Rhum Rhum is about to move from Bielle to Poisson (Père Labat) and will be registered as an individual distillery. Apparently, working with Bielle turned out to be rather difficult. I wonder what this means for Rhum Rhum, since I’ve always loved Bielle, but never felt quite the same for Père Labat. At best, or rather most likely, it will not have an impact at all, I’d say. The aim of this session is to wrap-up all of the standard Rhum Rhum releases so far. The special 2007 bottling from the “Drops” series – the only Rhum Rhum with a vintage statement – has already been reviewed and scored very high, even though I know a few connoisseurs that would rate that particular rum even higher.
What’s special about the aged Rhum Rhum expression is that they don’t mention the vintage but only the bottling year, the year of “Liberation” from the cask. However, there are some numbers floating around and we shall just take them as a rough indication here.
Rhum Rhum Blanc (41%): It’s always cool to compare unaged with aged expressions, don’t you agree my Whisky friends!? Sorry, but that’s still one of the biggest advantages rum has over the alleged (!) king of spirits. Nose: Very fresh and clear. There’s a whiff of acetone, some citrus and then clearly fresh cane juice. Behind that a slightly oriental note à la cardamom or nutmeg. Quite nice and even at just 41% sufficiently intense. Palate: Very crisp and clean. I almost hate myself for saying that but the dilution makes this incredibly sippable – maybe it even helped opening up the aromas. I get hay, some of the oriental spices, even slightly woody notes and chestnut perhaps. Finish: The chestnut and woody notes stay around for some time but all in all it is not very long and doesn’t come with any additional nuances. It is a very nice Blanc that’s closer in style to Agricoles from Martinique than to other Guadeloupians/ Marie Galantes. (80/100)
Rhum Rhum Blanc (56%): I think this should be the same kind of rhum as the 41% version, just at a higher strength. However, both may come from totally different batches and it seems more than likely that they do. Nose: Just as clean and fresh as the 41% bottling but sufficiently aromatic. Most notably, I am picking up cinnamon, refined sugar and a mix of nuts. The nose is very promising. Palate: Very smooth and mouth-filling. The cinnamon is still there but we now get less of the nuts. Instead a spice mix including nutmeg, allspice and tonka. Really good and I bet that a Ti Punch with this would be killer. The finish is rather short and dry with more of the same. Nevertheless, I can only say “well done”! It is easily one of the better Agricole Blancs we’ve had
in some time and the higher abv clearly helps here. (82/100)
On with the aged expressions then.
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2010 (2007 3YO, 45%): The first aged Rhum Rhum release. Only a reduced version exists of this one but it seems to be a highly sought after collector’s item these days. Nose: Quite subtle and rather shy. I get spices (pepper, cloves, nutmeg, curcuma), cocoa, a mix of nuts (walnut, peanut, among others) and something that slightly resembles dry branches. Palate: Very pleasant and dry with the same spicyness from the nose and once again barely any fruity notes. The wood and influence from the cask is evident but it is only playing an enhancing role. Here and there the branches, hay perhaps, autumn leaves, but to keep things short: Nothing too exciting. Nevertheless, it is clearly a good rhum. Finish: Short with the same set of notes we’ve also found in the nose and at the palate. Whilte it might indeed be the most sought after release of the series for collectors, the connoisseur can do much better with subsequent releases. (83/100)
One of the exercises for me is to find out if the reduced version and the “Integrale” are different compositions or essentially the same rhum. I hope our amateur skills are capable of doing so.
