We are going to visit Guadeloupe again! This time I have more room for some geography, since the previous review was already a bit long as it is. Guadeloupe lies in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean. Guadeloupe is not one island. What usually is considered to be the main island is in fact two islands with a narrow strait in between. Grande-Terre in the east and Basse-Terre in the west. To the south lies Marie Galante. There are more islands to Guadeloupe, but those don’t have Rum distilleries on them. From Guadeloupe comes this Rum I’m about to review. What else could it be? The Rum was made by Gardel, which was founded in 1870 by “General Sucriere”. After working for almost 130 years the distillery is now closed, but the Gardel sugar company still exists. The sugar factory is the sole remaining sugar factory on Grande-Terre, and still one of the largest in the world. Depending on the harvest, it crushes around 500.000 tonnes of sugar cane, produces 50.000 tonnes of sugar and 25.000 tonnes of molasses per annum.
This Rum is from 1992, the same year the column still was supposedly exchanged for a pot still. As far as I know, Gardel never bottled Rums themselves, but Gardel was bottled by numerous independent bottlers, although I don’t think a lot of Gardel is still around, so If you like Rhum Agricole and if you like Gardel, be quick. This particular Gardel was bottled by Swiss distiller and spirit importer Fassbind. We already know them from the Linkwood I reviewed earlier. I have seen quite some Rums from them, but most of them have been bottled in 2003. The most recent bottling of Whisky was from 2007, so I don’t believe they are active anymore, although The Secret Treasures bottlings are still not extremely difficult to find. Just like Plantation and many bottlings of Rum Nation, this series was never really expensive, so lets see if this is a hidden gem.
Color: Copper brown.
Nose: Very nice and aromatic. I love how this smells. Big, and very fruity. Banana and wax. Lots of heavy esters. Black tea. Leafy and green. Easily recognizable as a sugar cane distillate. Hints of burnt wood and burnt caramel. Sweet tea, flint and gunpowder. Fireworks. New wood, and overripe fruit. Papaya and passion fruit. Creamy vanilla pudding. Very appetizing and very complex. There is a lot happening here. Biscuits and to a lesser extent, fresh cookie dough. Sugared orange skins. Well balanced with lots of complexity.
Taste: Starts with diluted (ear) wax, but is less bitter than that. The bitterness is more of the sappy wood kind. Don’t be worried, the bitterness is quite faint. Some toffee and vanilla, but the Rum still is dry. I guess, If you don’t know the stuff you might not like it at first. Funky toffee, with an acidic touch, intertwined with banana. Warming. Much drier than the nose suggested. Thinner yet chewy. You always get something exciting from a sugar cane distillate. Different and special, although simpler than the nose. Hints of plastic in the finish. Maybe this should have been bottled at a higher ABV? We’ll never know.
Sure it has its faults. The taste is not all that well-integrated. You get several layers of aroma’s and not every layer fits on top of the other nor does it pass on the baton that well either. It even has notes of plastic in the finish, and the finish itself isn’t one of great length. You hardly can say it has a noticeable aftertaste. So this is not so good then? Nope, au contraire, I would say. The nose is really very special. Sure, it lacks a bit in the taste department, but it is also a distillate that puts a spell on you. Hard to put my finger on it, but it is mesmerizing and wonderful. I guess when on Guadeloupe it would be next to impossible to leave this stuff alone. This is particularly a very typical example of a cane juice distillate and definitely is not for everybody. I urge you to develop your palate, because when you get it, this is secretly wonderful (yet faulty).
Rum is a very diverse product. Most of us know Rum to be a molasses based sweet distillate, and like it. After a while you might encounter a Rhum Agricole, which can be quite a challenge. I often hear of people disliking Rhum Agricole at first, but warming up to it a while later (probably a few years, actually). Not an easy distillate, but when you get into it, you might be hooked for good. Rhum Agriciole or maybe I should say, Rum made from sugar cane juice in general, is something different.