Three XOs from Martinique (Dillon, La Mauny & J.M)

Rum knows few standards and while they are slowly but steadily on the rise in some places, with Jamaica’s geographical indication being the most recent development, none of them comes close to Martinique‘s AOC regulations, the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée. Hence, while none of todays rhums carries a proper age statement, we can be sure that they aged for a minimum of six years (note that we are talking about tropical ageing here!), the required number to wear the XO (extra old) statement. However, it may very well be the case that the rhums aged for even more than that.

xodillonDillon XO Hors d’Age (43%): These days, Dillon is distilled at Depaz but not much has changed: they still supply the cane and distillation takes place in their own creol column still. I have read that this rhum might actually be older than ten years but I am not sure how accurate that is. Besides this version there exist at least two other XOs by Dillon, a 7YO and a 12YO bottling. Nose: I detect alcoholic notes which I didn’t really expect but then the rhum reveals a delicate, almost fragile, floral, character of spices and cereal. Freshly cut grain meets exotic barks, cloves and nutmeg. Then dried grain and green apples. The nose definitely promises an interesting agricole. Palate: What do we have here… The flavours are much heavier than the nose suggested. I get more of the aforementioned spices, curry leafs, plums, mixture (the Sri Lankan crisps), dried dates and raisins, and the dried grain again. There’s a lot to be discovered here and the palate doesn’t leave much to be desired. Finish: Long and heavy with dry plums, grain and the spice mix. Very nice. Kudos to the craftmanship, the rhum is quite complex and the difference between the delicate nose and the heavy palate is remarkable. What is more, the 43% provide more power than they usually do, the abv is very well-chosen! I am not blown away but hey, you don’t have to be all the time, do you!? It’s a good rhum and at its price I’d say you cannot go wrong! (84/100)

xolamaunyLa Mauny XO (40%): Even though I gave the rhum plenty of time to develop, it doesn’t really want to reveal too much in the nose. Maybe it’s the missing percentages, who knows… I get woody notes, dark, ripe brambleberries, spices such as cinnamon or cloves and plums, perhaps. Now also clearly raspberries. It’s not bad, but I was hoping for more here. Taking a sip, we notice the tannins and dry, slightly bitter notes. I get the brambleberries but besides, there’s mostly wood. The low abv is not incredibly problematic here but my guess is that the rum might have been a bit better at a younger age and a slightly higher abv. Too much seems to be lost behind the wall of wood and the dilution. Eventually I also get the spices from the nose and further notes such as banana and the raspberries. The finish is long and dry but doesn’t feature a whole lot of impressions either. I know a few really amazing La Maunys such as this one or the recent Chantal Comtes, which I shall be reviewing in the near future, but in this segment we have way better alternatives if you ask me. (80/100)

xojmJ.M XO (45%): J.M is almost always good. Their vintages differ in terms of flavour profile and quality so it’s nice to have a consistent standard. Nose: Now this is the very characteristic style of the distillery. I get hay, vanilla, cherries and, as mostly in the older ones, quite some spices. It’s a relatively mild and floral agricole that’s not incredibly complex but very nice at what it has to offer. A nice “every-day” standard if you want. Palate: Again, very mild with the typical vanilla-cherry combination again but now also fresher, slightly herbal notes. Mint perhaps. Then again more floral notes and in the background the spices from the cask. This is probably the agricole if you are looking for a well-balanced, harmonious product. The drinking strength may be higher for my liking but I think it is also well-chosen. Some vintage brut de fût have less but that’s a different story. Finish: Again very mild and floral with accentuated notes of hay and spices. I never really buy multiple bottles of the same r(h)um or re-buy a certain bottling but this one is one of the very rare exceptions. Fairly priced, it can almost always be found in my bar and is an interesting, easy sipping rhum. What more can you ask for!? I’d go as far as saying that this a serious contender for the best ‘standard’ in all of r(h)um. (85/100)