Excellence Rhum Collection

I’m a regular purchaser from Alexandre Beudet and his Excellence Rhum website in France and it was interesting to see four new bottlings listed on the website tagged as Excellence Rhum Collection….especially as one was a Foursquare and the other was a Hampden. Anyway, a little background. Alexandre created his Excellence Rhum website in 2013 and it has grown in strength, now listing over 1800 different bottlings. It has been my go to mail order for Agricole and they deliver to the UK…Hurrah! For its ‘Collection’ releases, Alexandre has taken the sensible step of releasing the Rums without the addition of sugar or caramel colour. The Rums will also not undergo chill filtration. So for all intents and purposes, presented as the distilleries would want them to be and labelled and bottled in Paris. The plan is to release four new Collection bottlings per yer….good news for us! Anyhow, below is a brief list of the bottlings that will be available as part of the 2017 Collection. In a nod to the excellent, clear and informative labels of the Habitation Velier Collection the labels will also amongst other things have information indicating the distillation and bottling dates, type of still, barrel marks, percentage of Tropical vs Continental age and the Angels Share percentage….For instance, the Guadeloupe has 10% Tropical Age and 90% Continental Age and lost 30% of the barrel contents to evaporation…it was distilled in a Column Still and the barrel marks were SFGB (not a clue).

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Now fortunately for me, I have been given the opportunity to try all four releases in the Excellence Rhum Collection due to Alexandre’s very kind offer of a press kit. This wont be definitive thoughts and my final opinion as the 60ml samples only go so far……but as a heads up I have already pre-ordered two expressions……I may want to revisit at a later date…..but my brief notes are……

Tasting Notes

Guadeloupe Bellevue – SFGB – 1998 – 18yr – 59.9% abv

Glass: Dark burnished gold. Immediate and powerful, redolent with banana chips and a light medicinal quality. Hints of Caroni! Tar and creosote. Lightly spiced nutmeg, but more apparently herbal with hints of rosemary, Norfolk lavender and an earthy quality. Oak is not dominant but is present.

Mouth: Intense and medicinal entry. Charred wood, lemon oils, pickle vinegar like acidity. Quite sour. Liquorice. Caroni like petrol. Dried banana and coconut pieces. Sticking plasters. Very very long finish which is oak led initially with a growing liquorice. More vinegar acidity and a sweet / bitter vermouth quality. Great stuff.

Guyana Diamond – MPM – 2005 – 11yr – 60.1% abv

Glass: Pale straw. Initial alcohol astringency. Raisin notes with liquorice and anise as I’d expect from a PM. Powering through this reveals lightly floral notes and the sweetness of grilled bananas along with freshly cut mango.

Mouth: Sweetness on entry and initially very floral led. This then clears and drops into the baseline notes of aniseed and liquorice that I’d expect….albeit with a touch of wildflower honey. It has a sweet / savoury interplay which is pinning in all together. A long finish that is all salty liquorice (there is a Dutch liquorice that escapes me that I know only as a ‘drop’) led with the remains of honeyed fruitcake. Solid but not outstanding.

Jamaica Hampden – LROK – 2000 – 16yr – 54.6% abv

Glass: Light straw gold. It could only be Hampden. Funkier than a mosquito’s tweeter. All pot still attack. Not quite in the HLCF territory. It’s not as down and dirty as that. Overripe bananas, mango, papaya. Intense fruit, florals, stinging astringency. Both sweet and spicy in equal measure. Hazelnuts, warm bbq’d banana smeared in fudge.

Mouth: Sweet, pot still bathed in baked banana. Drying oak and burnt wood. Dime (Daim) bar like caramel nuttiness and very well-balanced. A hint of savoury. The finish is long and full of liquorice, banana, black jack sweets, pineapple and biscoff spread. If you’ve ever seen the YouTube video about the ‘Crazy/Hot Matrix’….this Rum has strayed close to the unicorn zone.

Barbados Foursquare – MBFS – 2006 – 11yr – 62.8% abv

Glass: A shade darker than straw gold. Light oak, vanilla, florals and grapes. Banana, cocoa powder, dried fruit peels and royal icing. A light nuttiness. Intense…..but not Velier Foursquare 2006 levels.

Mouth: Sweet entry full of milk chocolate and dried fruit peels. This is slowly enveloped by a biting dryness bringing a strong bite of black pepper and fennel seeds. Further sips bring dessicated coconut, apricot and a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg. A long mildy oaken vanilla led finish develops into apricot, celery and a growing dryness. Again….right at the back-end there is a light apricot. High proof mixed climate aged Foursquare at close to its best.

As collections go, this is a really strong showing. The only one that I’m not really ‘feeling’ is the Guyana…..but thats not to say that it isn’t good….I just prefer entirely tropically aged Demeraras. I have pre-ordered two of these bottles…..the Hampden and the Foursquare. I hovered over the Guadeloupe but I have the Cadenheads Bellevue. If I could afford it, the Guadeloupe would  absolutely be on my list though as it is such a well-rounded, well-developed prospect. So much flavour from a column still, it really is a triumph. Thanks to Alexandre firstly for sourcing really good Rums, and secondly for allowing me to try them. I hope that you manage to pick one or two up for yourselves.

