Clement Rhum Vieux XO, Martinique AOC, Martinique, 44% abv, US$110

Rhum Agricole is made from sugar cane juice instead of molasses and is a specialty of French Caribbean islands including La Reunion, Guadeloupe, Haiti and Martinique in particular which has its own AOC (https://winellama.com/2013/10/18/clement-premiere-canne-premium-cane-rum-rhum-agricole-aoc-martinique-40-abv/). It is also produced in Brazil.

‘Vieux’ technically only needs to be aged for 3 years in oak, but this one is a blend of several vintages including 1976, 1970 and 1952. Now that’s putting ‘tropical ageing’ to the test (generally the rule is that 1 year in the tropics is the equivalent of 3 in a cold climate like Scotland). The interesting thing about sugar cane juice is that it is subject to vintage variations; sugar cane can be harvested 1-2 times a year and the cane is cut at about 10 feet high when the sucrose is 12-14%. It’s extremely important to get it to processing as soon as possible so the sucrose doesn’t diminish.

This Rhum Vieux XO was carried lovingly back after a trip to the Cayman Islands. It’s clear and bright, deep amber and has heavy legs. On the nose it’s cognac-like and fully matured with aromas of sweet baking spice (nutmeg, clove), creamy clover honey, Demerara sugar, fruitcake, toffee, walnut and leather.

The palate is dry with soft alcohol (smooth without water) and medium body. It’s got medium intensity with medium flavour characteristics of Christmas cake, more Demerara sugar, caramel and toffee, leather glove, charcoal – and it’s here where the Rhum Agricole is completely apparent – unmistakeable deep green walnut and leaf. The finish is long and lingering and very complex.

Truly a WSET ‘outstanding’ spirit. Matured with a long finish, seamlessly integrated alcohol and secondary aromas and flavours, balanced, complex and unique.

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