Damoiseau is a distillery we have a lot of love for, even though the quality of their Rhums can be hit and miss. But when they deliver, they have the real bangers, you just have to sort out the bad fruits. Fortunately, you have us for that job 😉
Damoiseau VO (42%): VO of course stands for very old, which, by our standards, actually isn’t all that old. Nose: Rather simplistic with vanilla, honey, mellow oak, some citrus perhaps and deeper in the glass also malty notes. After a few more minutes also something between cocoa and coffee. All of that might sound good but the Rhum kinda lacks this certain catchy element. Palate: A lot more spicy than the nose suggested but honey is still the main actor here. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a lot more to offer and I am wondering how the Rhum can be so sweet and mellow after about three years and lacking character (distillery style) at the same time. Finish: Incredibly short. The honey notes linger with you for a bit but besides them there isn’t much to mention. All of this surely sounds worse than the Rhum actually is but while it is a solid product, I am not sure what its purpose is. At least I don’t think it is intended for the real aficionados so let’s just book this under “wrong audience”. (75/100)
Damoiseau 8 ans (42%): We might call this a vintage bottling as well as we know that it has been distilled in 2002 but yeah, it is just the 8YO. Nose: Somewhere between grassy and fruity. I can name apricot, hay, yellow plum, stewed pineapple, cinnamon, vanilla, some citrus and of course the sugar cane. So far, so good! Palate: Relatively sweet with the same fruits and grassy notes that we’ve also found in the nose. Add the vanilla and cinnamon on top again and yup, that’s a very nice Rhum! An easy sipper more so than anything else but there really isn’t much to complain about. Finish: As we are used to with many of the “standard” Damoiseaus, the palate is basically and extension of the palate but here the stewed pineapple and somewhat drier cask aromas (wood, cinnamon) seem to stand out. It is a well made, tasty but not too complex Rhum that should be a good demonstration for a core range product for most distilleries out there. (82/100)
On with the “real” vintages!
Damoiseau 2009 7YO (66,9%): A tropically aged seven years old Agricole at essentially 67% doesn’t sound too bad, does it!? Nose: Uh, what is this? Very smokey, like burning charcoal with plenty of wood but that seems to be it. Even a lot of time doesn’t reveal much more. Oh dear. Palate: There’s this somewhat typical mix of walnuts and honey which is rather nice but it comes with these really odd smokey notes and more alcohol (felt, not actual abv) than we enjoy. Sure, there are more notes such as orange peel, oak or the aforementioned charcoal but it just doesn’t work for me. Finish: Smokey wood, like too heavily charred oak and charcoal, which lasts for longer than we’d like. Once again, this isn’t a Rhum that has been made for us but unlike the VO, I wouldn’t know who would be the target audience here. (69/100)
Kill Devil Bellevue (Damoiseau) 1998 18YO (58,2%): There have been so many amazing Rums from this batch, especially by Kill Devil. Nose: Somewhat boozy and at least in the nose thinner than we’d expect. I get Marmite, molasses, hints of tar, quite some wood, a whiff of orange bitters, lots and lots of olives, but also a strong alcoholic note. Well, it seems that this one will not join the ranks of the great 1998s, unfortunately. Palate: I do not know what the issue is here but it feels thinner than I think it should. On the plus side, it is quite intense but not too alcoholic anymore. Instead, honey, wood, orange peel, molasses and lots and lots of herbs clearly tell you what this Rum is: Another good but not amazing Bellevue 1998. Then olives, brine, lovage and perhaps even hints of walnuts. Finish: Yup, the walnuts are definitely there and stay with us for the entire duration of the medium long finish. On top of that, we can find oranges, oak, spices from the cask and even the herbs from the distillate. There are many things to love about this one, but also a few shortcomings. All in all, that means it lands somewhere in the middle of the pack of this great batch. (86/100)
Damoiseau Cuvée du Millénaire 1986 15YO (42%): Nose: Licorice and black salsify, Salmiac perhaps, wood and a mix of herbs are my major impressions here. Then also a hint of rubber, some honey, oranges and now also something between sweet peach and mango. It is a really nice nose but one that already tells you that the palate probably cannot keep up. I think you know that feeling! Palate: Just like the nose, it starts out with the licorice-like notes but then sweet orange juice and some of the more exotic fruits join the party. It doesn’t have the profile of a 15YO at all, but that’s definitely not a problem. All in all, the palate is incredibly similar to the nose but the texture is a bit too thin for my liking. Finish: There are the cask driven elements which do not stick around for very long but that orange juice just doesn’t want to vanish. It is funny how you think that this is a rather standard Rhum but then it surprises you with something you’ve never had before. I don’t think I would have been surprised if you had told me that this is a young (well, relatively speaking) Cognac. The Rhum definitely carries these vibes as it is indeed a rather atypical one. But I like it. (82/100)
Damoiseau 1980 18YO (60%): We’ve already had these two legendary 1980s but apparently there is a third one. Let’s see. Nose: It does need some time but then it reveals many of the beautiful notes we’ve found in the two Rums linked above. Dark, ripe, almost syrupy cherries, plums, dried apricots, wood, bamboo, hints of tar, mushrooms and honey are just some of the notes I am getting. It is just lovely and we could sniff this all night long. Unlike the nose of the 1986, this one does tell you that the palate should be about the same level though. Palate: Very creamy with olive oil, walnuts, dark cherries, molasses, slightly bitter chestnut, brine, as well as that whiff of tar and balsamico. We could go on and on with descriptors but I do not think that will be of much use for you. What might be though, is that I get the impression that it comes darn close, but doesn’t reach the level of quality of the 60,3%s. The only question is if that’s enough to give it a different score. Finish: Super long and complex with sweet fruity, dark dirty, and dry cask notes. This one does it all but I feel that it is just a wee notch below the other two Rums, even though that might just be the sum of otherwise not noteworthy nuances. (92/100)