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Rhum St Barth

rstbarth-©debeauchene_tonneauxSaint-Barthélemy, or St Barths as it is more commonly known in English is around 22 miles southeast of St Martin and north of St Kitts. For many years St Barths was a French commune forming a part of Guadeloupe. In 2003 St Barths voted in favour of secession from Guadeloupe so as to form a separate overseas collectivity of France. This makes it one of the four territories amongst the Leeward Islands in the northeastern Caribbean that comprise the French West Indies. The other three are Saint Martin, Martinique and Guadeloupe.

With St Barths not really being really suitable for the growth of sugarcane, accompanied by the fact that there are no distilleries on the Island, Rhum St Barth turns to Guadeloupe for assistance in the realisation of its St Barths inspired dream. On Guadeloupe the sugarcane season runs from February to July with the cane being at its richest and finest between the months of March and April….this is when the cane is harvested as it is at its most mature just before flowering. This procedure is mostly a manual one and once cut the cane is transported in preparation for the first part of the process….crushing. This crushing is the vital first stage in the process as it breaks open the cane fibres to aid juice extraction. The second stage is pressing. This releases the juice or ‘vesou’ which is then filtered before being placed into open fermentation vats.

Fermentation is an open air process and it begins within 60 minutes of the cane being pressed. The open air environment encourages the natural yeasts already present to begin the conversion of the sugars into alcohol. The fermentation period last for around 24-48 hours dependent upon the temperature. Following fermentation the wine which is around 4 to 6% abv is column distilled. Around 10 litres of wine are required to produce 1 litre of rhum. The Rhum is taken off the still at an abv of between 60 to 70%.

Rhum St Barth Cool – 50% abv

This Rhum is immediately transferred into stainless steel vats post distillation. Its abv is gradually reduced to 50% with the addition of water over a 12 month period. Around 23,000 bottles of this Rhum are produced per year.

RSB Cool

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The first thing that grabs you are the oily citrus peel aromas that leap out of the glass. There is also a creamy, vegetal aroma. Fresh sugarcane is also present and the one thing that astonishes is the lack of any real sting from the alcohol. It’s all very calm. Maybe that’s the resting time, I’m not sure. There is no doubt that it is a bit of a heavy hitter in the punchy aroma department but it also displays pleasant floral notes, a little olive brine and right at the end, a little plasticine aroma. Pungent is a word that I’d definitely use. So far so good.

In the mouth: Right away there is a little peppery bite though I had braced myself for a smack in the face that never materialised. There is the slightest touch of sweetness coming from the citrus peel hints and the mouthfeel is very creamy. Next to show up to the party in my mouth is the olive brine along with a strange flavour, one that I sat and contemplated for a while and one that may sound silly….but on our recent trip to Paris we brought back some white asparagus…..I’m getting hints of that in this Rhum! The finish on this one is very fresh and green, is on the shortish side but is resplendent with notes of liquorice and celery.

Clearly a ‘Ti Punch (or several) was (were) made…in fact on the morning of compiling this article I enjoyed a slightly belated ‘take off’. The lack of real sweetness in the Rhum allows it to take a little more sugar but the citrus peel really encourages the best from the added lime. I always (though it may be frowned upon) drop an ice-cube into the drink to help chill and dilute if the abv is 50% or above. It makes a splendid drink. I’ve also tried it in a daiquiri and its punch works well. Orange bitters also add a another dimension to a Cool Daiquiri.

Rhum St Barth Chic – 40% abv

Following on from the same process as the Cool, this Rhum is aged for a period of four years in small (200-600 litre) re-charred ex-bourbon barrels prior to reduction to its bottling strength of 40% abv. The production of this Rhum is limited to 5000 bottles per year.

RSB Chic

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rhum is a beautiful dark copper and its sugarcane aroma is immediately detectable but it dulled somewhat by vanilla. There is also a little astringency up front on the nose that is a little sherry or wine like. Oak is apparent and it represents a calmer proposition than its unaged relative. Whilst I think that there is less going on in the glass as far as aromas are concerned there is a little cocoa powder and also strangely something that resembles Cola Cube sweets. It bodes well for tasting.

In the mouth: There is no real sweetness to speak of on entry but it displays that warming agricole character, albeit wrapped up in oak and vanilla. There is a cheek tingling fruit reminiscent of plums and raisins, so much so that it feels like I wouldn’t be surprised if it had received a different cask finish at some point. It gradually turns into something very bourbon like with cherry and vanilla beginning to come to the fore as you take further sips. The finish is of a medium length and is full of cherry like bourbon notes, drying oak and liquorice torpedo sweets. Impressive stuff.

