The celebrated Rhum Clement hails from Martinique, where just about everything seems to have an extra letter in it.
I managed to get a small sip of the company’s top-shelf Clement XO at the recent WhiskyFest San Francisco, and the company was kind enough to fill me in on the rest of the line which I’d overlooked. The upshot: Some serious rum (errr… rhum) is being produced on this tiny Caribbean island, a protectorate of France.
Clement Premiere Canne Rhum Agricole – Extremely cachaca-like, with that vague air of gasoline and spicy sweetness. (The similarity is for good reason: Rhum agricole is made from sugar cane, not molasses, just like cachaca.) It’s very unlike standard white rums, but those who dislike cachaca will find that those telltale notes come through even in cocktails. You can’t blend away Canne’s distinct flavor, for better or for worse. 80 proof. B+ / $34
Clement Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP – An immediate rush of brown sugar and wood, but the distinct cachaca character of the 4-year-old Premiere Canne still cuts through all of that. Remarkable. There’s more complexity here than in the Canne, but it still retains that spirit’s unique character. Better on the rocks than neat. 80 proof. B+ / $40
Clement Cuvee Homere – Now we’re getting fancy, with a distinct decanter that looks like a giant perfume bottle with a metal closure. The Homere is considerably different than the first two, and far sweeter. Very bourbon-like in its overall character, it’s got vanilla and light wood notes, but overall very light. Fragrant with floral tones as well. You could pass this off as a bourbon to many drinkers and none would be the wiser. Rum fans will detect that sugar cane Really enjoyable neat or with cocktails. Easily my favorite of the lineup. Drink it without ice. 88 proof, aka “Homere Clement.” A / $85
Clement XO – The top of the line, as it were. Surprisingly Scotch-like, and a bit less sweet than the Homere. Though also 88 proof, it fills the nostrils with alcohol, which unfortunately deadens the flavor a bit. Still, it’s a solidly spicy and lightly smoky spirit, drawing intense flavor from its use of wood, but still keeping its rum core intact. It’s just too hot on the palate, in the end. I kept wishing it were sweeter like the Homere, though it is still quite good. Looking back, this is the same rating I gave it at WhiskyFest. A- / $135