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2012 (2007 5YO, 45%): These 2012 seem to be crowd favorites but since I have never done a proper Rhum Rhum cross-tasting before, I was never so sure about that. Nose: Sweet and floral with a noticeable influence of the cask. I get ripe plums and other stone fruits, wood, Port wine-like notes, raisins, a rather tasty oat meal, grenadine syrup and raspberry. It is really good, but it cannot keep up with the Integrale. Palate: Quite aromatic with many of the notes from the nose. The texture is fine but the dilution is clearly noticeable. On the plus side, it is quite sippable but paired with the sweetness of the rhum, this means that it isn’t overly complex. Syrupy notes (grenadine, raspberry, amarena cherry) meet hay and a mix of corns, plums and other stone fruits such as mango or cherries. Very tasty! Finish: Medium long with more of the same, but now clearly oak and a few more spices from the cask. It is the kind of finish that you expect from a rhum like this, but none that would elevate it to the “Grand Cru” status. Nevertheless, it is a lot better than the 2010 and if it weren’t for some of the ‘Integrales’, it would be a much more celebrated rhum. (86/100)
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2012 Integrale (2007 5YO, 59,8%): Naturally, we are biased towards the full proof version but again, we do not know if it is the same rhum besides that difference. Nose: Indeed, it is much more aromatic than the 45% version but otherwise not really different. The overall profile seems to be the same but thanks to the higher abv, we can pick up additional notes such as raspberry, clearly cherries and even a hint of glue. At least in the nose, the higher abv makes one heck of a difference with these two. Palate: The rhum is a lot sharper than the 45% one of course but if you are looking for a tasting experience rather than an easy sipper, it has a lot more to offer. Its biggest advantage is its intensity, which makes it appear more mature, more fruity and even richer and more oaky at the same time. Alas, I am not sure if this really is the same rhum because this is so much more than the basic version, but remember that the flavours are in the alcohol, not in the water, so who knows. Especially the raspberries and stone fruits are driving the profile here, which I like a lot. Finish: Quite creamy, long and intense. Between whipped cream, fruit syrups and oak I can find a few spices here and there (vanilla!) but also banana leaves, some herbs and perhaps even a hint of bitumen. Great stuff! (90/100)
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2015 (2009 6YO, 45%): Nose: Spices (pepper, vanilla) and grain dominate the profile but here we can also find oranges, apricot and even green apples. It’s quite nice but somehow the rhum gives me the feeling as if we’re driving with a pulled handbrake. We can add some nutty notes (walnuts) but this feels a bit incomlete, for some reason. It kinda reminds me of ReimonenQ, by the way, which is not the worst thing in the world. Palate: Very good with chestnut, maple syrup, pepper and apricot. It is a lot bett than the nose suggested. Then wood, more earthy notes and all of a sudden some sweeter, more fruity elements again. It is kinda going back and forth between different elements and qualities, making it difficult to get hold of the rhum. Finish: Short to medium long with apple sauce, cinnamon, wood and plums. Here, the rum is lacking a bit again. The nose was so-so, the palate really good, and the finish underwhelming. A difficult candidate to judge, but one that is a bit obsolete given the alternatives. All in all, I’d put it a bit below its 2012 equivalent, but it is still a darn good rhum, mind you. (85/100)
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2015 Integrale (2009 6YO, 58,4%): Nose: Once again, we are playing in the same stadium as the reduced version but this team comes with a few star players that its contender is lacking. The nutty notes, bitter oranges and apricot are still there and while I am missing the apple a bit (a result of the dilution!?), we are getting quite a few more sour notes. At least in the nose, these 2015 releases are much closer to one another than the 2012 releases. Palate: At the palate, that’s a different story. While it is better than the nose, just as with the 45% release, this one is even more agile and moves masterfully between dry, fruity, nutty and bitter. It doesn’t make sense to pick out individual notes here since, even though it is not an extremely complex rhum, it is much more than the sum of its parts. Finish: Slightly boozy but rather long with chestnut, nutmeg, wood and pepper. Another really good release that isn’t quite as great as the 2012 Integrale in my book, but that might be your rhum of choice if you clearly prefer drier, less sweet profiles. (88/100)
By the way, I have diluted the Integrales to 45% and it was obvious that the rhums are identical. I assume that the same holds true for the 2017 Liberations but we shall see.
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2017 (2010 7YO, 45%): These releases get older and older by the way, and I wonder if that means that they are getting even drier? Nose: It seems so! It is more woody, drier and also more withdrawn than previous releases. I think it needs more time to open up. And indeed, after half an hour we get more fruity notes slightly reminiscent of peaches, apricot and cactus fig, as well as pungent pineapple, but wood and the spices from the cask are always present. Deeper in the glass we can find an English curry mix and Tikka Masala. Palate: Very good! It is the perfect symbiosis between the 2012 and 2015 Liberations and much more balanced in terms of sweetness, fruitiness and cask influence. We get the peach, apricot and cactus fig from the nose but here these associations are paired with nutty notes, wood and grains. What is more, it has the best texture of all 45% rhums and I now also get papaya, cherries, and plum juice. This is all pretty much to my liking. Finish: Medium long but essentially only and extension of the palate. However, I do not mind it with this one. Clearly my favorite non-Integrale and as we shall see, not as far away from its Integrale version as the other Liberations. (88/100)
Rhum Rhum Liberation 2017 Integrale (2010 7YO, 58,4%): To take it away right at the beginning, this is also the same rhum as the reduced version, so let’s focus on the relative differences that result from the higher abv/ lack of dilution. Nose: More intense, more alcoholic, and a bit less fruity, I’d say. At least in the nose, I wouldn’t say that the Integrale version works better than the reduced one. Palate: Here it is a different story and the additional intensity helps quite a bit. However, my prior belief has been confirmed – none of the other Liberation-pairs are this close together in terms of quality, if you ask me. This time, the spices are the most dominant flavours but the fruity notes shape the profile just as much. They aren’t really sweet or juicy though, much rather dry/ dried, preserved or candied. Finish: Longer than that of the 45% version but without any additional notes. It is another remarkable rhum that demonstrates just again how much innovation is still possible within the field of cane juice spirits. (90/100)
Just to make sure, I’ve check with Luca and he confirmed that each Liberation pair, 45% and Integrale, are made up of exactly the same casks in exactly the same proportions – the 45% versions have simply been diluted.