Clément 5yo 2010/2015 Très Vieux Rhum Agricole (42.2%, Bourbon Cask #20100409, Moka Intense, 412 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

Earlier, I reviewed both the 100% Canne Bleue (the original single cask bottling) and the first variation upon the single cask theme, called Vanille Intense. Where the first version was marketed with the emphasis on the sugar cane variety (Canne Bleue), the second, or so it seemed to me, more marketed towards the wood, since vanilla is an obvious marker of American oak, but sure, it can emerge from the Rhum as well. Here we have the next variant called Moka Intense, boasting mocha and coffee notes. I’m a big fan of coffee, so this variety is most welcome. However in the back of my mind the Vanilla Intense variety wasn’t quite as good as the original 100% Canne Bleue was, so I’m really expecting something along the lines of Vanilla Intense. Still these are single cask bottlings so it isn’t said that all 100% Canne Bleue are better than every Vanille Intense bottling. This Moka Intense is half the age of the other two. Maybe the coffee notes are more obvious in younger Rhum?

Color: Copper orange gold.

Nose: Soft, vanilla, slightly nutty. Lozenges and soft wood. Nice Agricole notes. Sometimes it’s too soft really. Hint of sugared orange skins and cherry liqueur with some dark chocolate. Black tea, infused for a short while, with lots of sugar in it. Mocha? maybe, not now at least. Coffee, nope, sorry. Very soft and un-complex. Its really simple really. Sugared. Wait a minute, I do get a sweet coffee note somewhere in the back, but actually it is a note that can be found in many other R(h)ums. So not a coffee that stands out. Mocha is softer and definitely present. I have to admit this Rhum does need some breathing. It opens up nicely and starts to show more of the above but now with better balance. Nose-wise this is now better than the Vanille Intense was. It has a very appealing quality to it, but it does need a lot of time to get there. Nice stuff nevertheless.

Taste: Not cloying, but definitely sweet. Warm going down, with bitter notes from the wood, maybe that’s why it was bottled earlier than the other two examples. Canne Bleue underneath but cloaked. Some notes of diluted sugar in warm water, without the taste being overly sweet. Just like some Whiskies go soft and smooth by caramel colouring. Personally I steer clear from distillates that are called soft and smooth. Never a good thing. On the palate this is definitely a wood driven Rhum. Even after extensive breathing that helped the nose forward, it doesn’t bring complexity to the palate. Alas. The body of the Rhum is black tea, typical Agricole notes, somewhat nutty, with a slight acidic edge. Lacking a bit in balance to be honest. Finish is not very long, and even less balanced. Is this the age? Sure it is. Aftertaste, some more typical Agricole notes and some sugar, that’s more or less it.

Since this is younger than the other two expressions I expected something more raw and bold, but au contraire, it turns out to be quite austere. I was afraid this next variant would be somehow less good than the original and it is. Although this still is not a bad Rhum, not at all, but both the Vanilla and especially this Moka Intense, seem to be out of their depths compared to the original single cask 100% Canne Bleue. This is a softer version, but with that, also more boring than the 100% Canne Bleue and even less interesting than the Vanille Intense. Now that I have reviewed all three, I’m now very interested how another batch of 100% Canne Bleue would perform. Anyone? For now, I would recommend you get the 100% Canne Bleue and forget both variants which add nothing more to the world of Clément single casks to warrant you, buying all three.

Points: 83

This one is for Lance who had to wait a long time for me to review a R(h)um again!

Clément 10yo 2003/2013 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (42.8%, Bourbon Cask #0310054, Vanille Intense, 459 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

Alas, my 100% Canne Bleue version of a single cask Clément is almost gone. Damn small those 50cl bottles. I said I liked the smaller size of these bottles, because it would give us the chance to buy a bottle from another cask. True, but when they are as good as the first one, less definitely is not more. So what should I replace it with? Well, what about another version from Cléments single cask series. Yup, let’s do that. Sounds like a good idea. In comes the second version released: “Vanille Intense”. I don’t know about you, but somehow I’m expecting a R(h)um that is full of, well, vanilla notes. Where the previous one was all about the Canne Blue sugar cane variety, this time it’s all about the wood, or at least so I imagine. Sure R(h)um by itself can have enough notes of Vanilla, but here, I guess, it’s also the vanillin that came into the mix by way of the wood of the cask. It’s from a Bourbon cask, so American oak, which gives off vanilla notes to enhance the vanilla notes from the R(h)um. Expect intense vanilla notes.

By the way, a third version has been released recently, called “Moka Intense”. Interesting, but lets not get ahead of ourselves, and have a go at this “Vanille Intense” first, shall we?

clement-vanille-intenseColor: Copper golden brown.

