and a tiny glimmer of dried banana chips. It’s really, really dry at the finish.

Thoughts? Wow, this is pretty intense stuff. Not like any Agricole I’ve had before; there are still some cane juice rum notes here but the casks are leading on this and the fruit is very concentrated. This is one of those rums that you open and go “wow, this is good”. The more you drink it the better it gets too, which is crazy – half way through the bottle and it was blowing me away. What an incredible rum, what a blend of casks.

Now, when I bought this at the start of 2019 it had been sitting on the shelf in the shop for ages and was about £75….for a Velier bottling, and I know why; it’s from Chamarel, and it was a maximum of 7 years old. If this was a Jamaican, a Demerara or a Foursquare it’d have sold out at that price, but Mauritian rum doesn’t seem to command the same interest in the market for some reason. Well, let me tell you, it’s very good indeed – between Chamarel, New Grove (Gray’s) and Labourdonnais I’ve not had a bad rum and this Chamarel is one of the best. For £75 it was an absolute steal – another one of those rums I should have bought multiple bottles of.

Depaz Port Cask Finish

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for around 8 years in oak casks followed by a finishing period of 11 months in Port casks, all ageing is done tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No.

Nose: A shy nose at first, there is some rich chocolate – the 60% dark stuff, like Bournville – liquorice, cinnamon, some slight cane but not much. Chocolate covered cranberries, plums (those deep black ones) and ground black pepper. There is a little vanilla in there right at the back but the richer flavours keep it down.

Palate: Medium. More cane here but it’s quickly take over by milk chocolate, liquorice, coffee beans, stewed plums with vanilla cream topping, raspberry jam, damsons and Turkish Delight. There is some sweet nutty oak, marzipan and handful of hazelnuts, almonds and cashews pop up towards the finish.

Finish: Long. Spicy at first with black pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon but it gets chocolatey, then soft cooked stone fruits and a little butterscotch as it progresses. Vanilla and some dried banana chips, dusted with coconut appear right at the end.

Thoughts? This is my 2nd favourite of the new Depaz rums. There isn’t all that much sugar cane juice on offer but there are really lovely rich, nutty flavours and the Port cask adds a deep dark fruit that really compliments the rum rather than cover up the character, which often happens with “finishing”. Ok, this one is quite pricey and it’ll set you back around £80 or more for a bottle, and whilst it’s really very good I’m not sure I’d get a bottle of this over the VSOP as that really is the sweet spot for me.

Depaz XO Grand Reserve

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for around 8-10 years in oak casks, tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? Nope.

Nose: Plenty of lovely French oak here with vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and black peppercorns. Fragrant notes of rose water, fresh root liquorice, hazelnuts and more vanilla. There is a little milk chocolate, some distant old leather and a meaty mushroom’y note too; almost sherry like or grape’y Cognac notes. All very “smooth” and constructed – words I dislike in spirits. Smooth for me is shy, “easy” and lacking vibrant character. It’s a very nice nose indeed but not a conversation starter.

Palate: Medium. First off there is some sour green wood, but that dies away. The flavours are quite muted; some fresh cane and tight oak spice, apple and white grape, but picking out individual flavours here is hard – maybe my lack of experience with Agricoles. I get a feeling of soft, well matured spirit more than anything individual – the types of smells I find in a good aged Cognac.

Finish: Long. Lingering spices of nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice and white pepper. This fades off and leaves room for plenty of milk chocolate, figs, stewed stone-fruit, coconut and vanilla. There is more to find here than on the actual palate, which is good as the finish does last a long time.

Thoughts? Hmmm. It’s normal to expect things to get better as you move up a range, age and price, but this isn’t what’s happened here. The vibrant cane notes and floral aspects that are present in the Plantation and the VSOP are lost in this and it becomes a different rum altogether. It takes quite a lot of time in the glass and some getting used to to find the notes. I suspect that Depaz are aiming firmly at the XO Cognac type drinkers with this rum, it’s so similar and constructed in the same way it would easily be interchangeable for a normal XO Cognac, like a Courvoisier. It’s clearly well made and matured, but I find the whole thing just a bit too muted and “smooth” for my liking, I want some more character to jump out of the glass at me.

Good, but not my style and I wouldn’t part with £75 for it I’m afraid.

Depaz VSOP Reserve Speciale

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for at least 7 years in oak casks, tropically. You can read more about the rum and distillery in my previous posts here and here, which cover off the AOC classification and background – I wont labour old ground. This rum is also labelled as a Très Vieux which means it is “very old” and meets the additional classification of Vieux rhum under the AOC that was outlined in the review of the Depaz “Plantation” Rhum on the link above.

