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!

Bellevue 17 year old 1998/2015 – Cadenhead

20151020_095906What is it? Rum made from cane juice (Agricole) and distilled in a single column still at the Bellevue distillery on the island of Guadeloupe. Distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2015 by independent bottlers WM Cadenhead, so 17 years old. Marked “GMBV” on the bottle.

Natural colour, not chill-filtered, 54.3% abv

Sugar? Nah. No way.

Nose: Fresh cane juice, slight tar and menthol. Flowers, oak, some herbs (Rosemary). Dry, nose tickling and even some dry soil dust that’s blown up in your nose on a windy day. A Little cut grass and the fainted background of light honey and wood spices like cinnamon…..but way off over there somewhere.

Palate: Medium mouth-feel, dry and almost sour delivery. Quite a lot of liquorice, tar, petrol. Herbal, medicinal, mint, some lavender and parma violet sweets. There’s a fair fruity side too with lemons, sour oranges, a dried banana slice or 2 but it’s not a sweet fruit it’s a tangy and zippy fruit.

Finish: Very, very long, goes on for ages. Still phenolic and liquorice but sweetens more with some thin honey, and a little oaky spice. The sweetness is a funny herbal sweetness that’s hard to put your finger on, there’s some clove and mixed peel but also herbs like cardamom, ginger and even some juniper. Vermouth. That’s it! It’s like a sweet Vermouth on the finish. Oh, and menthol, quite a bit of that too.

Thoughts? My first Agricole, and nearly knocked me over. Certainly an acquired taste; when I first opened the bottle it was a lot to take in, my senses were pulled all over the place. At first I liked the nose but not the palate, then with more I liked the palate but went off the nose. By halfway through the bottle I was getting it and liked both. There is a balance issue between the nose and palate, it doesn’t sound like it so much in these notes but the nose and palate are both very dominant and as a result my palate wasn’t ready after nosing, it was a bit off to one side. I’d say it needed more fruit on the nose, less dusty herbs and it’d mesh together lovely. I wouldn’t buy this particular bottle again as it was a bit full on, but I did enjoy it and found it very “good”. Guess I need to get a bit more practice in on the Agricoles!