Review: Rhum J.M Fumee Volcanique

Taking advantage of airport duty free shops is a fun little side-quest for a rum enthusiast and I’m sure most will agree. This bottle of Rhum J.M was a nice little find in the nice little airport in Nice, France – full disclosure, it wasn’t me who actually bought it, it was though my girlfriend who was kind enough to video call me and let me pick a couple bottles.

The story of Rhum J.M starts in 1790 when Antoine Leroux-Préville acquired a 164-hectare estate at the foot of Mount Pelee where he established a sugar factory of the name Fonds-Previle. It was in 1845 when the factory was bought by Jean-Marie Martin that it actually started distilling rhum. He then used his own initial and started marketing Rhum J.M which became increasingly more popular.

The Fonds-Preville, Martinique’s oldest remaining rhum distillery survived the eruption of the Mount Pelee in 1902 and it went through a few ownerships up until 1912 when it was purchased by Gustave Crassous de Medeuil who was already the owner of the Bellevue estate located nearby – and thus the two estates became a single 400 hectars estate.

Rhum J.M uses cane from their own estate and 75% of it comes from the immediate vicinity of the distillery and is pressed within a single hour from when it was cut. In order to keep their soil healthy, J.M rotate their crops every 5 years or so between sugar cane and banana plantations – according to them this process ensures a unique terroir.

They process three main cane varieties, bleue, rosseau and rouge for their rhums, with the fermentation of the juice undergoing for 24 hours. After that it’s distilled up to 70-73% ABV before being rested in stainless steel vats or put to age in ex-Bourbon and French oak barrels.

The J.M Fumme Volcanique is part of the “Atelier des Rhums” series which is a collection of 3 different rhums with various flavour profiles meant for mixing in cocktails. This little project is a collaboration between Karine Lassalle, J.M’s master cellar, and Joseph Akhavan, the founder of the Mabel bar in Paris. The the unique aromas of the rhums in the series are obtained through ageing in barrels with varied toasting levels.

The Fumme Volcanique is a reference to the rich volcanic soil of the Bellevue estate where the J.M sugar cane is grown. In order to achieve a smoky flavour that would compliment its name, the rhum has been aged in heavily toasted ex-Bourbon casks. Apparently the name of this toast is “alligator” because the wood forms black scales after being submitted to the heat.

This is classified as a rhum agricole, but it doesn’t seem to have the Martinique AOC denomination on the label, which is a bit confusing because some sites do state it’s an AOC rhum and others don’t – so I’m not sure if they simply chose not to say it on the label, or something in the process of making this rhum doesn’t comply with the Martinique Appellation d’Origine Controlee regulations. If anyone has an answer please slide into my DMs.

This rhum is cane juice based, creole column still distilled and aged between 12 and 14 months in toasted ex-Bourbon casks. Bottled at 49% ABV without any adulteration.

On the nose it feels spicy with layers of fruit. Maple syrup, black pepper, red apples and cinnamon. Sea water, dusty old books, maple syrup and old leather. It doesn’t smell as smokey as I was expecting. Pears, blueberries and plenty of earthy-mineral notes. Muscovado sugar and melon.

On the palate is where the toasted oak shines. Charred wood, black pepper, stewed red apples and angelica root. Floral honey, saffron with some Bourbon influence. Has an earthy smokiness to it. Rad berries, brown sugar and burnt mandarin oils. The finish is long with citrus notes and smokiness.

This is quite intriguing, it has a lot of orchard fruits notes to it, but it’s also earthy and mineral with a layer of burnt oak. Despite its name, the smoke is quite subtle and integrates pretty well into the overall profile. I will think of a cocktail to make to it, meanwhile it isn’t bad on itself either.

In the UK is priced between £48 and £56 and it looks like stock is a little scarce. That’s a little expensive for such a young rhum, but I was lucky enough to get it for around £36 from the French duty free.

Rhum J.M Fumee Volcanique score:
Flavour/taste: 50/70
Value for money: 12/15
Transparency/purity: 15/15
Overall: 77/100


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