First and foremost today’s rum is not a rum but a rhum, which I will explain further in the following. It also teaches us a little about geopolitical affiliations, at least if we are not an expert in this field. We are dealing with a French product, as we can read it on the bottle and on the packaging. Nevertheless, this rhum comes from the Caribbean, strictly speaking from the island of Martinique. This is not a contradiction at all because Martinique – as perhaps not everyone is aware – belongs to France as a French overseas department.
This can be a little surprising as most of the former colonial possessions of the Western nations have long since been released into independence, but there are also exceptions where this has never happened and where the people naturally identify as part of the motherland. So if you ever want to travel into the Caribbean without leaving the EU and still want to pay with Euros, a trip to Martinique is recommended. Now, however, let’s have a look on the actual topic: the Clément Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP is – as it is usual in the French Caribbean – a rhum made from pure sugar cane juice. This is commonly referred to as Rhum Agricole, and the H in the word rhum is used to distinguish these rhums from rums of other regions which are usually produced on the basis of molasses. This is not always reliable, but generally valid. A further advantage of the Rhum Agricoles from Martinique is that they are produced under the protecting cloak of European appellation systems so there is a more reliable legal framework than it can be found sometimes in other rum segments. Another advantage is that you can rely on the fact that no sugar was added to finish the rhum. At the moment this is a big topic in the rum business that makes some people really angry.
So the VSOP age indication of this Rhum is also a reliable one. Of course this might remind you of Cognac here, but it is not surprising, of course, that France’s cultural tradition of spirits also reaches the rhum production of Martinique. The Clément Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP (Vieux translates into “old” and shows us that we are dealing with a rum aged for at least 3 years) was allowed to mature for at least 4 years in oak barrels in order to become a VSOP. This is the minimum requirement that has to be fulfilled for this age indication and, of course, it has been fulfilled as the label of the bottle and the packaging let us know. To what extent this minimum requirement has been exceeded is not revealed. Whoever has always wondered what the VSOP stands for, will perhaps be surprised that this is an abbreviation from English and simply means “very superior old pale”. The barrels used were a mixture of fresh Limousin oak barrels and former Bourbon barrels. The latter were presumably chosen to avoid making the rhum too oaky and to counteract the effect of the fresh Limousin barrels.
Clément manufactures Rhum in a tradition dating back to 1887. The distillery Habitation Clément was founded by the physician Homère Clément. It is located south of the commune of Le François in the Arrondissement Le Marin. You can visit parts of the distillery, but the actual production process is excluded from that.
Aroma: On the nose it shows that slightly “green” freshness that is typical for Rhum Agricole’s but it is by no means in the foreground or outstanding in any way as it is often the case with young rhums. There are immediately also “darker” notes: coffee, wild honey, vanilla, some orange and actually some rough cocoa. All this is framed by a fine sweetness, but this sweetness isn’t as intense as in most rums based on molasses. Over time also some herbal tones come through. A nice and complex nose, which is a little bit reminiscent of cognac and also some whiskys, and thus perhaps also a recommendation for connoisseurs who are more at home in these segments and who think of rum as being too sweet.
Taste: The oak of the Limousin barrels is immediately there with quite a strength. In addition to that there are vanilla and oranges and also some coconut, as it is indicated in the official tasting notes. The Clément Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP has a delicate, not too intense sweetness, which skillfully catches up the other notes. The taste cannot completely match up with the complexity of the aroma on the nose but I still think that this Rhum could be very interesting also for whisk(e)y and cognac lovers.
Finish: In the finish it turns out dry and oaky with a prominent vanilla. In fact, the Clément Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP reminds a little bit of a Bourbon finish. Very interesting, I rarely experienced that when it comes to r(h)um.
Buying sources: The Clément Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP is bottled at 40% ABV. It costs around 30 euros.