Welcome back to another cross-tasting! This time we have a bunch of agricoles from Martinique, two vintage or Millésime rhums and two more from Depaz. Let’s see whether they have something on the ball.
J.M. Vieux 2002 (46,3%): This is a ten year old rhum from J.M., the northernmost distillery on Martinique in Macouba. What’s special about them is that they tend to char their barrels by setting high proof rhum on fire and then scrapping off the char. The rhum is very mellow with notes of caramel, marshmallows and cherries in the nose. There’s also a grassy touch of course, but it isn’t as pronounced as in most other agricoles. Especially the cherry is very appealing. At the palate, I initially taste the cherries, combined with nicely integrated flavours of vanilla, sugar syrup, cinnamon and sweet oranges. I bet this would be splashy in a Ti Punch Vieux but I consider this rhum way too good for mixing. The finish is long with flavours of mint, oak, and oranges. Compared to the J.M. VSOP and XO, I’d describe it as more fruity and sweeter. The spices, except for the vanilla, are considerably less marked in comparison to the XO, however. That was a great start. I might get a bottle of this if I find it at a good price. Recommend for someone who is into fruity agricoles!
La Confrérie du Rhum Maison La Mauny 2005 (49,7%): La Confrérie du Rhum is a Facebook group that grew so large that their heads (you might know Benoît Bail) eventually decided to bottle and co-release their own rums. This beauty has been ageing for eleven years and you can immediately recognise that. The nose is very smooth with many of the typical cask flavours. Besides the oak, I can smell sweetened almonds, vanilla, burnt sugar and molasses as well as a small touch of wood glue. Then ripe blackberries. The flavours in the mouth continue where the nose stopped. I taste blackberries, oak, cardamom and a mix of herbs. The rhum is quite dry, layered and complex. From the blackberries, we quickly move on to the spices, then the herbs, only to return to the blackberries again. This sequencing is very interesting. The finish is long and dry. Wood glue, tannins and conifers are my associations. Another good rhum and a great experience. I’d say you want to get a sample at least, if not more.
Depaz XO Cuvée Grand Saint-Pierre (45%): In contrast to the previous two rhums, this is not a Millésime but a blend of 9, 10, 11 and 12 year old rhums. The name suggests an emphasis on terroir but let’s see. Right after pouring the rhum has been a bit musty but this has vanished after some time. Then I get peaches, lots and lots of sweet, delicious peaches. This is another fruity and mellow candidate. I always felt like Depaz might be the most distinct of all Martinican agricoles. There really isn’t much more in the nose, perhaps vanilla and passion fruit but that’s more or less it. Let’s taste it. Mmhh. I get sweet peaches and apricots, it’s very lady-like. Then a honey-lime mix and white chocolate. The finish is medium long with grapefruit and lime flavoured white chocolate (the sweet variety). This rhum is a one-trick pony but it’s so good at what it does. The idea of terroir makes sense here as this doesn’t taste like your standard sugar cane juice spirit. The volcanic soil of Mt Pelée probably did its job.
Depaz Cuvée Prestige (45%): This is the twelve year old end range product of Depaz. In the nose, it is less sweet and more diverse than the Grand Saint-Pierre. There are peaches, apricots, pears and apples in the mix but also some aromas from the cask. I smell cloves, oak and thyme. It is not as good as it might come across though. In the mouth, I get sugar cane and grass as well as peaches and apricots. Then a few herbs such as thyme and rosemary. The finish is slightly spicy and not very interesting. Cinnamon, cloves and oak the most notable impressions. This is good stuff – but it doesn’t really amaze me. Within this cross-tasting it’s best to compare it to the J.M. Vieux 2002 but that one impressed me more I have to say. I’d even go as far as saying that I prefer the Depaz XO Grand Saint-Pierre to the Cuvée Prestige even though I’m typically not a “sweet guy”. Crucially, this one is the most expensive rhum of today’s bunch and hence not worth its price if you ask me.
This has been a bunch of excellent Agricoles from Martinique but I have to admit that I have been narrowing down the choices beforehand. Only the Depaz Cuvée Prestige was a bit underwhelming, I definitely expected more from that one. The J.M. Vieux 2002 is a very nice and fruity agricole that doesn’t challenge the connoisseur too much while the Maison La Mauny 2005 is more complex and should be approached with more time and attention. The Depaz XO Grand Saint-Pierre doesn’t really seem to fit into this group as it is quite different, but not necessarily worse. Which one you’ll prefer depends on your current mood and personal taste, of course. I think it’s obvious which my favorites are.
This time, my samples came from Ralf, Ingo and Helmut. Thanks a lot!