Sunday, January 8, 2012

Rhum Agricole Reviews: Rhum J.M. Élevé Sous Bois

Last week I reviewed the youngest member of the Rhum J.M. line. Next up is their Gold or Élevé Sous Bois (rough trans. "raised under wood") expression. This is a lightly aged rhum agricole that spent 12 months in small, new oak barrels before being bottled. That added a golden hue to the rhum and also quite a bit of complexity.

Nose: crême brulée, peanut butter cookies, grass, lemon and lime peel, a tiny wiff of vanilla and mild alcohol, which transforms into brown sugar, molasses, oak and butter after adding a bit of water

Taste: sweet and sour up front, nutmeg, grassy vegetal funk, and brandy further back, followed by a burst of pepper, which becomes a bit creamier after adding water

Finish: grassy brandy with a hint of blackberries and raspberries, which gains a bit of cookie flavor after dilution

For having spent only a year in the barrel, this spirit has gained a lot of flavors that aren't found its younger sibling. While primarily designed for use in cocktails, I'm actually quite happy sipping this rhum, especially after bringing down the strength just a bit. I find it quite interesting how water brings out more traditional molasses-based rum flavors in the nose, while retaining rhum agricole flavors on the palate.

While this rhum can be a little bit on the pricy side, the fact that it usually comes in 1 L rather than 750 mL bottles here in the states helps to keep the unit cost a little bit more manageable level. However you happen to enjoy it, this is an excellent spirit to add to your stash. Especially if you want a single rhum agricole to do double duty as both a sipper and for cocktails, this would be high on my list of recommendations.

Lune de Miel sur Martinique
1.5 oz rhum agricole élevé sous bois
0.5 oz lime juice
0.5 oz orange liqueur
0.25 oz Bénédictine
0.125 oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

This drink is based on the Honeymoon Cocktail, which is itself a subtle tweak of the standard Sidecar. On the nose, the drink presents you with subdued herbal grassiness from the rhum and Bénédictine, with a nice dose of orange thrown in from the liqueur. The orange liqueur as leads the charge on the sip, which transitions into somewhat sharper and slightly bitter flavors from the Bénédictine and rhum, while the lime juice can be detected throughout, giving it a bit of snap. Put another way, it begins with a more tropical feel and then switches to something more like a classic cocktail. The high proof of the rhum agricole helps to keep up the backbone of the drink without becoming dominant. Overall I really like this cocktail because of the range of flavors that emerge as the drink crosses your palate and the drier finish that makes it decidedly more-ish.

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