Along with Rhum Clement, Rhum J.M. (a sister distillery) is one of the biggest names in Martinique’s rhum agricole industry. Distilled from sugar cane juice instead of molasses, agricole has a distinctly different character than most rums you’re probably familiar with. Intense with fuel-like flavors when they’re young, agricoles often develop into remarkably complex, world-class spirits when they’ve been aged for a spell.
We finally got hold of four of J.M.’s rhums to review. Comments follow. (And be advised: While the prices below reflect 750ml bottles, you are more likely to find J.M. in one-liter bottles, with accordingly higher prices.)
Rhum J.M. Rhum Agricole Blanc – J.M.’s white rum looks innocuous, and an idle sniff will reveal cachaca-like tones and petrol character. Take a sip, though, and you’ll find it’s bursting with tropical character: Bananas, pineapple, coconut, and a long vanilla finish. Hot as hell (in part because it’s bottled at 100 proof), but the complexity and balance in the fruit, dessert, and subtle spice flavors make it a real knockout among normally difficult white agricoles. A- / $30
Rhum J.M. Rhum Agricole Elevé Sous Bois – This is J.M.’s “gold rum,” (aka “Paille”), and the color is a perfect representation of that metal. The body is a lot like the blanc, with more vanilla brought to the forefront due to spending a full year in wood. The finish is a bit drying, though, which whisks away some of the natural fruit character you’ll find in the blanc. Most of the same components are still there, but here they take a bit of a back seat to the wood, which hasn’t come all the way to fruition yet. 100 proof. B+ / $36
Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole VSOP – Spends four years in wood, and bottled at a slightly lower 90 proof. Now that agricole funk is seriously dialed back, as this VSOP takes on some of the more traditional notes you find with aged rums made from molasses. Big caramel and vanilla, lots of heavy wood especially in the finish, along with a curious black cherry/chocolate note. I like this a lot, seems bottled at just the right time. A- / $55
Rhum J.M. Rhum Vieux Agricole 1997 – Not to be confused with the above, this vintage rum spends a minimum of 10 years in oak before being bottled. That’s crazy in a world where a rum that’s been in oak for three years is considered ancient, and J.M. shows how incredibly wise and delicious that decision can be. Intense caramel, chocolate, and vanilla on this, with barely a hint of tropical fruit and banana on the finish. A real knockout of a rum, with a long and smooth finish, silky body, and a price to match. Gorgeous stuff. 96 proof. A / $130