Last week members of the United States Bartender’s Guild across the southeast met in Atlanta. Along with Birmingham’s finest yours truly was present as pet blogger and token drunk. Imagine my surprise when I found myself rooming with my friend Chris from Clement whom I’d met in San Antonio at a seminar that really opened up the world of Rhum Agricole for me. Chris was there for a seminar to spread the joy of one of my favorite Agricole’s to the attendee’s of the conference.
Agricultural Rhum is made from fresh pressed sugarcane. Martinique is the only AOC I know of outside of mainland France. I believe I heard that Guadeloupe has their own AOC as well, however I can’t find a way to double check this. What’s special about an AOC you ask? In the same way French law sets standards and practices to ensure the quality and historical consistency of wine based on region it can do the same for spirits. This is most noted is Cognac, but Armangac, Calvados, and Martinique also have AOC guidelines that ensure a quality product. Under law sugarcane in Martinique can only be harvested March through June. It must be collected within 24 hours to begin fermentation. All Martinique rhum is aged to some degree. By law the white rhum must spend atleast three months in steel to mellow though Clement’s white rum spends no less than six. Below are some impressions of the Clement products we got to take home.
The new Clement Canne Bleue was a real treat. A bright briny aroma that’s reminiscent of grape must and ground pecans, The lively and herbacious flavor begins with hints of arugula, basil, and white pepper before melding into lemon oil and green wood. The finish is rich in flavors of raisin while also being nutty but in an unripe, unroasted sort of way. A very lite amount of salinity also becomes present around the edges as you sip. It’s very interesting to taste alongside the Premiere Canne.
Premiere Canne has a buttery salty and slight sweet nose. The flavors are reminiscent to me of soft black pepper, bamboo shoots, edamame, and basil. It finishes herbaceous, bold, and tasting slightly of the essential oils of lime peels. This rum can provide a lot of dry agricole funk to your cocktails, and it’s not bad on it’s own either.
Creole Shrubb has a strong nose that jumps to the senses with clove, fennel, sweet orange, and brown sugar. The flavor is dominant in sweet orange but flavors of allspice, anise, and cinnamon are also present in the foreground and lingering afterward. The peppery, herbal agricole notes are well masked, but still present especially on the finish. Creole Shrubb’s spice blend and Agricole do a good job in controlling the sweetness to make it manageable, this would be a nice twist in curacao based drinks.
V.S.O.P is full of oaky aromas and hints of figs, jasmine and peach pits. The flavor is minty and mineral with a dry finish of white pepper and dried orange peel. It’s got a full body and a walnut shell like huskiness to it. It does well as a dry sipping rum but can also add a lot of flair and funk to mixed drinks like a classic Mai Tai.
Also on hand was the new Select Barrel, this Rhum was very enticing and sweeter than the normal V.S.O.P offering. I also noticed it was darker in color. It was very enjoyable, sweet notes but still dry, funky, and balanced with hints of banana. Another new product Mahina de Coco was not present, but it is something I hope to be able to taste soon. Damoiseau however was present with their herbal, grassy, white rhum; and the smooth, deep, subtly pineappley V.S.O.P. Both are delicious though sadly pretty hard for me to find.
Agricole isn’t always talked up in the Tiki community, I’m not sure why. While not sweet like it’s molasses based cousins it’s dry almost agave like notes can appeal to whiskey and tequila fans alike. Agricole is also used in a number of classic Tiki cocktails like Donn Beach’s Isle of Martinique and Mariano Licudine’s Last Rites. I also seem to remember it being crucial in some famous Trader Vic drink. We hope you’ll give some a try either as a sipper, in a Tiki masterpiece, or in a classic Ti Punch. Though we’re happy to get free samples I can assure you I’ve also happily shelled out my own tips for Agricole several times and will be doing so again. Tell us your favorite Agricole in the comments and until next time…
“You get Hammered America!” -JFL