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Toasty oak, pipe tobacco, dried coconut flakes from muesli and mixed nuts. Lovely candied papaya and dried pineapple too. A little fig jam, milk chocolate, vanilla and a hint of nutmeg. There is, naturally, cane juice, green olives, hay and a touch of lavender.

Palate: Medium. Cane’y at first, with cut grass, white wine, dried herbs (parsley and marjoram). Some notes of banana, coconut, papaya and vanilla pop up and then it gets spicier with cinnamon, allspice and pink peppercorns. There’s a salty white chocolate note, some soured yogurt, hazelnuts and prune. At the end, the faintest hint of tobacco in the distance and the tang of black liquorice.

Finish: Medium to long. Milk chocolate mouse, chocolate coated nuts, salt and pepper cashews, a little olive’y note and a meaty fig in here too. Right at the end there is a lovely creamy banana, soft vanilla and desiccated coconut.

Thoughts? My favourite of the 4 new Depaz rums. This one is a lot more balanced than the Plantation, it’s less oaked than the XO and sits in the right place for age, price and overall flavour. I’ll be get getting a full bottle of this, for sure. A lovely complex and enjoyable rum and a great buy at the £50-55 is costs.

Depaz Plantation Rhum Vieux Agricole

Back in October 2018 Rhum Depaz launched in the UK with 4 new rums. The PR company behind the release contacted me asking if I would like some samples and if I would post the Press Release for the launch. I don’t go seeking samples and don’t usually accept offers as I’m self funded (I buy my own rum with my own hard earned money) and totally impartial, but this time I thought it was a worthy promotion. I won’t labour details in my previous post, that can be read here, but my view is that rum labelling and classification generally is a farce and the UK is appalling at this too. Now, Martinique AOC (appellation d’origine controlee) is a classification and labelling set of rules that must be followed for the AOC to apply and we get very little of the rum over here in the UK so consumers are not exposed to it. I think the classification is fabulous and we really need to get more exposure to that sort of thing in the UK. So I accepted the samples. Now, I was sent a load of tasting notes with the samples, but there’s no way I’m going to publish someone else’s notes – so I’ve done my own. They are a little late coming, lots of rum to get through and a busy Christmas!

What is it? Rum, distilled in a column still where the raw material is pressed sugar cane juice – so a R(h)um Agricole. This rum was produced at the Depaz distillery on the island of Martinique in the French West Indies and has been aged for at least 3 years in oak casks tropically. To adhere to the AOC regulations the rum must be 100% pressed sugar cane juice, that juice has a very tightly controlled brix (sugar content), it must be distilled in a column still to between 65% and 75% abv with no further rectification (second, abv boosting distillation) and the setup of the still must meet certain standards – such as the number and size of stripping plates used. Further more, no sugar or colouring can be added to AOC Martinique rums.

This rum is labelled as “vieux”; this additionally part of the classification and the rules for the AOC are very strict. It means that it has been aged in oak casks within the production area and for at least 3 uninterrupted years. The capacity of barrels must be under 650 litres and the rum must also contain at least 325 grams per 100 litre of pure alcohol of volatile elements other than ethanols and methyl at the end of the three years (these are your esters).

Chill filtered, not coloured and bottled at 45% abv.

Sugar? No

Nose: Fresh cane juice, as I’d expect. Hay, white flowers (sweet peas and lilly) and marjoram. A little vanilla, white chocolate, blanched almonds, a touch of cocoa powder and some faint allspice. There is some white wine here too and a faint hint of green olives. It smells very fresh and vibrant, and different from a mass produced molasses based rum indeed.

Palate: Very grassy, those herbal cough lozenges you can get from a traditional English sweet shop, white wine again and a little sour note. There are some fuller notes of milk chocolate and white chocolate, cinnamon, a little prune juice, vanilla, almonds and gentle coconut.

Finish: Short. Sweeter here than the nose or palate with more milk chocolate, yogurt coated cranberry or other dried and tart fruits as well as those dried, toasted coconut flakes you get in muesli.

Thoughts? As an Agricole novice, the taste does take some getting used to. With time the sharpness and sourness seems to go and more sweeter cask notes come through. As an entry level young Agricole I like it but I’m not sure I’d pick a bottle up for £35. It’s not that it’s not a good rum, I just find it very different to what I’m used to and there are a lot more complex rums out there at that price. However, if you want to give Agricole a punt then it’s certainly nice and worth looking at more closely – unfortunately Agricoles are more expensive than most other rums due to the production methods and limited time of the year they can make it. In terms of the range (the other 3 rums Depaz do) this clearly sits at the bottom. No spoilers here, but there are a couple of crackers as the rum gets older, albeit more expensive!