It was about time I got myself a proper bottle of Rhum Agricole, until now I tried it only through samples and tastings. What can I say, I’m a sucker for molasses based rum. First a little bit about Habitation Clement and Martinique (I apologise for not using the accents, my French sucks).
Homere Clement in 1887 bought 43 hectares of Domaine de L’Acajou and established Habitation Clement. Rhum (I am going to use the French spelling for the whole review) in Martinique was made using molasses at the very beginning, but because England and France were at war shipping sugar from Martinique to France became almost impossible and Napoleon started sourcing his sugar from mainland sugar-beets. Then Martinique started using the sugarcane juice rather han processing it into sugar and molasses (they couldn’t sell sugar nymore) since it was easier and you could get more juice than molasses therefore more rhum. That’s how Agricole rhum started and Homere Clement was an early advocate of the sugarcane juice distillation. In 1917 Clement creates a distillery to fullfill the alcohol request during World War I and in 1930 Charles Clement, Homere’s son, creates Acajau rhum and starts exporting to France. In 1986 when Remy Cointreau was trying to take over the Clement business, the family sells the brand to Bernard Hayot in order to preserve their legacy. All production along with the Clement Creole column stills were moved to the Simon distillery (owned by Hayot) where they make the rhum today. Story taken from their website.
Now Rhum Agricole as a category is usually referred to rhum made out of cane juice, but the one made in Martinique needs to meet certain standards before being able to be classified as Martinique Agricole Rhum because of the island’s AOC (Apellation d’Origine Controlee). This is exclusive to Martinique and it doesn’t define the whole “cane juice rhum” category. Long story short the cane juice has to be fermented for no longer than 120 hours, the ABV of the fermented juice can’t be higher than 7.5% and it has to be distilled in column stills between 65% and 75% ABV – this ensures that a lot of the character from the sugarcane juice is being retained into the distilled spirit. “Blanc” rhum is colorless and rested in vats (not oak vats as that would impart some color) for 6 weeks minimum. “Eleve sous bois” rhum is aged for a least 1 year and “Vieux” rhum is aged for at least 3 years. Now just like cognac, there are other terms that could help you determine the minimum age of the Martinique rhum: “VO” for agricole rums aged at least 3 years, “VSOP”, “Reserve Speciale”, “Cuvee Speciale”, “Tres Vieux”, for agricole rums aged at least 4 years and “Extra Vieux”, “Grande Reserve”, “Hors d’Age”, “XO” for agricole rums aged at least 6 years.
My bottle is Clement Rhum Vieux Agricole XO – obviously made out of cane juice, the “Vieux” shows us that this has been aged for at least 3 years and the “XO” goes further by saying this is in fact at least 6 years old. A simple search on the Clement website tells us this is indeed at least 6 years old and aged “in a combination of virgin and re-charred oak barrels”. Clearly tropical ageing as the AOC wouldn’t allow any part of the production to be done outside Martinique or the designated areas. Bottled at 42% ABV and no additives (vive la AOC!) I am looking forward to try this!
On the nose, the very first aroma is like mulled wine. Quite fruit-forward, grape juice, apricot, apple pie, with some tropical ones like pineapple, mango and passion fruit. So juicy but with the signature earthiness of an Agricole in the background. Golden syrup too, I love this!
On the palate there’s like an explosion of bright fruits, tutti frutti like. Apricot, peach, red apple, pear, pineapple, mango, raspberry, dried figs, melon I could just go on. Noticed the same flavor profile when I tried the Cuvee Homere, but that was more on the tropical side. Grassy and floral notes underneath the fruit salad with some of the aforementioned golden syrup, toffee and some old leather. But the fruits are the main character. The finish is like a Solero ice cream with citrus, mango, vanilla and some brown sugar.
Juicy, is all I can say, very fruity and bright. If you like Jamaican rum but never tried an Agricole, this bottle would be a good start.
I love it!
Clement Rhum Vieux Agricole XO score:
Value for money: 14/15