St. Aubin Rhum Agricole

St Aubin BottleRounding out my Mauritian Rum collection is a Rhum Agricole. In fact this is the first Rhum Agricole that has been presented on my blog….something that I hope to rectify very shortly. Once again, refreshing yourself on my previous post on Green Island Rum may be beneficial.

Rhum Agricole is made from the fermented juice of freshly squeezed sugarcane. As fresh sugarcane juice suffers oxidation, fermentation needs to begin as soon as possible therefore the place of juice extraction is usually located at or very close to the distillery to expedite this process.

Due to the nature of the raw material (sugarcane juice rather than molasses), the rhum agricole is usually only distilled to around 70% alcohol unlike molasses based rums. This allows the character and influence of the growing environment (the terroir) to be displayed in the final product. The techniques employed and base material used to create rhum agricole gives it an entirely different flavour profile to a molasses based rum.

St. Aubin has been as sugar plantation since 1819 but in comparison has only recently begun making rhum. It is located in Southern Mauritius and takes its name from one of the original owners, Pierre de Saint Aubin. The location of the plantation brings its own unique qualities as the balance of rainfall and sunshine hours give rise to a micro climate that exists in the region of the plantation. The volcanic nature of the soil and the micro climate combine to make the terroir more than suitable for producing sugarcane.

The sugarcane is immediately sent to the mill where it is slowly pressed to extract the sugarcane juice. It is only this first press of juice, known as ‘fangourin’ in Mauritian, that is used. This juice undergoes immediate fermentation to create the ‘wine’. This is then distilled in an alembic still. This St. Aubin Rhum Agricole is an unaged product.

The rhum is very clear in the bottle and sits at a higher 50% ABV and I’m unsure what to expect as I’ve only tasted Rhum Vieux or Old Rhum (aged for a minimum of 3 years) previously but I cant wait to see how it tastes….

Tasting Notes:

St Aubin Close

In the glass: The rhum is crystal clear in the glass and there is a little alcohol vapour that I leave to dissipate. There is a raw sugarcane aroma sitting with the alcohol vapour with grassy, herbal and vegetal notes all nestling alongside a sweetness.

In the mouth: There is a spicy and peppery entry for the rhum with a little sweetness but that sweetness doesn’t stick around for long. A little vanilla and pepper follows. It is very smooth as it sits in your mouth and it certainly doesn’t feel like its 50% ABV. Fresh sugarcane washes the rhum down to leave a fresh sweetening finish with little to no burn. I always prefer the taste of agricole to the smell of agricole and this yet again confirms that for me.

Ti PunchOf course, the drink that shows an unaged agricole off (although it is also made with vieux) is the classic ‘Ti Punch. My Potteries accent doesn’t really allow me to pronounce the name of the drink too well but the pronunciation is more like ‘tee paunch’ and is Creole for ‘Petit Punch’ or ‘Small Punch’. It comprises a little lime juice and wedge, sugar syrup and a measure and a bit of agricole. I haven’t really ever quantified it. I just start with a little lime and syrup then add to taste. I usually add an ice cube and let the drink sit and settle for a few minutes. There are few things more refreshing. It’s sweet, fresh and satisfying. Its the simple drinks that show off a product to its best and it is the same combination whether a ‘Ti Punch for Agricole, a Daiquiri for Rum or a Caipirinha for Cachaça. Simple ingredients that put the sugarcane product up front and allow it to be the star of the show.

St Aubin Rhum Agricole is a good example of this style of sugarcane product and it is most definitely worth picking up a bottle. It sits proudly on the shelf with my Clement V.S.O.P from Martinique and my Damoiseau Vieux from Guadeloupe.

© 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.

 

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Tilambic 151

Tilambic 151 BottleContinuing my focus on the rums in my collection from the island of Mauritius, I’m about to up the stakes by introducing you to a 151% Proof (75.5% ABV) rum going by the name of Tilambic 151. It may be worthwhile refreshing yourself on rum production in Mauritius by reading my article on Green Island Rums.

Now you’re all refreshed and up to date, the word Tilambic is a Mauritian Creole word meaning ‘small still’ and it relates to the stills that the farmers utilise to create their own rums (moonshine). The image on the label is of an alembic still and is there to evoke images of the ‘small stills’ used locally rather than to provide a window into the production methods employed to create this rum.

Tilambic 151 is unavailable in Mauritius as it is produced and bottled under licence solely for Green Island (UK) Limited by International Distillers Mauritius. This company was formed in 1960 under the name of Gilbeys (Mauritius) Ltd but the current facility including a bottling plant was created in 1972. They are also responsible for the production and bottling of the two previously featured Green Island Rum products, the Superior Light and Spiced Gold. The rum is distilled in 30 ft column stills and is then aged for 7 years in ex-whisky barrels in temperature controlled conditions ensuring a constant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius. The rum contains no added sugars, caramel flavouring or colouring and gains its flavour and colour from the casks. The rum remains unfiltered at the time of bottling but is reduced to its bottle strength of 75.5% ABV. It retains a wonderful golden colour and looks really approachable…..but is it?

Tasting Notes:

Tilambic 151 Close

In the glass: The rum is a light golden colour and there is a really woody aroma. This is followed by a little peppery spice and prune aroma, all wrapped in light vanilla. I did have to let this sit to let the alcohol dissipate.

