Is this really our first HSE session!? Oh my… Today it is distilled at Le Simon, which dates back to 1862 and has been dubbed the “ghostwriter distillery” by several people since they a) are not open to the public and b) do not produce rhum under their own name. Habitation Saint-Étienne (HSE) had to shut down in 1988 and initially moved their still to La Favorite, before it has been acquired by Le Simon in 1994. After distillation, the rhums are transported to the original sites for ageing and blending.
HSE XO (43%): It’s alyways good to keep up with the standards, as along as we know that they “guarantee” a certain quality. Nose: I was always quite confident that I can figure out HSE in a blind tasting but right now I wouldn’t be too sure about it. The nose is quite full and thick, really surprising given that this is only 43%. I get bubblegum, strawberry, wood, leather, cherries, plums perhaps and a certain spicyness in the form of pepper and nutmeg. Really good! Palate: My perception of the nose is confirmed: The texture is really thick. The maturity is also pretty high, even though it might already be a tad too bitter for my liking. Then wood and the spices from the nose (plus cinnamon and other barks), chestnut and very few of the fruits we’ve discovered in the nose. Once again, this makes me feel like a slightly younger version might work better here. Too bad we aren’t having the VSOP at hand. Finish: Not too long with the bitter notes (old walnuts perhaps), chestnut and wood. A good rum with a few minor deficiencies, hence a very good one if you can look past my points of citicism. By the way, are Clément and HSE sharing fermentations these days? The rum is pretty close to the Clément profile I have in mind and that is definitely more than my mind playing tricks on me. I hope we will be able to figure out more on this matter. (85/100)
HSE “La Confrérie du Rhum” 2007 9YO (51,9%): This is already the second batch of the bottling for La Confrérie du Rhum, which essentially only had amazing cooperations so far! Good job, guys! Nose: Way more woody and mature then the other rhums of the session. I get glue, walnut, wood, apples, pepper, nutmeg and quite some tannins. Then cocoa, chestnut, vanilla and hints of pastry. So far, so great. I really enjoy this one, just cannot tell yet if it might be too mature already, even. Palate: Mmhhh, very nice. I’d say it is ever so slightly a tad too old, but really only a tad. The texture is formidable and the profile very much to my liking. Chestnut, walnut, olives, pepper, vanilla and wood are my first associations, followed by tapenade, herbs (parsley, oregano), old brandy, goat cheese, a mix of dried fruits, leather even and probably also prunes. I cannot help it, I love it! Finish: Quite long and a nice mix between slightly bitter notes, the dired fruits and prunes. In the background lures the wood, of course. I admit, there are many people who had way more HSEs than me but this must be one of the best ones I know at least. For the record, the first batch was actually even better, if I remember correctly. (89/100)
HSE “Château Latour Blanche” 2005 12YO (41%): If you’ve every spent even the slightest amount of time with wine, you’ve probably ran across the Bordeaux-based Château Latour at one point or another. Anyway, it is one of the most prestigious vineries on earth. Now wine cask maturations/ finishes can be bad or interesting, but I don’t think we’ve ever had a truly great one. But hey, they don’t have to be, as long as they give you a twist on an otherwise well-known profile. Nose: The initial nose isn’t too vinous. At first we get the rhum, which comes with a mix of vegetal (pak choi, leek) and fruity notes (apples, lingonberry), as well as wood and notes reminiscent of hay, oat and cereal. After a while the cask does add some vinous, grapery and slightly sour notes. Certainly interesting and, as far as I can tell at this point, by no means bad. Palate: I must say that this has been really well done! On the one hand, you have the typical HSE profile which is indeed rather special in the landscape of agricoles, on the other hand you have the vinous notes which truly put their very own mark on the rhum. The HSE spices (cloves, pepper, nutmeg) are joined by grapes, apples, wood, bitter leek approaching J.Bally territory, slate and quince. Finish: Exceedingly bitter but not extremely long. Chicory, quince, apples and spices are my major impressions. Like we’ve said in the introduction, here we have a nice twist on a rather standard profile, and that’s always good. (85/100)
And thanks to Chantal Comte, we also have an indy bottling.
Chantal Comte La Tour de l’Or (HSE, 46,5%): Unfortunately, they tell us neither the age, nor the vintage of this one. All we get to know is that it comes with a Bourbon Finish (so ex-French oak casks I assume!?) and that it is trés vieux. Nose: Lots and lots of fresh apples. That’s J.Bally territory once again and blindly I probably would have put it there. Then glue, branches and some wood, more apples, more glue and now also pepper, vanilla and hints of soursop. It isn’t too complex but it might be a nice one nevertheless. Palate: Surprisingly mild and at a sweet spot in terms of maturity: It is still quite fresh and powerful, but not boozy or too aggressive. What is more, the influence of the cask isn’t too pronounced. Besides apples, glue, vanilla and oak I also get sugared butter, Crêpe Suzette and very milky milk chocolate. Finish: Short to medium long with more apples, some wood and spices. Quite nice indeed but this is a rum that you can sip alongside other activites, i.e. one that doesn’t require or reward a lot of attention. Often times, that is good thing. (84/100)