We take a trip to Marie-Galante, a dependency of Guadeloupe and hence an overseas department of France. Well, actually we shall just taste a rhum from over there. However, the temperatures over here are also adjusting to what they are over there so we do indeed get some holiday vibes.
The Bielle Extra Vieux 2010 6YO was a special bottling for LMDW’s 60th anniversary. LMDW (La Maison du Whisky) is one of the largest French specialists in importing and distributing rare whiskies. Founded by Georges Bénitah in 1956, the family business’ first shop has been opened in Paris in 1968. Three more shops followed in Paris, plus another two on La Réunion and in Singapore in more recent times. In the 1970s, Georges became one of the first people to import Scotch to France. In the rum scene, the company became more important with the increased demand in Velier‘s bottlings as LMDW is not only the perhaps primary source for Velier’s rums but also the distributor for some of their releases. Today they also sell their very own selection of rums under the ‘Transcontinental Rum Line‘ label.
At the end of the 18th century, Bielle was a small sugar manufacturer that had several owners over the years. After its bankruptcy, it has been sold to Paul Rameau in 1940, whose family built the Creole house and the distillery, but didn’t take enough care of the latter so that it had to shut down eventually. Thirty-five years later, Dominique Thiery, a nephew of Rameau, took over the company and transformed the distillery during cyclone Hugo, which tore off the boiler’s chimney and gravely damaged the still. History certainly wasn’t easy on Bielle but it gradually progressed in terms of production techniques and is now likely to be the most advanced distillery on Marie-Galante. Its collaboration with Velier and Gianni Capovilla, a grappa producer, surely did not hurt either. Together, they experimented with new distillation and ageing techniques, one of which was to ferment the fresh cane juice without water for seven to ten days (!) and then double distilling it in a copper pot still. Even though these rhums are sold under a separate label (“Rhum Rhum”), Bielle probably learned a thing or two by watching. The Bielle branded products are diluted with rainwater, by the way.
Dégustation “Bielle Extra Vieux 2010 6YO LMDW”
Key Facts: This 6YO Bielle has been distilled in 2010 on Marie-Galante and bottled for the 60th anniversary of LMDW at 56%. It is a small batch rum of four barrels.
Colour and viscosity: Deep gold. A thick crown emerges. The rum slowly flows back down in thick streaks. It’s very oily for a six year old, tropically aged rum.
Nose: Wow, this is intense! Fruitcake meets delicate, exotic fruits spread out over a field of cereal and grain. That’s the best way to describe it. There’s so much in here it is not even funny. Notes of honey, apricots and passionfruit meet rubber and tobacco. I haven’t had such a lovely, yet complex nose in an agricole for quite some time. I could sniff this all day long.
Palate: Blueberry muffins and cereal followed by plenty of oak and spices from the barrel. It’s getting a little bitter after a few seconds, further revealing cinnamon and other exotic spices. The fruits pop up here and there but don’t really want to come out of their hiding spot. Then the fruitcake. The rum is a bit thinner than you would expect at 56% but its flavour intensity kinda makes up for it. All in all, the palate unfortunately falls quite a bit short of the rum’s top-notch nose but that was almost to be expected.
Finish: Medium long and rather sweet with plenty of grain and apricots. A bit disappointing after the ride we’ve just been through.
What a nose! I might never finish my bottle just to be able to keep on sniffing (I’ve filled the remains into a smaller sample bottle, don’t worry :p). I really do like it a lot. It has some similarities with the Liberations but it is distinct enough to warrant its existence. I am a bit hesitant to recommend it since the palate is quite the drop-off from the nose, something we shouldn’t have at the rum’s asking price. Moreover, you should be familiar with Bielle’s products as they are not your typical agricoles I’d say. As always, the best option is to get a sample of course but I am afraid that the rum is now sold out anyways.
Other impressions: Serge had some similiarily odd associations but did not like it as much as me (I consider an 80 to be a low score in Serge’s world but then again, his score doesn’t really seem to match his impressions…). Johannes, whom you might know from his book reviews, thought this one was clearly the weakest in a Bielle cross-tasting. Perhaps I should be doing one myself.