I have to say that besides an Old Fashioned, my preference for this expression is neat. I dares bet that in the right hands, this would be a killer addition to a cocktail.

It is clear that presentation plays a big part in Rhum St Barths existence. The cork (synthetic in the Cool) is wax dipped and a wax seal is applied to the front of the bottle displaying the logo and the word Gustavia which is the capital of St Barths. Talking of the bottle, the Cool is presented in a short and beautiful frosted glass number with metallic gold wax dipped cork and seal. The Chic is presented in the same bottle but in this instance the glass is clear and the wax dipped cork and seal are burgundy…very classy. Pricing in the past has maybe been problematic as it did exist a long way out of my price bracket for unaged and four-year old products. I was fortunate enough that a mistake on an online site enabled me to pick up my first bottle of Chic for £37 which was a steal. Currently the price sits at around £47 for the Cool and £66 for the Chic due to their limited quantity runs which is still quite a hefty outlay though I have seen both expressions cheaper in the past. Personally I feel that the Cool represents the more interesting expression of the two tried thus far and its character really shines through. It is a hell of a price tag for an unaged product and an agricole hater will not find anything here to change their minds but it is a really well balance expression that is perfectly happy neat and mixed and really does seem to carry with it the essence of its origins. I don’t know of your individual financial situations and only you will be able to know whether a bottle of one or of each sits well with your perception of value.

I wanted to leave this element to the end as I feel that the product shouldn’t be judged on this aspect as it is more than capable of standing up on its own, and there will be a lot of people who wouldn’t have made it this far if I’d led with this. Rhum St Barth is a luxury brand aiming at a luxury side of the market and its founder is the ex-footballer Mikael Silvestre. He wanted to release a product that reflects the richness, diversity and opulence of the French Caribbean. A product that reminds him of childhood memories of Caribbean holidays. Following his retirement he spent a decade on St Barths with his family and he feels that the Rhum St Barth range is a perfect representation of both of these differing periods of his life. I genuinely feel that his intentions are good and that he has a quality product with excellent presentation…..the Rhum drinker in me loves the product and presentation…..I only wish that the pricing could make it more accessible……but then is that not the point of luxury?

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

La Confrérie du Rhum Cuvée No2

This is the second release linked to the La Confrérie du Rhum Facebook Group and makes a switch to the French West Indies in the form of Guadeloupe. Hailing from the Bellevue au Moule Estate and Distillery which was established at the end of the 19th Century by a Mr Rimbaud from Martinique. The distillery is now owned and run by Mr Hervé Damoiseau after it was acquired by Mr Roger Damoiseau in April 1942.

Cuvee No2This particular expression was distilled in March 1998 in a column still. Cask #86 was aged in Guadeloupe until September 2013 when it was transferred to Germany. The Rum was extracted from the barrel in November 2014 and bottled in January of this year (2015). This makes the Rum a rather accurate 16 years and 9 months old! This is NOT an Agricole…..it is a molasses based Rum.

A little more subdued, this releases label has a more muted colour palette, being shades of cream but the same fonts have been used along with the same red text. There is also a greater availability of this release as 156 bottles have been produced. The bottle shape and familiar red wax seal from the first release remain.

Again, the Rum was inhaled so quickly that this only represents my initial thoughts based on one the one glass that I have enjoyed. As before, if I am successful in obtaining a bottle, I reserve the right to revisit my notes…

La Confrérie du Rhum Cuvée No2 – 42% abv

Cuvee No2 Shot 1

Tasting Notes

In the glass: The Rum is a crisp coppery gold in the glass. A little swirl leaves a wall of Rum, then long droplets lazily meander back down. The first aroma is perhaps one of my childhood, but it is of Fruit Salad chewy sweets. It’s beautiful. There is a little astringency, a tiny medicinal edge and a lot of fruit there. This smells like it will be quite syrupy. Next there is some freshly cut apple and a heavy dose of rhubarb! Spicy oak and vanilla round this one out. It is a pleasure to sit and smell.

In the mouth: Initially there is a whiff of smoke along with the medicinal note. This is not at all like the aromas. It is not syrupy and is most certainly not as fruity as the nose says. The oak is dominant and there is a slight vanilla sweetness that gets dried out very quickly by the moisture sapping oak. A touch of liquorice and some pepper hit my tongue next. This is so so drinkable. The finish is of a decent length and has a cheek tingling oak spice. Hints of smoke and that drying oak influence and medicinal note carry this over the finish line. Where did the fruit go? Would less age allow more of the fruit to push through the oak? There is a bitter note right at the end like treacle coated raisins. There is also a faint prune note right at the back of the finish.

Sadly this sample is now gone……but I’m hopeful of a bottle of this Rum when it goes on general sale. 156 bottles means that there is a better chance for more people to try this, and try it you should. It is a certain purchase for me.

Big thanks again go to Benoît Bail for allowing me the opportunity to try this Rum.

*Bottle Image Courtesy of MsOdD*

© Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material, both written and photographic without the express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Steven James and Rum Diaries Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content