The last tasting session was not a great success for me. The happier I am to introduce you to another very special rhum, the J.Bally 1999 18YO Brut de Fût!
After the J.Bally 1998, this is only the second Brut de Fût released by J.Bally ever! If you haven’t read last week’s review or are unfamiliar with J.Bally’s history you might want to catch-up on that first before continuing to read. According to J.Bally, 1999 has been a particularly dry year, which results in this very unusual rhum. Just by looking at it (dark as black tea or Cola) we know that there’s probably a bit more to it since I don’t think that colouring has been added to it. However, the story of post-1998 J.Bally goes as follows: The company’s Creole column-still is no more but the St. James Distillery, where it is now distilled, managed to maintain Bally’s typical production methods of harvesting and distilling during the driest period on Martinique, trying to replicate the climatical conditions of Le Carbet, where the original distillery was located. Aging still takes place entirely in 300-litre as well as very small French oak barrels (i.e. ex-Cognac), which has been an innovation of Jacques Bally back then. If this is true, and I have no reason to doubt that, this is not solely marketing-nonsense. After all terroir is very strong in Rhum Agricole! However, this also makes me wonder exactly how close the current Ballys are to the pre-1998s. I have gathered some opinions from a few people who’ve tasted some of their rhums from the ’50s and ’60s and all of them said that these were truly something else, especially quality wise. I managed to get my hands on a sample of the 1993 vintage and i hope that tasting that one will be instructive. Anyway, on this blog we try not to regret bygone times so let’s move on to the tasting!
Dégustation “J.Bally 1999 18YO Brut de Fût”
Key Facts: This is one of two old Brut de Fût rhums released by J.Bally recently. Distilled in 1999 at the site of Saint James, 948 bottles have been released by LMDW for their “Cellar Book” collection after 18 years in 2017. The alcohol comes in at 54,5%.
Colour and viscosity: Freaking black as covfefe (Skeldon anyone?). On my scale this would be treacle. A very thin crown of tiny pearls. Either there are no streaks at all, or they don’t flow back down again. I think we need to taste this to get an ultimate idea on its oiliness.
Nose: I gave the rum over an hour to breathe under an aroma lid. Notes of dried and candied fruits (mango, plums, papayas and cranberries) slowly crawl out of the glass. This is special stuff but I am already sure that not every connoisseur will like this. There are plenty of aromas from the cask such as milk chocolate or leather but the fruity side clearly dominates. I didn’t expect this given the rhum’s colour and age. After all, 18 years in the tropic are quite a lot.
Palate: Woah, this is different. Not at all what the nose promised. The tongue immediately contracts with the first sip due to the rhum’s strong adstringency. This is very, very bitter stuff and quite strong on the wood and tannins. It almost feels like your body wants to repel the rhum since it is not used to such an extremity. We need some time to recover but then we can find cold ash and coffee, leather and pure cocoa. It doesn’t taste healthy but at the same time we want more of this. How can such a lovely nose come with such a taste!? Eventually we are able to find some of the dried, candied fruits. Now also tart cherries at the edges of the tongue. What an experience!
Finish: Incredibly long, incredibly dry, incredibly bitter. There’s wood, leather, more wood and cocoa. After some time also sweet espresso but the adstringency seems to prevail. I have never had anything quite like this.
The J.Bally 1999 18YO Brut de Fût is quite the experience. A rum which will push your gustatory nerves to the limit. I love it, even though I probably cannot drink it very often. You have to be in the mood for it. That said, the perfect time for this rum is right now that it is getting uncomfy outside and we can turn on the heating some more. And feel pity for the people who have to be outside in the cold while we can take tiny sips of this beast. What’s interesting to me is that I do not find the slightest similarities to the “standard” J.Ballys, even when we can sneak a peak behind this wall of wood.
Other impressions: Cyril gave this one a score of 92.