In the mouth: Straight away there is a sweetness and peppery spice on entry and the star anise that I tasted in the Green Island Superior Light is here. This is very very oaky. It’s almost bourbon-esque in how the woodiness shows itself and then completely dries this rum out. There is a hot mouthfeel towards the end to let you know you’re drinking an overproof rum. Vanilla and caramel round this one out but the finish is quite short and very very dry with the oak sticking around longer than anything else. Very surprising and remarkably drinkable.

This is an interesting rum and offers up some really concentrated flavours. Best to use as part of a cocktail or as a cocktail float rather than sipping although adding little water opens up the sweetness and reveals more depth to the rum. It’s a rum that demands respect as it could quite easily floor you if not treated properly but its a worthy adversary for those who are looking for a flavourful and surprisingly light 151 proof rum.

© 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.

Green Island Rum

Green Island Bottles 1Mauritius isn’t one of the first places that springs to mind when I think of rum. But that said, of late I have been aware of the exposure of a number of rums that have their origins there and that number is growing rapidly. Sitting to the East of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, Mauritius has no indigenous population. It was first visited by the Portuguese in 1507 but their stay was short-lived. In 1598, whilst on a voyage to the Spice Islands, a number of ships from the Dutch Second Fleet were blown off course and landed on the island. They named it Mauritius in honour of Prince Maurice of Nassau. A permanent settlement was established by the Dutch in 1638, and it was the Dutch that first introduced sugarcane to Mauritius along with deer in 1639, but the climatic conditions and frequency of cyclones due to the islands micro-climates forced them to abandon the island in 1710. In 1715, France took control of Mauritius, renaming it Ile de France. It was this French rule that first saw the island develop a prosperous economy centered around sugar production. During the Napoleonic Wars, the British Navy sought to gain control of the island. Despite Napoleons only victory over the British Navy at the Battle of Grand Port (20th-27th August 1810), the French surrendered to a British invasion 3 months later at Cap Malheureux. Mauritius became independent in 1968, became a republic in 1992, and it is estimated that currently, around 90% of the cultivated land on Mauritius contains sugarcane.

Mauritius is one of the few countries whose rum production includes both traditional and agricultural rum. The definitions here being that the traditional rum (Rum) is distilled using molasses and the agricultural rum (Rhum Agricole) is distilled using fermented sugar cane juice. There are currently only around six rum / rhum producers on the island but the amount of companies that purchase these distilled products to age, bottle or infuse is said to number in excess of 50.

I own four expressions from Mauritius, Green Island Superior Light, Green Island Spiced Gold, Tilambic 151 Overproof and St. Aubin Rhum Agricole. In this blog post I will be covering both Green Island expressions.

Green Island source their rums from three distilleries on the island, two that produce molasses based rums and one that produces rhum agricole.

Green Island Superior Light is a molasses based rum that has been in production since the 1960’s and its packaging has changed very little in that time. It is a blend of 3 and 5-year-old rums that have been aged in oak casks and then charcoal filtered to remove the colour that it gains from the casks.

Green Island Spiced Gold uses the Superior Light as its starting point with spices then being added. There is no official information on the spices added with the recipe remaining ‘a secret’ but hopefully my notes below will be able to flush out the spices that I think are used.

Here’s how I think they stand up….

Tasting Notes – Green Island Superior Light

Green Island Superior Light

In the glass: The rum is crystal clear with a few alcohol vapours bursting from the glass so I let it sit for a while. There is an initial sweetness reminiscent of the smell of cola bottle jelly sweets with fresh sugarcane following. There is star anise and the rum has a creamy aroma. It’s also a lot more vegetal than I was expecting.

In the mouth: Instant sweet entry and very smooth initially. There is a little peppery fire on the mid palate and a little heat on the finish. There is more star anise lingering around along with the cola bottle aroma at the back of my throat working its way up to my nose again. It’s a little like Cachaça. The sweet entry rounds to a dry medium length finish with a little zing of pepper. I’d also say that there was a little perry on entry which continues through to the finish. It’s a very pleasant white rum. It lends itself, I find, to a daiquiri as the dryness of the rum compliments the sugar syrup and the citrus of the lime. It doesn’t get lost in a mixed drink for sure.

Tasting Notes – Green Island Spiced Gold

Green Island Spiced Gold

In the glass: The rum is a dark straw colour and carries an amazing vanilla sweetness that fights to get out of the glass. It smells creamy and sweet and there is a hint of cherry cola and cinnamon. It’s the vanilla that dominates however.

In the mouth: That instant sweetness on the nose carries through to the mouth and initially the vanilla is the first out of the blocks. Heavy vanilla. This calms as the rum dries out in your mouth and lets the spice come through. That pepper is still present but this time it’s accompanied by ginger and cloves and a good dose of cinnamon. The finish is dry and the ginger sticks around to make it slightly longer than the superior light. It cuts right through the sweetness and keeps it in check. This rum, for me, gets lost when mixed with coke but a spiced daiquiri is very pleasant and when mixed with ginger beer and apple juice, the vanilla and ginger really work well together.

All in all, this is a very pleasant and appealing range of rums. The base qualities of the Superior Light carry through into the Spiced Gold and the almost fragrant nature of both rums makes it a pleasure to drink them. Mixed is my preferred route to go with these rums but that leaves me wanting to try an aged rum from Mauritius, as if there is this much flavour being gained from the islands sugarcane, just imagine the possibilities of leaving rums like these to mature in oak for a while. Exciting rums from a country that is growing in stature as a rum producing location and one to keep an eye on for sure.

© 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.