Here it is, the first Rhum Agricole on this site. What else than a single cask rhum could I possibly have chosen for this occasion!? Today we have the Neisson Vieux Single Cask 2004.
Established in the Carbet commune in 1931 by the Neisson brothers, the distillery is one of the few remaining distilleries on Martinique that is still family owned. They prides themselves on being the first rum distillery using yeast from its terroir.
The Neisson Vieux Single Cask 2004 is a rather special rhum. The sugar cane for this rhum has been selectively chosen from Godinot’s plateau during a period of draught. You might be familiar with certain wines from particularly dry seasons. In these times, the vines have to work really hard to get to the precious water sources and minerals. The resulting harvest is usually very poor but the few grapes that made it are typically excellent and come with a very high sugar content (think survival of the fittest). The wines produced from them are consequently extremely flavourful and, needless to say, rather expensive. Pretty much the same is true for the Neisson Vieux 2004.
There are a few things about this rhum that are rather dubious. Not only did I find conflicting sources concerning the month of distillation and the number of barrels (see below), other numbers do not really add up as well. The rum has been barreled in 195 litre barrels previously utilised by the Buffalo Trace Distillery. After 11 years on Martinique, there should not be too much left in a single barrel. Similarly, the alcohol content seems a bit high given that they lose about 2% abv per year on Martinique, but it might possible. No matter what, there is no way that the rhum has been diluted down to that number. Hence the barrels must have been refilled constantly. But wait, even than the alleged number of bottles per barrel (498) is still way too high… I am not sure whether I am missing something but it seems pretty obvious that many of the information out there cannot be accurate. But enough of that, let’s taste this babe.
Dégustation “Neisson Vieux Single Cask 2004”
Key Facts: The rhum has been distilled in a column still in 2004 (I have read conflicting sources for the month of distillation) by Neisson on Martinique. After 11 years of ageing in barrels previously used by the Buffalo Trace Distillery, it has been bottled at 45,4% in July 2015. This is from one of either three or four barrels (conflicting sources again) which yielded exactly 498 bottles each.
Colour and viscosity: Tawny. A ring of incredibly many, extremely tiny pearls stick to the rim of the glass, which then merge and calmly flow back down in thick pearls and streaks. What a drama!
Nose: Even from quite afar I can smell that this is going to be pretty intense. Deeper in the glass, it seems a bit more delicate and complex. I smell warm glue, apricots, coconut, wood adhesive, and while we are at it, yes, wood. There are plenty of cask aromas: Vanilla, chocolate and caramel are the more prominent ones. Somehow I feel that describing individual impressions does not really do the rum justice, it is more like a brilliant painting where all the colours come together to create one big picture.
Palate: This is 45% territory? Where are the 20% that I am not getting? An extremely mild and creamy texture of delicate flavours spreads over my tongue. Yes, I get the apricots here and vanilla and caramel there but everything is just so fragile. Then chocolate, orange zest and orange bitters. Where are we now? Ah yeah, some herbs and flowers. It’s so weird and unique that the flavours come and go. I only found that once in another rum to this extent. It was also a very flavourful column still product that has been ageing in the tropics for a long time. You can call me crazy but the rum reminds me of the Velier Uitvlugt (ULR) 1997 17YO. While its character is not really the same, it shares this fragility, delicateness of flavours (apricots and orange zest are in there as well, also the glue in the nose) and perhaps even the colour.
Finish: Long, dry, but not bitter! The flavours disappear as quickly as they came. Mostly, I detect orange zest, anise and menthol.
You may have noticed that the Neisson Vieux Single Cask 2004 leaves me a bit flummoxed. Here, I mean it in a good way. This is really different from the many pot still rums I usually drink but also different from many of the column still rums I don’t really care about. I do not think that I ever had an agricole that was this mature and woody, yet so mild and not bitter at all. The aromas are very delicate and intense at the same time. It’s simply a mix that you don’t encounter very often. Long story short: This stuff is excellent.
For a few other references on this rum you might conduct the reviews on DuRhum, Rumanics or Whiskyfun. It is pretty nice since they all have a slighty different perspective on it, ranging between 85 and 93 out of 100 points. My sample is part of another bottle-split by Malte. Mercie bien!