It is now more than five years ago that I wrote for the first time about a type of spirit that was completely new to me at the time, but also hardly anyone else knew it. A lot of time has passed since then – and even if Clairin is still not the talk of the town, it must be said that the Haitian sugar cane juice spirit has gained a truly excellent reputation. (provided test product)*
And this is not only due to the authentic, earthy and also simple preparation method, which gets along without any adulterated additives, as one knows it from the often dazzling and partly chaotic rum market. Rather, it is also due to the fact that Clairin actually offers an exciting variety within its own genre, which one would not necessarily expect at first glance. Like a Rhum Agricole, Clairin is made from sugar cane juice and is produced in Haiti on often very simple distillation equipment – moreover, no cultured yeasts are used, but rather spontaneous fermentation from the ambient yeasts in the air.
Both the Clairin Sajous, but also the Clairin Communal based on Clairins from four different communes could already fully convince me. And even if since then I could also taste the Clairin Le Rocher, the Clairin Vaval and the Clairin Casimir, today I would like to taste especially the latest representative from the Clairin series which is distributed in Germany by Kirsch Whisky: the Clairin Sonson.
The Clairin Sonson is produced by Stephan Kalil Saoud in the small town of Cabaret, north of the Haitian capital Port Au Prince, where he grows a special variety of sugar cane called Madame Meuze, which is not hybridized. The sugar cane is cultivated together with bananas and other fruits. After harvesting, the sugar cane juice is pressed out and put into vats for spontaneous fermentation. Once fermentation is complete, Stephan Kalil Saoud distills Clairin Sonson on direct-fired alambics. Finally, it is bottled at an appealing 53.2% vol.
Aroma: Wow – what an aroma bomb! I find lots of fermented fruits and vegetables, gasoline and mineral oil, pineapple rinds, moss and damp earth, with some light honey and candied lemon peel behind it. Totally awesome!
Palate: on the palate, the Clairin Sonson at first turns out surprisingly different, but then again absolutely stays in line: green bananas, again pineapple, freshly sliced mushrooms, pepper, smoke and gasoline, earthy notes of potato peel and some lemon zest, what a grenade!
Finish: long, with notes of bitter grape seeds and some green wood.
Well, what to do with such an aromatically strong spirit? Of course, it makes sense to use Clairin similar to an unaged rum. And probably one of the most classic drinks with the white sugar cane spirit is the daiquiri. I was inspired by this Cuban classic today, even if it didn’t work out right away the way I had imagined. My first attempt called for 6 cl of Clairin Sonson, the result was a drink that was quite tasty but ultimately totally flattened all the other ingredients. Then I got around to adding an unaged (or slightly aged) Cuban to the Clairin Sonson in a split-base fashion, and I immediately liked the result better. It’s not quite an ordinary daiquiri, though, because I replaced the sugar syrup with a homemade syrup made from rhubarb, sage and Szechuan pepper. This syrup is very, very strong and expressive on its own, which is what it really needs to compete with the Clairin Sonson, the Hercules of syrups, so to speak. That’s why I named the drink “Hercule” – with the urgent request to pronounce the word in French (Agatha Christie’s novel hero Hercule Poirot provides guidance here)!
3 cl Clairin Sonson
3 cl white Cuban rum
2 cl Spicy Rhubarb Sage Syrup (see below)
2 cl lime juice
Spicy Rhubarb Sage Syrup: Heat 200 ml of water, 50 ml of dry red wine, one rhubarb stick cut into small pieces, a handful of sage leaves and two heaped teaspoons of Szechuan pepper in a pan together with 350g of sugar and a pinch of salt and simmer for about 25 minutes. Finally, double strain through a fine sieve and store in an airtight container. Should keep for a few weeks without any problems.
Preparation: shake all ingredients vigorously over ice and strain into pre-chilled glass.
Garnish: some rhubarb
Buying sources: At specialized retailers or online.
*The fact that this product has been sent to me free of charge for editorial purposes does not – in any way – imply any influence on the content of this article or my rating. On the contrary, it is always an indispensable condition for me to be able to review without any external influence.