Nose: Cookie dough. Luke-warm sweetened black tea. Vanilla. Only after this creamy start, the typical Rhum Agricole notes emerge, although throughout the whole experience, they are pushed back well into the background. So we are definitely in the territory of some active Bourbon casks here. Floral, honey and licorice. Nice (Indian) spicy wood, plywood and pencil shavings, although I don’t think they have used the latter two for this Rhum. Well integrated, a faint, but nice and sweet red fruit aroma. Leather and quite dusty. Next comes the sweetness, brown sugar and slightly warm toffee. This one really gives it up in layers. Is the vanilla intense? Well, not as much as the label suggested, but it is definitely a smoother and sweeter smelling Rhum, compared to its 100% Canne Bleue sister. It’s not the vanilla ice-cream I somehow expected. For me, especially the elegant woody notes are the best. Quite a nice nose, almost not a Rhum Agricole, but I like it!

Taste: Very soft, dull, dusty and sugary sweet. Simple. Warm sugar syrup with pencil shavings, cardboard and indian spices. Toasted cask. Lots of diluted toffee, watery caramel, licorice and vanilla. Spicy backbone from the oak, even a slight bitter vegetal note, with a late return of sugar. You can really taste the pencil shavings now. Remarkably soft and simple compared to the 100% Canne Bleue version. So it’s not about the vanilla after all. They just picked smooth, creamy, sweet and simple casks to avoid the potential rawness of the previous version I guess. Short finish as well, where the woody bitterness has the longest staying power. A bit disappointing really. Where the J.M 2002 and the Clément 100% Canne Bleue had something extra, this Vanille Intense does not. I think the Rum Nation Martinique Hors d’Âge is just as good and way more affordable.

Compared to the 100% Canne Bleue version, this one is less raw. More civilized and simple. Also toned down a bit. The 100% Canne Bleue seems to explode with aroma. Dare I say that the Vanille Intense is a bit boring? I just did, didn’t I? I don’t know if the lower ABV has something to do with it, or maybe it is just the profile of this Rhum. Also remember these are single cask bottlings and there should be a difference from cask to cask. Going on these two I will probably buy another bottle, bottled from a different cask, of the 100% Canne Bleue version (Brown label) and pass up on another Vanille Intense (Green label). Don’t get me wrong, the green ‘un is still good, but not as good as the brown ‘un…

Points: 85

Cognac Week – Day 2: Jean Fillioux Très Vieux (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru du Cognac)

Cognac Week LogoNext please! In our Cognac Week, we move on to a Cognac made by Jean Fillioux. Today the fifth generation of Fillioux is at the helms of the company named for the second generation of Fillioux. The company was actually started by Honoré Fillioux in 1880, before his son Jean took over. Honoré learned the trade as a blender at Hennessy. Fillioux’ “La Pouyade” estate is located in the golden triangle, the place where the best Cognacs come from. The estate is situated right in between the towns of Verrieres, Angeac Champagne and Juillac le Coq. Grapes for the Cognac’s of Jean Fillioux grow on 50 acres on land with a terroir of limestone and chalk clay.

Jean Fillioux Très Vieux is a Grande Champagne Cognac, around 25 years old. This one has quite a few years under its belt, so lets see if this Fillioux lives up to its grande reputation.

Jean Fillioux Très Vieux (40%, Grande Champagne, 1er Cru du Cognac)Color: Copper Orange

Nose: Sweet and fruity. Pretty and elegant. Nice soft wood and elegant fruitiness and hints of sweet white wine, banana, pear and vanilla. After a while plain licorice and over ripe mango juice and a tiny hint of pineapple. Given some time to breathe, the licorice transforms itself in the softer and sweeter laurel licorice. New cured leather and nutmeg, with a tiny hint of lavas. Dry, dusty and quiet. Like an afternoon in tropical heat on the border of a desert listening to Georges Zamphir. Excellent nose, wonderful stuff. I just hope it tastes just as good.

Taste: Much drier than expected. Well balanced, perfumed and slightly soapy. Abundant tropical fruits. It almost tastes like a Tomatin. Soft tannic bitterness, that gives the Cognac a backbone. Quite warming and less soft than the nose promised. Although different, lighter and simpler than the nose, this is not a disappointment. Late in the finish a more woody bitterness appears, showing this has seen quite some (new) wood during its extended ageing.

Fantastic nose, that develops and develops when moving about in the glass. Very nice. Much simpler in taste however. Good stuff, but not necessarily something I must have on my lectern. Quite expensive too, considering the simple taste. You pay for the age. Sure, it tastes great, just lacks a bit in the complexity department. You will find more complexity in other Cognacs of Jean Fillioux.

Points: 81

Clément 9yo 2002/2012 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (46.8%, Bourbon Cask #20070077, 100% Canne Bleue, 587 bottles, 50 cl, Martinique)

After the excellent offerings from J.M it would be a blasphemy not to recognize Homère Clément, the godfather of Rhum Agricole on Martinique. In 1917 Homère started his distillery on the domaine he acquired in 1887. With the death 0f Homère in 1923, the property with its distillery is taken over by Charles Clément. Charles started making Rhum under the Clément Brand in 1940. The Cléments were already making Rhum for about ten years but under the brand name of the domaine itself: Rhum du Domaine d’Acajou. Charles died in 1973 and the next generation Clément is taking over. It is the generation of George and Jean-Louis-José Clément who saved J.M from bankruptcy but don’t interfere with its Rhum making and management. Investing in the property and distillery, to allow the people behind J.M to make the best Rhum possible.

