Rhum agricole made from fresh cane juice rather than molasses is usually associated with Martinique, but other French islands also produce rhums in that style. This one comes from the islands of Guadeloupe, an overseas French department. While not specified on the label, I've read that this is from Distillerie Bellevue on the small island of Marie-Galante, which is a short hop from the larger islands of Basse-Terre and Grand-Terre.
Bellevue was originally built in 1769, with a new distillery on the site opening in 2003. As with all distilleries that produce rum from cane juice, the cane is grown nearby so that it can be harvested and transported to the distillery as quickly as possible to keep it from spoiling. As with most agricoles, the cane juice mash is distilled in a column still, though I can't find any information about the specs.
This single cask was purchased by Berry Bros. & Rudd, then bottled at 46% without coloring or chill filtration.
Berry Bros. & Rudd Guadeloupe 12 Year/1998
Nose: classic aged agricole - grassy, wine/raisins, edging into brown sugar, mild (European?) oak, nutmeg, vanilla, beeswax, baked apples, lime peel. After adding a few drops of water, it becomes buttery, with melted brown sugar, bright berries over toasted oak, and cinnamon rolls.
Taste: a little thin up front, a nice melange of grassiness, mild oak, and sugarcane/brown sugar sweetness at the beginning, berries/brandy near the back, nutmeg and a slight waxiness throughout. After dilution, it becomes a little watery, there are more berries, less grass/sugarcane, the oak becomes buttery, and there's a strong orange peel note throughout.
Finish: berries, sugarcane, mild oak, creamy, nutmeg
This is nearly everything you could want from an aged sugarcane rum - the distinctive grassiness hasn't been wiped out by the cask, but it is tempered by time. There's sweetness, but not nearly as much as you get from most molasses-based rums. Overall it's really well balanced, only falling short in terms of density of flavor, which I think could have been rectified by bumping up the bottling proof a bit. The other reservation is price, which is a somewhat eye-watering $100+. While this is a very good rhum and I would love to drink more of it, I don't think it quite manages to justify its retail price. But I'll be keeping my eyes out for other sugarcane rums from Guadeloupe that are a little easier on the pocketbook. They're clearly making quality spirits on those islands.