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!

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.’

************ 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.