From Clément’s prestige range comes this single barrel. This “100% Canne Bleue”, non filtré is the first of two single barrel releases. Canne bleue is a cane variety that, apart for its blue color, is known to be the best sugar cane variety for producing Rhum Agricole. Not so long ago a second version in this series saw the light of day, called “Vanille Intense”. Not to be mistaken for a spiced Rhum. No vanilla and/or vanillin was added. Only casks were selected that had the natural potential of releasing slightly more than usual amounts of vanillin from the American oak, as opposed to European oak, which tends to release more tannins.

Clément 9yo 2002/2012 Trés Vieux Rhum Agricole (46.8%, OB, Bourbon Cask #20070077, 100% Canne Bleue, 587 bottles, Martinique)Color: Dark orange brown.

Nose: Fresh and smells of new wood. Also a leafy, plant-like quality. Caramel. Big, hefty aroma, sometimes a whiff of this reminds me of Jamaican high ester Rum, although the whole profile is quite different from that. In the distance even a red fruity aroma. Mostly berries. Burnt sugar with hints of spicy White Wine. Gewürztraminer. Sweet spices. Oregano and to a lesser extent thyme. Toned down vanilla ice-cream.

Taste: A very nice subdued sweetness. It’s like the sweetness has depth in part because its burnt sugar. Milk chocolate, some vanilla and a hint of a paper-like quality, cardboard, cola and lots of cask toast. Just like a great wine, this Rhum Agricole has perfect balance between the sweetness and acidity. The sweet is obvious, the acidity is from the oak. Just like the nose it has this great woody flavour, without it being too sappy or bitter, although the bitterness that is there stays on well into the finish, and even the hoppy aftertaste. The finish is long and has a tiny amount of soapiness to it as well as a bit of red berries and the burnt sugar. The burnt sugar retreats and lets a more creamy and toffeed layer take over for the aftertaste.

It’s really amazing how much color this Rhum Agricole got from only nine years in a Bourbon barrel. It looks like a stunning dark brown Rhum. That must have been very active casks. This is good stuff. Big aroma, big body, long finish. For some a bit too much of the burnt wood and sugar notes, but it comes with the territory. Good ‘un this is. Usually more is more, but I somehow do like the 50 cl size of this. It’s easier that way to get another “100% Canne Bleue” single cask, from a different cask naturally, for comparison. This is a big one. The J.M 2002 shouldn’t be tasted right after this.

Points: 87

J.M XO Très Vieux Rhum Agricole (45%, Bourbon Cask Matured, Martinique)

Today I was working in the garden. Preparations have to be made for the coming summer. Getting rid of weed, clean the BBQ, plant some new flowers and so on. Evenings are still cold, so now I’m sitting inside and I notice my arms are quite red. Must be a hole in the ozone layer or something, because I can’t remember getting sunburned so quickly. Another place on earth I would get easily sunburned is not Scotland, but Martinique. Yes it’s Rhum Agricole time! Rhum Agricole is the French word for Cane Juice Rum, as opposed to Rum made from molasses. Tonight we’ll be having J.M XO. Looks cryptic doesn’t it? The XO (as for Extra Old, or Très Vieux in french) is a Rhum Agricole, which has been aged for a minimum of 6 years in re-charred Bourbon barrels.

J.M XOColor: Full orange gold.

Nose: Woody, spicy and floral. Right up is un-ripe banana. Very aromatic and dry. Lots of spices. Hints of gingerbread and cookie dough. Old soap (roses) and polished furniture. The nose is wood driven, but it is never overpowered by wood. Also the charred oak is noticeable, but again, not overpowering. Notes of an old wooden shop or a church. Even hints of incense is there.

Taste: More of the same. Wood at first, with a bit of mint, but that dissipates quickly. A short sweetish film, that also passes by quickly, leaving a nice and fruity aftertaste. Hints of tree sap, mocha, coffee with milk and milk chocolate. Tiny hint of an Industrial complex and motor oil (which is nice). Next an even tinier note of passion fruit and even less still: anise. Tasty. This is not a sweet Rum, it is rather dry and well made. The only beef I can have with this Rhum is that even for an XO it is quite light and seems to lack a bit of depth or complexity if you prefer. Dangerously drinkable.

I have to admit, since the day of Douglas Laing’s Old and Rare series (Platinum) I am a sucker for dumpy bottles made with green glass. The rest of the labels and packaging are also very appealing. Having said that, of course that is not as important as the Rhum inside the bottle. I like sugar cane Rum. With its relative dryness, it matches with Single Malt Whisky. Nothing wrong with sweet Rum obviously, but the dry style is a welcoming addition to the drink. This dryer style, can showcase its finesse and elegance some more.

Points: 85